Ecology, economy & aesthetics

Our Mainz store, opened in 2008, is no conventional store – but we hope that it soon will be.

Every aspect, externally and internally, has been designed and built to make it as eco-friendly and energy-efficient as possible

In partnership with REDEVCO, another Cofra owned organization, who own the building, we are currently analysing the energy consumption figures for other buildings and drawing up energy-saving redevelopment measures.

Specialized heat recovery systems have been installed in three existing branches, with a further four stores due for re-fitting by the end of 2012.

We are, over the coming years, planning to retro-fit other eco-friendly and energy-efficient innovations from the Mainz store into as many stores as practically possible.


Our Mainz store’s ventilation system recirculates air, reducing the demand for outside air by 75% with no loss of air quality.

Its lighting system produces 10% more light than a ‘conventional’ system, allowing the number and wattage of lamps to be reduced – reducing the demand for power by 33%.

Heating is provided by a district heating system, which is powered by hydropower.

Photovoltaic panels on the roof and façade cover an area of around 900m2 and generate an estimated 93,000kWh of electricity a year.

The store operateson a CO2-neutral basis.

Zero Discharge

A major part of our CSR policy is water stewardship, and we recognize the urgent need to eliminate industrial releases of hazardous chemicals.

We are currently implementing a zero tolerance policy regarding hazardous chemical discharges associated with any link in our supply chain and the lifecycles of our products.

Due to its complexity and the far-reaching nature of its scope, we foresee that completion of this measure will take us until 2020.

In the short-term, we will publish an action plan within eight weeks of making our commitment to achieving zero discharge.

These immediate actions will detail the measures to be taken to implement our commitment:

- We will share what we learn, our approaches and our tools.

- We will work with others to remove barriers.

- We will report our progress towards comprehensive chemicals’ management.

For more detailed information about our Zero discharge of hazardous chemicals policy, download our PDF file.



Water stewardship

As part of our overall commitment to water stewardship, we have been a sponsoring partner of the Water Footprint Network – an organization based in Enschede, Holland.

It is dedicated to promoting sustainable water use through the advancement of the water footprint with partners worldwide.WFN is helping us to map the water footprint in our global supply chain, in an effort to identify the locations of the main ‘hot spots’ of the most water-intensive and water polluting processes.

When such impacts have been verified, we can then start the important work to implement policies and actions to address these issues

Zero tolerance policy

We recognise that to achieve our goal of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals, we need to be totally transparent about the hazardous chemicals used in our global supply chain.

We are increasing the availability of our restricted substances list and associated audit process.We are going to publicly disclose incidents of any discharge of hazardous chemicals in our supply chain.We are phasing out the use of hazardous chemicals by our suppliers.We are accelerating the elimination of the most hazardous substances.To further help achieve our zero discharge aim, we are working closely with suppliers, brands, the broader chemical industry, NGOs and other interested parties.

All with the aim of achieving zero discharge of hazardous chemicals within a single generation.

Action plan

The immediate actions we took in early 2012 included:

  • Publishing a list of restricted substances – to be regularly updated

  • Requesting information from our suppliers relating to the use in manufacture of APEOs (Alkylphenol ethoxylates), including Nonylphenol ethoxylates

  • Requesting information from our suppliers about their chemical supplies – specifically about how they control and report on what chemical ingredients they are using

Initiating an investigation into how to increase the focus on the management of chemicals and wastewater monitoring practices in a regular, comprehensive, environmental audit programme – with specific attention being given to those suppliers with wet processes.

We Love Bio

Following a detailed analysis in 2004 of the materials used in our collections, the decision was taken to switch to more sustainably grown and produced materials over the long-term.

This was to signal the introduction of products made of certified organic cotton.

In 2005, we became a member of what was then Organic Exchange, which is now Textile Exchange, a non-profit organisation that has helped us to develop our strategy for the cultivation of organic cotton.

In 2008, in partnership with Textile Exchange and the Shell Foundation, we initiated a five year project in India.

The intention was to establish a sustainable textile value-added chain that could, eventually, be transferred to other parts of the world.

We see the long-term changeover to organic cotton as essential to our commitment to sustainable agriculture.

