Climate change - Cutting the carbon footprint of our operations

Failing to mitigate and adapt to climate change has been identified by the World Economic Forum as the single biggest risk facing the world over the next ten years. Already, the global apparel industry’s carbon footprint is 1.7 million tonnes1. As the global population grows to 9 billion by 2050, the middle classes expand, and the demand for apparel continues to rise, our industry must combat climate change by adopting more sustainable materials, cleaner production methods, and a circular model.

In 2016, we completed carbon and water footprints of the C&A value chain to carefully assess impacts from cradle to grave. We operate around 2,000 stores in 23 countries. Collectively, they represent around 244,833 metric tonnes of CO2e, and therefore we prioritise energy-saving initiatives in our stores.

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Clean environment in our operations



reduction of our carbon footprint in stores, distribution centres, and offices

Our 2015 Progress

In 2015, we increased our carbon efficiency by 9% and our energy efficiency by 6.5% compared to our 2012 baseline.  We were also able to source 30% of our energy from renewable sources. A number of factors influenced our performance:

  • Reducing energy consumption in daily store operations.
  • Using energy efficient technology, wherever feasible.
  • Renovating and refurbishing facilities to enhance efficiency.
  • Actively purchasing renewable energy in countries where it is available.

Indexing absolute energy consumption and energy

Direct and indirect energy consumption by retail market (MWh)


Direct and indirect energy efficiency by retail market (KWh/m2 Total Usable Sales Area)


Indexed absolute CO2e emissions and Carbon efficiency of stores, offices and distribution centers

Total scope 1 and 2 CO2 emissions by retail market (Tonnes)

 EuropeBrazilMexicoChinaTonnes of CO2

Carbon efficiency by retail market (kg CO2/m2 Total Usable Sales Area)


Supporting renewable energy

Buying more energy from renewable sources helps to reduce our carbon footprint. In 2015, we purchased 29.9% of our global energy from renewable sources. In Germany, where we have been committed to renewable energy since 2008, 57.1% of our energy was purchased from renewable sources. In 2016, detailed roadmaps to source more renewable energy will be developed by our retail markets.

Purchasing renewable energy for our stores is only part of the picture. In 2016, we will enhance our climate change strategy to address the complete clothing life cycle - sourcing decisions, suppliers, store operations, and customer use. We will also focus on aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Climate Action by increasing our focus on the circular economy, and taking a role in industry advocacy.

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Impacts of transportation

How we move clothes around the world

In 2015, we transported the vast majority—about 95%—of our products on container ships, the most carbon-efficient and cost-effective way to move goods long distances. 

We help our logistics providers save energy at every stage of the product journey, such as by:

  • Using container space efficiently.
  • Book ‘slow steaming’ cargo ships to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
  • Consolidating road deliveries to small stores, and carefully timing deliveries to larger stores.
  • Planning routes carefully to use fewer trucks and reduce emissions.
  • Monitoring supplier performance regularly.


 Total shipment (in thousand kilometers)

Air freight44,647,5602,985,135n/a
Sea freight1,567,745,647130,640,763n/a
Road transportation96,030,61312,268,5201,226,258

n/a = not available

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Waste management and recycling

Transforming waste into a valued resource

Waste is generated two places in the apparel value chain: when garments are produced and when consumers throw them away. Currently, 350,000 tonnes2 of garments per year end up in UK landfills alone, and their potential value as reusable resources is lost. Because today’s apparel production model is still based on virgin raw materials, the volume of clothing waste will probably grow as more consumers buy - and eventually discard - even more clothes.

At C&A, we believe we can have the greatest positive impact on waste by shifting to a circular economy. In-store waste management initiatives  and the use of recycled materials in our clothing will also contribute.

Too good to waste: recycling hangers and boxes

In all C&A regions, we use a lot of hangers to display our clothes and cardboard boxes to ship them to stores and customers for home delivery.

All of our regions recycle plastics, but in Europe, where we operate 1,575 stores, we use around 200 million hangers each year. In 2015, 65% were reused and 35% were recycled into reusable plastic. In China, we work with our suppliers to recycle broken plastic hangers. And in Brazil, we’ve recycled more than 282 tonnes of hangers over the past two years.

