Retailer C&A is building sustainability into its business

Retailer C&A is building sustainability into its business

Value retailer C&A says it has increased the number of top-rated suppliers it sources from and has grown its sustainable supply chain team, as it published its first global sustainability report and revealed progress towards its 2020 goals.

In 2015 the retailer, which has over 2,000 stores across Europe and operations in Brazil, Mexico and China, focused on building "strong governance and accountability" to support its new sustainability strategy. The 2020 goals marked what it said was an "ambitious new global sustainability commitment" and strategic framework.

"Building sustainability into our business management system has been crucial to supporting our aspiration to create fashion with a positive impact," said Jeffrey Hogue, C&A's global chief sustainability officer.

C&A set itself a commitment to source only from top-rated suppliers, with sustainability criteria making up 20% of the overall rating, which ranged from A-E. As part of this goal, the retailer also rolled out a new global code of conduct for its suppliers last year and trained sourcing teams and suppliers.

During the year it sourced 90.8% of its volume from suppliers with an A-B rating – up from 80.6% in 2014. Last year the retailer's sustainable supply chain also grew, from 35 to 90 people, to include more sustainable supply chain specialists and development officers who work with suppliers to improve standards and build capabilities.

As part of its work to increase transparency and raise standards in its supply network, which covers around 900,000 people, C&A has taken part in the Action, Collaboration, Transformation (ACT) global initiative to unite stakeholders in improving wages.

In addition to worker welfare, safety and wages, C&A also detailed how it has been working to reduce environmental impacts across its entire value chain, with four focus areas: chemicals, water, climate change, and waste. It launched a Global Chemicals Management Strategy in 2015 aimed at strengthening its approach to restricting and eliminating harmful chemicals, and independent ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) audits were completed at 52 key fabric mills.

The retailer has also completed its first-ever carbon footprint of the group's value chain, with the findings showing it had increased carbon efficiency by 9% and reduced total carbon emissions by 1.4% compared to the baseline 2012. Its 2020 target is to reduce its carbon footprint across stores, distribution centres and offices by 20%.

Additionally, C&A has been working to develop a circular economy approach to its supply chain and "help lead the fashion industry away from the make, use, dispose economy to one that allows us to keep resources in use for as long as possible". 

This year, it plans to focus on circular models that go beyond recycling alone, offering customers in its Dutch stores a 5% discount voucher for donating old clothing of any brand for recycling. The retailer has also taken steps to reuse and recycle unsellable merchandise. In 2015, 564 tonnes of clothing were recycled by Vökotex. 

Additional achievements made last year include a commitment to use 100% Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified down in 2016. The retailer was also named the world's largest user of organic cotton by the Textile Exchange, increasing the volume of more sustainable cotton used to 40%.