The benefits of converting to certified organic cultivation methods are attractive at every level: environmentally, socially and economically.

For more detailed information about our organic cotton initiative, download our PDF file.




Certified organic cotton

In 2007, our European Executive Board decided on a long-term strategy to expand the use of organic cotton in our products.

In order to draw consumers’ attention to these new products and to raise awareness of organic cotton, the introduction of the new collection was accompanied by bio campaigns and special showroom presentations.

Our unique selling proposition was – and remains – that our organic cotton products are offered at the same price as those made of conventionally produced cotton.

We do not pass on the higher costs of organic supply chain to the customer.

In 2010, we sold 26 million articles of clothing made from organic cotton – representing more than 10% of our total cotton collection.

Partnership with Textile Exchange and the Shell Foundation

Our partnership with Textile Exchange and the Shell Foundation had the following initial objectives:

To help us and our partners in the textile chain to expand our capacities and strengthen our work relating to the production of organic cotton

To build up our investment in companies and communities in rural areas of India for the process of conversion to organic cotton

To develop a model for capacity expansion that can be adopted by other cotton-growing regions, such as China, Africa, South America and Turkey

Our progress to date, while encouraging, illustrates that we are only at the start of a process that will lead, step by step, from a high-impact production system to a lower impact system and, ultimately, to a sustainable, environmentally-friendly method of growing cotton.

Benefits of converting to certified organic cultivation

The advantages of switching to the production of organic cotton – and organic cultivation generally – are far-reaching.

It eliminates the use of synthetic chemicals and pesticides, helping reduce incidents of poisoning and minimises air and water pollution on cotton farms.

It helps achieve a better water balance and better levels of water sequestration in the soil, which means lower CO2 emissions.

It acts as a catalyst in the expansion of protective measures and implementation of regeneration schemes for the ecosystems where cotton and other organic crops are grown.

Perhaps the greatest benefit is seen in the measurable improvements it makes to the livelihoods of the farmers and their families.

As a global retail business, our investment in organic cotton also has a commercial aspect, so we believe that it will not only be of benefit to the growers and their environments, but also to the company, as we innovate our product range to include an increasing number of sustainable products, attracting existing and new customers.

It is better to give

For many years, we have not only taken a position on topical issues relating to the environment and society, but we have actively demonstrated how responsible corporate social and environmental responsibility works in practice.

We are active through the C&A Foundation, which was established in 2011 to continue the charitable work previously led by our C&A Initiative for Social Development.

We are active in supply countries that provide our raw materials and our finished products.

Similarly, we are active in our European retail countries

We have also been working in partnership with some of the leading names in the provision of aid – among them being Terre des Hommes, Grameen Foundation in Bangladesh, GIZ  in Asia, and Oxfam in Ireland.

Many companies talk about their social programmes.

In the past 10 years, the number of projects and initiatives supported by various C&A corporate giving activities has grown to more than 100.

Our direct funding of many is now complete, but these projects have been taken up and are now owned by local partners and the people they benefit.

At C&A, we are firm believers that actions speak louder than words.

C&A Foundation

Our Foundation’s goal is to support sustainable development and create better long-term prospects for people in many different countries – and not just those in which we operate or source our materials and goods from.

Specifically, it contributes to local, charitable initiatives in which we have a retail presence, and it supports larger initiatives that aim to improve the social, economic and environmental conditions across the cotton and apparel value chain in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Supply countries

A review of our projects in our supply countries has revealed that more than 5,500 children continue to benefit from the opportunity of a primary or a secondary level of education in schools that were built as part of our Corporate Giving activities.

More than 2,200 young people have had, or continue to have, the chance of vocational training to prepare them for eventual employment.

Our most recent commitment to vocational training involves the construction of a new centre in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which will offer training to between 1,500 and 2,000 students.

There are around 800 children living in orphanages built with C&A Corporate Giving funds.

Six different healthcare projects have been established in countries where we source our products.

We have provided access to drinking water for 85,000 villagers on the outskirts of Tirupur in India.

And in Bangladesh, 130,000 villagers in and around Comila and Chandpur are able to enjoy arsenic-free water supplies thanks to a number of investments made by C&A Corporate Giving.

