The apparel supply chain faces complex challenges. Environmental issues include the impacts of chemicals used in fabric dyeing and finishing, large volumes of water used in agriculture and garment production, and high energy demands and carbon dioxide emissions. For people who work in the apparel supply chain, wages, working conditions, hours, and safety are all important. The supply chain is also fragmented, and many retailers—including C&A—have hundreds of suppliers who in turn work with many production units. That's why we collaborate with others to drive large-scale change. We want HER, our customer, to know that C&A clothes have been made with low environmental impacts, by people who have decent working conditions and are paid a fair wage.
We are working towards a sustainable supply chain from farmer to customer. This means helping farmers move to more sustainable production methods like organic cotton, working to raise environmental and social standards in the facilities that make our products, as well as improving our own operations. Building supplier capacity and supporting fair working conditions for those in our supply chain are central to our vision of providing fashion with a positive impact.
To achieve our vision of a truly sustainable supply chain, we focus on two areas: Clean Environment and Safe and Fair Labour. Socially and environmentally sound sourcing is fundamental for us, and we use a robust supplier selection process, coupled with rigorous auditing, to ensure our standards are being met. Where needed, we also help suppliers build capacity and strengthen performance. By working with them to raise their standards, we can help protect the environment, improve the lives of workers, and increase the resilience of our supply chain. Of course, the C&A supply chain includes our operations, too. From our stores and offices to our logistics and distribution centres, we’re taking steps to improve our own environmental performance.
Clean Environment - Reduce our environmental impact
Safe & Fair Labour - Ensure safe and fair working conditions
In the short term - by the end of 2016 - we aim to:
Our journey is far from over, but we’re moving towards these goals. During 2015, we:
Although we acknowledge that audits do not solve most of the challenges found at the factory level, they do provide vital information on how key aspects have to be addressed. They are a useful data-gathering tool that also keeps suppliers and production units aware of our expectations. We use two types of audits to make sure suppliers meet our requirements:
Audits are a key step in ensuring that suppliers are operating in keeping with our Code of Conduct, and they provide the basis for improvement planning. Our development officers and sustainable chemical specialists follow up with suppliers on any necessary corrective actions or longer-term improvements.
With clearly defined targets, detailed standards, audit procedures, and strong audit partners, our sustainable supply chain programme is designed to move us beyond auditing concepts and towards supply chain leadership. The programme advances improvements in 10 important areas:
In 2015, our Sustainable Supply Chain team grew from 35 to 101 people to include even more sustainable supply chain specialists and development officers who work with suppliers to improve standards and build capabilities. The team:
We published our first Supplier Code of Conduct more than 20 years ago - in 1995. In 2015, we published a new global Code of Conduct as part of our commitment to raise standards across our supply network. We benchmarked ourselves with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code and Global Social Compliance Programme. We also evaluated best in practice examples from other apparel players and consulted stakeholders to develop what we believe is a credible standard. From legal compliance and labour practices to environmental performance and anti-corruption, the code describes our minimum required standards and provides comprehensive guidelines. All C&A regions are implementing the code and making sure C&A teams and direct suppliers get training. We’re also introducing a global strategy for auditing suppliers in line with the Code. Read our global Code of Conduct.
Our goal is to source 100% of our products from our top-performing, A-and B-rated suppliers by 2020. To help us get there, sustainability criteria make up 20% of the overall supplier ‘scorecard’ rating, alongside price, quality, delivery, and product execution. This approach, combined with long-term supplier relationships will help us to advance the leadership of our suppliers and their production units to be high performers. New suppliers and production must be able to demonstrate they meet our sustainability criteria and, if needed, make improvements before orders are placed and they can begin to work with us.
Each production unit is rated from A to E based on criteria aligned with our Code of Conduct. Our suppliers' factories that are rated A and B will have no serious violations. All new production units must at least meet a minimum C rating for our buying teams to place orders. Discovery of a critical issue like insufficient firefighting equipment or lack of fire drill will result in a D rating, while discovery of any zero tolerance issue will result in an E. A supplier’s rating is the average of its production units. However, if a supplier has one E-rated production unit, the overall supplier rating will become E. It is our policy not to place production orders with E-rated suppliers, although we work closely with them to address issues and to improve their ratings before new orders can be placed.
Examples of zero tolerance issues:
To support our suppliers’ continued improvement, we began rolling out a supplier ownership programme to 15 key suppliers in 2015. These suppliers represent 15 production units and more than 25,600 workers. The programme provides support, tools, and guidance to help them take ownership for improving their practices. We will continue supporting suppliers to implement management practices that are sustainable over time, possibly even making auditing unnecessary in the future.
Today’s consumers want visibility into our supply network - and they’ve told us so. In 2015, we conducted our first annual global consumer survey of sustainability interests and perceptions. Across all our key markets, consumer feedback was clear: tell us where and how your clothes are produced.
We are planning to increase transparency into our operations and our supply chain in the coming years. As an initial step, we’re providing the list of the names and addresses of our suppliers' factories for all sourcing regions except for domestic production in Brazil and Mexico. The list includes first-tier cut and sew factories in 36 production countries.
All of our Brazilian and Mexican suppliers will be disclosed in 2017 along with other global second-tier suppliers like fabric mills, laundries and printers.
Eliminating harmful chemicals, using less water, and combating climate change by reducing our carbon footprint are all central to our environmental focus in the garment supply chain. At the same time, we’re driving towards a circular economy—where we create endless loops of fibres and clothing in a fair and restorative manner.
Setting clear and strong standards for our supply chain, working with the best-rated suppliers, and taking a zero-tolerance approach on issues like fire safety, fair working hours and wages, freedom of association, and forced and child labour, are key to a responsible supply chain. We are addressing these and other challenges, which will also help to raise standards throughout the garment industry.
Enrolled 15 suppliers in our Supplier Ownership Programme to build capacity for social and environmental performance.