Right now, our industry isn't working for the good of the 150 million people who make our clothes. Our preference for fast, trendy and affordable fashion leads to severe forms of just-in-time production at the lowest cost possible. It means cotton farmers handle dangerous pesticides that harm their health and the environment. Factory workers make clothes in dangerous conditions, and struggle to make ends meet with their meagre wages. Forced labour is rife but stays hidden in complex, murky supply chains.
We believe this can change. We believe fashion has the power to improve the lives of the men and women behind our clothes. We believe fashion can be a force for good. Our mission is to transform the industry to make that happen.
We're a corporate foundation. We share the same heritage, values and approach to sustainability as C&A. And we work closely together to find the best ways to drive change.
With over 60,000 employees, millions of customers, as well as factories and suppliers in markets across the world, C&A brings another dimension to our work. Because of our partnership, we have first-hand insight into the market when we're helping farmers grow organic cotton. Our partners have the chance to test their initiatives in factories and with suppliers. And we have the potential to create 60,000 ambassadors in local communities.
When Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer founded C&A in 1841, they built a business and set a powerful idea in motion: doing business as an integral part of the community.
As the business grew, that spirit continued and a number of corporate foundations were set up to complement their private charitable giving. Instituto C&A in Brazil (1991), Fundación C&A Mexico (1999) and C&A Foundation (2011). They were founded to improve lives wherever C&A operates through educational, health and disaster relief initiatives.
Given the deep-seated challenges of the global apparel industry, we felt we could do more. So, in early 2014, we began to reorganise our three C&A foundations to align against one single vision: to make fashion a force for good.
The apparel industry is one of the largest employers of women workers, and can be a source of great economic opportunity and independence. But many women in the supply chain face discrimination and violence every day. This not only violates their rights, but stops them from advancing.
We believe that to fundamentally transform fashion into a force for good, we must address gender inequality and violence against women. And we apply a gender lens in everything we do.
Women play key roles in cotton farming, but rarely hold influence in their households, in the fields or in producer organisations. Women factory workers make up 80% of the workforce, but are mostly relegated to unskilled jobs based on gender stereotypes, and are far less likely to be promoted than men. They are also paid less for the same work.
In the informal sector, where a large proportion of women work, they have no contracts or access to union representation, and they are especially vulnerable to low wages, excessive hours, and exploitation.
In each of our programmes, we work with partners, including women's rights groups, to promote women's voice, leadership and capacities to exercise their rights. And we help them influence decision-making in the supply chain. We also combat various forms of gender-based violence.
We employ a range of strategies including engaging men and boys, advocating for policies and practices to advance gender justice, and supporting alliances, as well as capacity building and learning initiatives.