European Retail Countries Initiatives

Not all our Corporate Giving activities are initiated by the central Corporate Responsibility team.

Many are organised on a regional basis in Europe through our retail stores, and prove highly successful because our local staff know best where help is particularly needed in their towns and cities.

Here are just a few examples of the projects initiated at a local level throughout Europe in 2010 and 2011:

(This be some form of interactive map of Europe with the information for each of the countries mentioned popping up as a rollover state)

All our German branches – that’s more than 500 stores – each donated 2,000€ to a regional or local initiative or project in their area. The money was raised as part of a range of charitable campaigns associated with our 100th anniversary in Germany.

In the Netherlands, support was given to organizations such as NFTE and Team Stages, which help to train young people for work or to set up their own businesses.

Assistance was provided in Macedonia to help SOS Children’s Villages establish an orphanage.

Four cycling teams who ride for Kom op Tegen Kanker in Belgium were sponsored to help fund their work caring for children with cancer.

In France, one of the organizations that received support was Petit Princes that fulfils wishes for seriously ill children.

In Spain, the beneficiaries of our support have included various organizations providing medical assistance for children – for example helping children with mental disabilities, social problems or polio.

In Portugal, children and young people in socially disadvantaged areas were among those helped by local donations and team contributions.

In Poland, donations have been given to organisations working on behalf of the mentally disabled and families living in poverty.

In Austria, one of the charities supported was Licht ins Dunkel (Light into Darkness), which devotes itself to projects focusing on the socially disadvantaged or people with a disability.

In Turkey, we have helped the Stars of Istanbul organization, which collects donations for UNICEF Turkey at a variety of events.

In many Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Croatia, a large number of charity campaigns have been supported at Christmas and in connection with store openings.

Terre des Hommes

We have been co-operating with Terre des Hommes for over a decade.

Terre des Hommes is an organization devoted to child welfare.

As part of its activities, it runs schools and education projects in various countries.

One of their longer-term projects that we have supported is the construction and running of a vocational training centre in the Indian city of Tirupur.

Through this and other joint initiatives, we have succeeded in largely eliminating the use of child labour in the clothing manufacturing industry among the export companies working in and around Tiripur.

Our work with Terre des Hommes also embraces helping children who have been working in the textile industry find alternative ways of living through education and vocational training in our Vocational Training Centre.

Here, 240 children have the opportunity to learn to read and write and train to become tailors, mechanics, electricians and plumbers.

In the past three years, 526 students have graduated with a vocational skill, while 64 students have passed academic examinations.

Our work with Terre des Hommes has been extended to include our support of a project in Bihar, India, related to flood prevention.

In 2009 we celebrated 10 years of co-operation with Terre des Hommes, and are proud to have a mural created by students from the VTC in Tirupur hanging in the entrance to our head office in Düsseldorf.


Founded in Bangladesh by Professor Muhammad Yunus in 1983, we have been partners with Grameen in many different projects since 1996.

Initially, Grameen provided small loans, known as microcredits, particularly to women.

Being given a microcredit allows the recipient to finance their livelihood – especially strengthening the economic situation of women in Bangladesh.

Proferssor Yunus’ achievements were recognised in 2006, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Our first project working with Grameen was to help establish a weaving centre that included a laboratory for the testing of fabrics produced by Grameen.

Our technicians were able to advise them on how they could improve the quality of their fabrics so that they would meet international standards.

We have gone on to support Grameen in a wide range of projects.

We are proud of our association with Professor Yunus and his team at Grameen and the work they have done, particularly that which has benefitted children and women in Bangladesh.

“Grameen Shikka is proud to have been working with C&A for nearly 15 years through a number of different partnership projects. The focus of C&A has been in wishing to play a role in alleviating the suffering of the poorest and most underprivileged in society. I look forward to the partnership between Grameen Shikka and C&A to continue and expand further, to empower those who are most needy.”

Muhammad Yunus

Managing Director, Grameen Bank


In 2011, our C&A Foundation began a partnership with GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit).

