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The C&A Foundation – the corporate foundation affiliated with global retailer C&A – is preparing to scale its activities beyond fashion when it transitions to the Laudes Foundation later this month, with a broadened focus on climate breakdown and inequality.

Speaking exclusively to just-style, Stephanie Klotz, senior communications manager at the C&A Foundation, explains the new independent body came about after the group realised underlying problems in the fashion industry with regards to sustainability and climate change could only be resolved by tackling the root cause – often outside the industry – and that the deeper systemic issues of the global economic system needed to be resolved.

The Laudes Foundation will work with businesses, shareholders and investors, industry experts and policy-makers in its goal to make real-strides in addressing climate change and sustainability-related issues.

While the fashion industry is trying to reduce its environmental footprint, change is not happening at pace, explains Klotz. Laudes Foundation aims to harness the productive power of capitalism – on a global scale – so that it benefits people first and foremost and respects nature.

“We hit a five-year milestone with the C&A Foundation and used the opportunity to look at our work, the impact and what we’ve managed to do in that time, but also how fashion and sustainability have evolved,” says Klotz. “When you put all those things together, we found that in order to change the industry, you have to actually go beyond the industry. It’s not an island. You can’t just change one industry, because everything is interconnected.

“This came through our own evaluation and a report we did with fashion experts to see what it would take to change the fashion industry. You start to look around and see all the inclusive economies, wellbeing economies, stakeholder economies – whatever you want to call it – has really started to come to the forefront. There’s this realisation you can’t change the fashion industry by itself; the underlying issues lie way beyond the one industry and they are in the heart of our economic system. We thought now is the time to take what we’ve done and advance it further.”

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As a new part of the Brenninkmeijer family enterprise, Laudes Foundation aims to:

  • Influence capital: The global financial system has the power to redirect the flow of capital so that investment encourages good business practices. Laudes Foundation will work with financial actors to inspire change and align incentives while fostering new economic thinking and new business models.  
  • Transform industries: Laudes Foundation will work with industries to tackle the most pressing and systemic issues, starting with those that it knows well – fashion – a fast-moving consumer industry, building on the sector-changing work of C&A Foundation and moving it forward; and – the built environment – an asset-based industry with the potential to transform the spaces in which we live and work. 

Under the broader Laudes Foundation umbrella, C&A Foundation will continue to operate as a grant-giving organisation looking to invest in initiatives that are game-changers for the industry and environment.

Klotz says it will prioritise innovation and transparency initiatives, explaining that while Open Apparel Registry – a global map of garment factories – was one of its “big projects,” transparency needs to go further and be pushed beyond the fashion industry.

“It is important to note that the work we’ve been doing under C&A Foundation in the fashion sector will continue. It will just become the fashion programme, if you like, of Laudes Foundation.

“We will spend the first year scoping the projects that are out there, meeting, trying to network and get to the players out there. As we evolve and refine our strategy and look toward other industries and look at finance as an ever-growing lever that can change the fashion industry, we will probably evolve and change but nothing different to what it was under C&A.”

Commenting on the multiple initiatives and projects that launch each day around sustainability in the fashion industry and deciphering which ones are genuine actors for change, Klotz explains that recipients that are awarded grants are taken through a rigorous process both before and during the grant’s tenure to ensure they are having the right and desired impact.

As well as general KPIs that are set for all grantees, each individual project is set KPIs. A year-and-a-half into the grant being awarded, the project is assessed.

“We’re the first to say this is or isn’t working or it could be better. Usually when they don’t work, if it’s the initiative that doesn’t work we won’t continue it, or we will adapt it, and the grant, and move in a different direction.

“But we are committed to transforming the industry. So much so that it triggered the launch of Laudes. We realised it’s impossible to change one industry without looking at the underlying factors that drive the economy. If you look at Bangladesh for example, when you look at the movements that are happening there when all eyes are watching, it has really changed over the past few years. But that doesn’t mean we’re not seeing other countries that are now at the point Bangladesh was once at.

“So the good work isn’t necessarily being repeated in these new countries we go to. That’s the problem with the underlying economic system. If we don’t tackle this race to the bottom, in general, not just in fashion but in general, we’re going to see new Bangladesh’s keep popping up and you’re starting again and history repeats itself. We need to get to the root cause of the issue.”