Reducing waste in C&A stores and distribution centres around the world (in tonnes and units)

In tonnesEuropeBrazilMexicoChina
Cardboard box and paper recycling and/or donations          15,062               214  n/a  n/a 
Hanger and/or other plastic recycling            2,940               264  n/a  n/a 
Used clothing/fabric and/or uniform donations to charity or recycling               857  - n/a  n/a 
In units    
Electronics recycling
(only Brazil)
Other materials recycling
(aluminium, lamps, cosmetics, lab waste, store window displays)
 -            8,806  n/a  n/a 

n/a = not available

Total waste produced by region, where available (in tonnes and units)

Hazardous (lamps/bulbs in units) 8,806   
Non-hazardous15.6272,215 n/a64

n/a = not available

Case Study

Europe: Boosting sustainability of our online store

C&A Europe’s online store draws more than 100 million visitors each year. With nine online stores across the continent, we’re constantly looking for ways to streamline delivery and lower emissions. Our partnership with Arvato—which operates our warehouse and oversees the logistics operation—optimises buildings and machinery through modular lighting, an energy-efficient bag sorter, and other technologies. Delivery boxes are 100% recycled cardboard, and in 2015, we began using a natural glue tape, making them easier to recycle. Before sending out a shipment, we make sure the box has no excess packing materials. 

Making sure customers are happy with their online orders and reducing returns also plays a part in lowering our online store carbon footprint. Customers may also collect their orders in store, where they can try on the clothing to make sure they’re happy with it before leaving. To further help our customers make informed online shopping decisions, we regularly improve product images and descriptions.

Brazil: A comprehensive waste management plan in Brazil

In Brazil, we've mapped all the types of waste generated by our operations in the headoffice, distribution centres and stores and we developed a waste management plan.

The result is: we generate 25 types of waste, and from 2014 until now we are working on the 13 prioritised to develop standard processes (recycling, reuse, etc.) for handling it. In 2015, we also developed a system to measure the waste we generate in Brazil, a key step in improving how we manage and report on it in the coming years.

Brazil: Leading the way on sustainable stores

The C&A eco-store in Porto Alegre is our sustainable store in Brazil, a source of ideas and inspiration. The fully renovated store features energy-efficient lighting, air conditioning, and escalators, along with rainwater harvesting. Its 640-square-metre green roof has attracted many birds, including parrots, which gives the store a unique atmosphere. The roof also collects rainwater, improving thermal insulation, and reducing air conditioning needs. New bathroom technology has reduced water use by 40%.


C&A also became the first Brazilian fashion retailer to achieve LEED building certification and now offers public tours of the environmental improvements to raise awareness. In six of our Brazilian stores, we’re testing ‘self-contained air conditioning’ that uses air instead of water to reduce energy use by 25%. We plan to install the technology in all new stores where the region can supply sufficient power quality exists. After this project, we got inspired and started to use more sustainable materials in some of our stores as Ipanema and Leblon (Rio de Janeiro) and Shopping Iguatemi Alphaville (São Paulo). At Ipanema store there is also a green roof.

Europe: Intelligent, energy-efficient logistics centre in Germany

C&A stores aren’t the only place we can save energy. In 2015, C&A Europe opened a new logistics warehouse in Höchstadt, serving all C&A stores in southern Germany.

Energy-efficient LED lighting and motion detector switches have contributed to a monthly average energy consumption that is 29% lower than a conventional warehouse.

Europe: Creating a blueprint for sustainable stores

We recently transformed our store in the Dutch city of Zaandam by collaborating with retail property expert Redevco. An energy-efficient lighting system for the sales area, motion detectors for our stock room and office, and innovative escalators that ‘crawl’ to save energy when not in use are saving 25% energy compared to a regular store. A green roof featuring sedum mosses insulates the building, improves air quality, cuts flood risk, and nurtures insects and birds. The store also features water-saving taps and plumbing. We plan to develop a toolkit for our other European stores using this one as a best practice example so that new stores can achieve a 70% energy intensity reduction per square metre, compared to existing stores, and help us towards our global goal.

As of early this year, 148 of the 150 stores occupied by C&A in Europe are BREEAM certified. This internationally respected, sustainable building accreditation focuses on energy, water, transport, waste, health and wellbeing, pollution, materials, and land use and ecology. The remaining two properties will be certified later in 2016.

1 McKinsey analysis from World Bank data, 2015

Wrap. Valuing our Clothes, 2012

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