C&A aims higher with its new sustainability strategy

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Fashion chain C&A is launching a new, more ambitious sustainability target for 2028. The key points: more sustainable sourcing, extending the lifespan of products and reducing single-use plastic.

 

Inspiring customers to make a more sustainable choice

C&A has reached most of the sustainability targets it set for 2020, according to the retailer's latest sustainability report which got published today. That is why the chain is now launching a new, more ambitious sustainability strategy. The company wants to inspire customers to make a more sustainable choice and is putting even more emphasis on circularity.
 

For its activities in Europe, C&A has set three new key goals to be achieved by 2028:

  • Purchasing 100 per cent of its core materials more sustainably;
  • Committing to circular principles to extend the lifespan of seven out of ten products;
  • Replacing 50 per cent of single-use plastic in the stores, the webshop and the supply chain with sustainable alternatives.

 

Organic cotton

"C&A has already done a lot, but has communicated rather little," says Giny Boer, CEO of C&A Europe. "We want to be more transparent and open." The fashion chain wants to be a frontrunner when it comes to sustainability. The executive refers to the sustainable jeans factory that will open this year in Mönchengladbach: "We are taking production back to Europe. The first pairs of jeans will already be sold online by the summer of next year. Then we will take a look at the next steps. This is only a beginning."

 

The collection of old clothing has also been successful: "We have already taken back more than three million kilograms of clothing, which equates to 27 truckloads. And it's still growing." Another focal point for C&A is the use of organic cotton. "Only 1 per cent of the world's cotton production is organic, but at C&A, 50 per cent of the cotton is already organic. For baby clothes and underwear, it's even 100 per cent. Why is that important to us? The production of organic cotton requires fewer pesticides and uses up to 90 per cent less water."

 

"Sustainable is the new normal"

C&A took the lead in circularity by producing the very first "Cradle to Cradle Certified Platinum" denim fabric in 2020. To date, the company has brought more than four million Cradle to Cradle Certified products to market. "It is by far the strongest certification in the world," says Aleix Busquets Gonzalez, Director of Global Sustainability at C&A.

 

In 2015, the term 'circular economy' was still a buzzword not understood by everyone. That has changed now: everyone is aware of the urgency. "In 2015, we were still sceptical about our own targets because they were very ambitious. But we achieved them. 70 per cent of our supply is more sustainable, so we actually no longer give consumers the choice not to buy sustainably. They don't have to decide whether they want to pay more: we are democratising sustainable fashion. It's becoming the new normal."

 

Reducing returns

However, C&A openly admits that there is still a long way to go. The bar is being raised increasingly for the fashion chain's suppliers. "Our requirements systematically go beyond the legal standards, for instance, in terms of working conditions. We do not want children under the age of 16 to work in our suppliers' factories, even when local legislation allows work from the age of 14 or 15."

 

Furthermore, the retailer wants to do something about the high number of returns. "We are also talking to Zalando about this. First, we want to analyse this properly: why do people return clothes? Once we understand that, we can take measures." In its collections, C&A wants half of the range to consist of year-round basics, 40 per cent of seasonal basics and only 10 per cent of trends-based pieces. In any case, the Covid crisis has raised awareness, believes Gini Boer: "People wondered: 'Do I really need that much?' As a result, they started to buy more consciously. The will to consume more responsibly is most definitely present."