This involves us in an innovative, long-term programme aimed at improving the well-being of thousands of people employed in the clothing manufacturing industry across all major producing countries in Asia.

The partnership aims to increase productivity, improve wages and contribute towards better social standards for the workers.

Launched initially in Bangladesh and India, the eventual goal is to reach over 200 clothing supply companies across Asia.

GIZ was chosen to lead the project because of their strong presence and track record in Asia for effecting such improvements.

We aim to achieve a number of critical milestones linked to this programme that will contribute to the payment of higher wages, improve social conditions, reduce overtime hours, increase female participation, reduce discrimination, lower absenteeism – and so much more.

GIZ will work to strengthen dialogue between management and staff, and work with each group to resolve any conflicts in a constructive way.


Oxfam International, a global confederation of 15 independent agencies working together in nearly 100 countries – is a network that empowers individuals, communities and organisations to build a future free from the injustice of poverty.

During the recent famine and drought in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia in 2011, Oxfam reached over three million people with food, water, sanitation and shelter. Across the globe they also work to secure long-term livelihoods, healthcare and education for those living in poverty.

“Millions of people engage with our work overseas through our network of Oxfam shops.  Our partnership with C&A means we can offer a brighter future to thousands of families in the developing world. In Ireland, every time someone buys C&A stock in an Oxfam shop, they are contributing to a better future for someone living in poverty. Together, we are making a positive difference, replacing poverty with security, dignity, and hope. For this, we at Oxfam Ireland are especially grateful to C&A.”

Oxfam Ireland

Moving in the right direction

Transporting our goods from where they are manufactured – the vast majority being made in Asia – to our European stores has an environmental impact.

It is our aim to reduce this impact in all aspects of our transportation chain – long distance, by rail, by road.

We are aware that this reduction will take time, as we are dependent in most cases on the manufacturers of the means of transport to introduce more eco-friendly and energy efficient means of transport.

In the meantime, we are doing all we can to ensure that we are making the best use of the alternatives available to maximise the efficiency of our logistics chain, while minimising its impact on the world in which we live.

Long distance

Forwarding goods from Asia to Europe by sea is by far the most energy-efficient means of transport, which is why, in 2011, about 95% of our goods made the journey on board ships.

To help minimise the environmental impact when the goods are unloaded, we recently added a merchandise flow through the port of Barcelona to serve our Iberian stores – saving the previously long drive from our ports in Belgium and the Netherlands, which is saving an estimated 1 million kilometres on the road every year.

To further help protect the environment, we only work with logistics companies that are members of either the Clean Cargo Group or the Pacific Greenhouse Gases Measurement Project – both organizations that are actively committed to defining clear environmental rules and reducing emissions from transport.

Air transport not only costs far more than by sea, but also accounts for the largest proportion of our logistics-related emissions’ balance.

Consequently, we only use airfreight in exceptional cases.

For example, if merchandise needs to be sent to Europe quickly so it doesn’t miss the season, or if the goods involved are the very latest examples of a fashion trend that has to be served quickly.

By rail

The ports of Rotterdam, Zeebrugge, Amsterdam and Antwerp are the destinations for about 80% of our goods coming in from Asia.

From here, about 80% of the total distance travelled to our distribution centres is covered by rail or barge.

The proportion of connecting transport movements that subsequently involved further rail transport rose by about 30% between 2007 and 2010 – saving approximately 500 truckloads of goods hitting the roads, and the environment.

By road

Due to the spread and locations of our branches across Europe, the need for flexibility of delivery on a daily basis, it is, unfortunately, impossible to avoid transporting goods by road.

We are, however, embracing as much green-thinking as is practical.

We avoid unnecessary movements through careful planning that starts when the goods are loaded in their countries of origin.

All of our forwarding agents are instructed to load all containers in such a way that they contain goods for only one country or region, so they can be assigned from the nearest seaport to their ultimate destination.

We optimise all movements to minimise mileage covered.

We make the best possible use of the capacity of every vehicle we load.

We minimise diesel consumption by only working with transport service providers who constantly renew their fleets with trucks featuring the latest technology and fuel efficient, eco-friendly engines.

