Improving working conditions and supporting human rights

The urgent need to improve conditions for garment workers and address critical health and safety issues has made headlines in recent years. Apparel businesses, including C&A, are taking steps to increase transparency and raise standards in these complex supply networks. And with 900,000 people in the C&A supply chain from Bangladesh to India, we are committed to helping lead this transformation. This includes empowering garment workers by exploring ways to create dialogue between workers and management and improving grievance mechanisms. We are also addressing safe and fair labour issues by working to eliminate hazardous chemicals as part of our ZDHC commitment. This work started in 2015 with the auditing of 52 mills deeper into the supply chain.

The challenges our suppliers and production units face vary, depending on the political, social, and economic factors in their countries and communities. From supporting freedom of association in Cambodia, to eliminating bonded labour in India, we work to understand diverse local issues and human rights issues to  support sweeping change, where collaboration and partnership is key.

The C&A Supply Chain in 2015

Number of suppliers worldwide 750
Number of production units 2,700


Key garment sourcing countries

Purchased volumes (%)

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Our 2020 safe and fair labour goals



of our products sourced from A/B rated suppliers.

Build capacity


within our supply chain.

All suppliers and facilities must comply with our Code of Conduct and undergo our audits. At the same time, we understand the value of influencing the wider system. That’s why we’re increasingly joining forces with other international brands, policymakers, trade unions, and non-governmental organizations. In 2015, we joined a new collaboration to promote living wages, and took part in a new responsible supply chain initiative in Germany - the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles. And of course, we continued our support for the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety.

We have suppliers in more than 40 different countries. Our five main sourcing countries produce around 79%. Our supply base is generally stable, with few supplier changes from year to year. But that doesn’t mean we are not always looking to improve, and we’re working to make sure that 100% of the clothing we sell is produced by A-and B-rated suppliers. To support this continuous improvement, in 2015 we raised our standards and published a new Code of Conduct. In time, we anticipate this will result in a better, more sustainable supply chain.

Supplier ratings by shipped quantity

A 3.9% 5.6%
B 76.6% 85.3%
C 15.1% 5.3%
D 1.1% 1.2%
E 3.3% 2.6%


Raising standards across our supply chain

To address these five industry challenges and meet our goal of safe and fair working conditions for everyone in the C&A supply chain, we’re raising standards across the board.

This work starts at home - right in our own organization. In 2015, we strengthened governance in our sustainable supply chain (SSC) approach, beginning separating policy ownership from execution in the field. Now the Global Sustainability Team owns the strategy and policy and the SSC organization ensures that the strategy and policy is implemented. SSC focuses on improving conditions for workers in the C&A supply chain through three channels:

  • Reporting Lines – We developed a matrix structure for the SSC organization to report administratively to the sourcing organization, while being held accountable to deliver on the sustainable sourcing strategy - including the Code of Conduct - to the Global Sustainability Team. The SSC organization is reviewed quarterly against key performance indicators.
  • Third-Party Oversight – Annually, a third party will assess how well we implement our sustainable supply chain strategy and Code of Conduct. Document review and more than 30 shadow and validation audits in the production units supplying C&A Europe will give us good insights into our strengths and any areas for improvement. We plan to expand this initiative to the Brazilian and Mexican domestic supply chains in 2017.
  • Board Level Visibility – The SSC organization, represented by the regional CEOs and the Chief Sustainability Officer, aligns progress, agrees on policy, and resolves issues at the Global Sustainability Board level.

In our Code of Conduct we have set the following minimum requirements on working conditions and human rights in our supply chain:

  • No child labour.
  • No discrimination in employment.
  • No forced labour.
  • Respect for freedom of association and collective bargaining.
  • A safe and hygienic work environment.
  • Special consideration for vulnerable groups.
  • Regular employment.
  • Living wages, paid on time.
  • No excessive working hours.



Human Rights Due Diligence

C&A respects the human rights of everyone who contributes to our business. In 2015, we began a multi-year human rights due diligence process across the C&A value chain. Bearing in mind the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the project seeks to understand the human rights risks, impacts, and opportunities our business faces in the supply chain, retail operations, and local communities. After an organizational, high-level gap assessment in 2015, we‘re focusing on our supply chain—evaluating human rights issues on the ground in our production countries and assessing how our sourcing and buying practices can directly or indirectly affect human rights of workers and their families. 

We’re working with experts from Deloitte to evaluate our processes, business practices, and decisions—all mapped against the most prevalent human rights issues in our sourcing countries. Among other things, we’re using shadow and validation audits in the field to evaluate C&A’s impact on human rights in suppliers’ production units. During 2016, we plan to update our findings and set up an action plan to align with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Read our Code of Conduct.

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Top 5 safe and fair labour challenges

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We support platforms like

to help us develop models for living wages.

Our approach
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By turning the

Top 5

safe & fair labour challenges into opportunities by partnering with our stakeholders.

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Empowering workers

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fair contracts, worker voice, and social dialogue.

Our way of working
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By expanding worker voice platforms to


of our suppliers' factories in Turkey with LaborVoices in 2016. 

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Protecting the most vulnerable

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We do not accept

of any form.

How we scale
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By supporting human rights and legalization of migrant workers, including


we helped in Brazil in 2015.

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