Swiss fashion retailer C&A has agreed on a new three-year program to further reduce its water footprint after a study by the Water Footprint Network (WFN) found that the grey water footprint of conventional cotton cultivation is five times greater than that of organic cotton cultivation.


The agreement is based on findings of two new studies published by C&A, the C&A Foundation and WFN on the sustainable use of water, and on C&A’s own water footprint along the international value chain for the manufacture of cotton products. The studies identify the water use hot spots that arise during textile manufacturing, such as excessive use of water, or the use of environmentally harmful processes.



As part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy, C&A particularly wanted to examine and compare the levels of harmful pollutants that are released into the environment – specifically into fresh water – during conventional and organic cotton cultivation. The WFN’s ‘grey water footprint’ -served as an indicator for the level of water pollution from 480 farms in India. The studies showed that with conventional cultivation, the grey water footprint of cotton is about five times larger than if an organic method of cultivation is used. A primary contributor to the bigger water footprint was the use of chemical pesticides on conventional farms.



“These studies have provided us with valuable insights that will help us to further reduce our water footprint along the entire value chain,” says Phil Chamberlain, Head of Sustainable Business Development and Board Member of C&A Foundation. “To this end, we are developing mandatory guidelines, instruments and trainings for our partners, cotton farmers and factory workers. Furthermore, C&A plans to work with other stakeholders and draw up possible solutions for pressing environmental issues, in order to achieve an overall improvement of water conditions worldwide.”



“C&A has understood from the start that sustainable apparel requires a sustainable supply chain and that the amount of water consumed and polluted, the water footprint of the supply chain, must be reduced to sustainable limits” said Ruth Mathews, Executive Director, Water Footprint Network. “With the help of the Water Footprint Network, C&A has taken on the daunting task of working with its suppliers to improve practices and reduce environmental impacts. These studies confirm the benefits of a move to organic cotton and shows that the water footprint of conventional farming can be reduced through improved farming practices.”



With over 1,550 stores in 20 European countries and more than 37,500 employees C&A Europe is one of the leading fashion retail businesses in Europe. C&A Europe is an enterprise of Cofra Holding AG.