2009 saw the introduction of Euro 5 emissions’ legislation for commercial vehicles – 19% of the fleet engaged in moving our goods already complied with this before it came into force.

Since 2010, we have been using special trucks known as EEVs (Enhanced Environmentally-Friendly Vehicles). These offer an even better environmental performance than trucks conforming to the Euro 5 standard.

While in Germany, we are operating two electrically powered trucks and one hybrid truck.

Sandblasting is unfashionable

At the start of 2009, SOCAM (the audit management company we use to monitor compliance to our Code of Conduct) drew our attention and that of all our relevant contract partners to the considerable health risk to workers who are involved in the sandblasting of textiles.

This finishing process, which is mainly used on denim for the manufacture of jeans, can expose workers to the fatal lung disease silicosis if they inhale the sand used in the blasting.

So in 2011, we decided that we would stop any use of sandblasting in the manufacture of any of our products, using instead less dangerous alternatives such as brushing machines and emery paper to achieve the desired ‘aged’ effect.

SOCAM continue to monitor and report on the situation in the audits they carry out for us.


And the winner is…

We’re as pleased as anyone when we receive an award or a prize, and never more so than when they come from consumer surveys.

Besides these, though, prizes or awards granted by associations or organizations whose juries are made up of experts from the industry are a confirmation of the standard of the work carried out by all our staff.

In the last two years, we have been pleased to receive awards in the following countries:


According to a pioneering global study by Hydra Social Media and Socialbakers, C&A Spain has consistently been in the Top 20 corporate pages on Facebook.

Czech Republic

C&A Czechia was voted in an opinion poll as being ‘Retailer of the Year 2010’ in the textile retailer category.


The Dutch readers of Reader’s Digest chose C&A as their ‘Most Trusted Brand 2010’ in the clothing category.

C&A Netherlands, together with RTL and Endemol, won the SponsorRing in the media category. The SponsorRing is the professional award of the sponsorship industry. The jury awarded the prize to C&A, RTL and Endemol for the non-spot integration in the program ‘Benelux’s Next Top Model’.

The state-aided organization Connekt, which is motivating transport operators to reduce its CO2 emissions, awards companies which reduce the amount of CO2 by 20% within 5 years. C&A Netherlands was the first fashion retailer to receive their ‘Lean and Green’ award.


C&A Belgium was recognised in the ‘Beste Winkelketen Damenmode und Kindermode 2011’ awards, which are given after an annual investigation by Q&A Research and Consultancy.   The Belgian readers of Reader’s Digest voted C&A their ‘Most Trusted Brand’ in 2011.   In addition, C&A’s last CR report was given the ‘Best Belgian Sustainability Award 2009, Edition 2010’.


C&A won the German Sustainability Award 2010 for its organic cotton collection in the category ‘Germany’s Most Sustainable Products/Services’.

The consumer association Verbraucher Initiative e.V. granted its ‘Sustainable Retail Company 2011’ silver award to C&A Germany under the terms of the Environmental and Social Responsibility in Retail Enterprises project.

In 2011, C&A Germany was voted the ‘Most Trusted Brand’ by readers of Reader’s Digest, for the eighth time in succession.

C&A Germany once again received the ‘Superbrands Germany 2012’ award, ranking it as one of the outstanding brands in the country.


C&A Hungary was awarded the title of ‘Superbrand’ in both 2010 and 2011 – a wonderful achievement in a country where C&A has only had a presence since 2002.

Recycling in Unlikely Places

Saving energy and reducing our environmental impact sometimes occurs in unlikely places. Hangers is one of those places.

The clothes-hangers that customers do not ask for are collected at the point of sale and forwarded to a recycling company in specially designed boxes. They are then sorted, with the undamaged hangers being used again, and damaged ones shredded. The metal is melted down and the plastic turned into granulate, which can then be used to either make more hangers or to be used in other products.

In 2010 a total of about 254 million clothes-hangers were collected in Europe, of which 133 million were able to be reused. This is equivalent to a saving of 3,325 tonnes of plastic, 1,330 tonnes of metal and around 2.74 million kWh of electricity. About 121 million clothes-hangers, amounting to roughly 3,025 tonnes of plastic, were returned to the material cycle.