A LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

a letter from the executive director

"... we sought to help “everyone touched by the industry to thrive...”

We are  living in unsettling times. As we publish this last annual report for C&A Foundation, a global pandemic is disrupting the lives and livelihoods of people across the globe. The fashion industry – where we have been tirelessly working for the past five years – has been upended, hurting the millions of garment workers and farming families that this industry depends on.


It is frightening to witness how COVID-19 is deepening the very systemic issues that have caused the fashion industry to do more bad than good. This shows that we still have work to do.


Because many of these issues – particularly those which deepen injustices and create vast uncertainty for garment workers – are the very same issues that C&A Foundation sought to address when we launched in 2014.


In our first annual report, we announced a bold ambition:

“To contribute to a fair and sustainable apparel sector based on respect and financial wellbeing; a sector that is also in balance with the environment.”


Although we acknowledged this was a demanding challenge, we were able to pull on our founding family’s 180-year history in fashion and in philanthropy to do our best. Specifically, we sought to help “everyone touched by the industry to thrive” because we believed then (and still do today) that fashion can be a genuine force for good in the world.


In the years since C&A Foundation’s launch, we’ve worked hard to prove our case.

Starting with just four people, we built a global foundation of 60 committed professionals and a global network of 180 partners, all driven by a shared purpose to transform the fashion industry.

leslie johnston | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, C&A FOUNDATION

Starting with just four people, we built a global foundation of 60 committed professionals and a
global network of 180 partners, all driven by a shared purpose to transform the fashion industry.


As one foundation in a much bigger system, we have tried to use our resources in ways that could have an outsized impact. This includes catalysing additional funding from other foundations, investors, companies and governments to replicate and scale many of our initiatives. In 2019, we are proud to have unlocked €138 million in co-finance from others.


Our focus on contributing to real and lasting systems change has led to some of our other proudest achievements, including:


Logo Organic Cotton Accelerator

Revitalising the organic cotton sector by scaling production models that work and inspiring the market to step up together. We are a founding funder of the Organic Cotton Accelerator, and along with the unflagging work of our partners in India, Pakistan, China, Tanzania and Brazil, we have helped to develop new incentives and models across the supply chain, improve the capacity (and incomes) of thousands of farmers, increase production, and spur demand for organic cotton by brands and retailers.

Fashion for Good

Creating the world’s first platform for collaborative innovation in sustainable fashion. Fashion for Good has become an industry leader in bringing more innovation (and urgency for change) into the fashion industry through its growing network of 18 corporate partners, its 80+ innovators who have raised €119 million in capital, and the 55,000+ visitors to the Fashion for Good Experience in Amsterdam who have gone on to become champions of our shared cause.

Investing in the long-term sustainability of organisations working on the frontlines of change. We have committed to increasing the percentage of partners who hail from the very communities we want to serve. This focus on institutional development has enabled our partners to grow their own organisations and be better able to achieve our shared objectives. Core or general operating support was 9% of our 2019 funding – a number that we aim to increase as we work to strengthen the field of effective local organisations.


All of this was done alongside an important public commitment to gender, equity and inclusion, which has influenced not only how we make our grants but also how we operate as a foundation.


We have also learned a lot over these past five years; in this final annual report, it is a privilege to share some of the critical insights we have gained along the way. And while we are proud of the changes that we and our partners have helped to usher in, we also know that they’re not enough.


In the same time that we’ve been trying to make progress in the fashion industry, we have witnessed global inequality continue to grow and the climate crisis continue to deepen.  

In the same time that we’ve been trying to make progress in the fashion industry, we have witnessed global inequality continue to grow and the climate crisis continue to deepen.

leslie johnston | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, C&A FOUNDATION

And with the onset of the global pandemic, and its heart-breaking effect on the world’s most vulnerable families, it is clear that our current global economic system is failing – failing people, failing the planet we live on and failing future generations. The source of these two intertwined crises are powerful systemic forces that extend far beyond any single industry.


We need to do more.


Which is why in January 2020, Laudes Foundation launched to respond to the dual crises of inequality and climate breakdown and, ultimately, to accelerate the transition to a just and regenerative economy.


Laudes Foundation will advance the industry-changing work of C&A Foundation, and in March 2020, incorporated much of C&A Foundation’s work into its fashion programme. Our mission at C&A Foundation centred on transforming a single industry. But Laudes Foundation’s mission is broader – focused not on a single industry, but on many – starting with fashion, finance and the built environment.


At C&A Foundation, we worked with industry to effect broader systems change and Laudes Foundation will do the same, starting from the same core belief that industry can be a force for good. We want to see a global economy that values all people and respects nature. An economy in which industries uplift all who participate in them, and regenerate and restore nature as a fundamental part of what they do.


And just as we did at C&A Foundation, Laudes will support brave and practical action that inspires industry to collaborate – as well as action that holds it to account and incentivises change.


As fashion and other industries consider how to respond to, and reckon with, the impacts of COVID-19, one thing is clear: a return to ‘normal’ is not an option. The status quo – and the
inequality and environmental harm it causes – is unsustainable. There is simply no going back.  
 
And so we look ahead, as Laudes Foundation joins a growing movement of peers and partners to build a better future together.

As fashion and other industries consider how to respond to, and reckon with, the impacts of COVID-19, one thing is clear: a return to ‘normal’ is not an option. The status quo – and the inequality and environmental harm it causes – is unsustainable. There is simply no going back.

leslie johnston | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, C&A FOUNDATION