Highlights: Building a culture of critical reflection and learning 

Strengthening the field

At C&A Foundation, we came to learn that systems change demands a stronger field. In practice, that meant using our resources to improve the conditions in which change can happen, as well as improving the capacities of change agents across the sector. That’s why we increasingly moved to fund core support grants, grassroots organisations and multi-stakeholder initiatives. To increase the potential for impact, we also funded at different levels.

Core support

A strong, organised civil society is essential to systems change. But year after year, many of the partners we depend on to fulfil this mission struggle to maintain enough funding to be most effective. They are overloaded, lacking the time, capacity or resources to promote systemic transformation beyond a project’s day-to-day activities. We recognise the value of core support to help our partners communicate, fundraise, advocate, pay staff salaries and more with organisational development and unrestricted funding. C&A Foundation steadily increased the number of full core support grants we provided for a total of 42 grants (and €10.75 million) between 2014 and 2019.

Diversity of grant size and duration

We have never believed in silver-bullet philanthropy. We know funders don’t have all the answers, but good ones always look for, learn from and leverage what works. This is why we invested at different levels – allowing us to start small, test good ideas, course correct as necessary, and scale when the time was right. Small grants can help in advancing research, piloting innovations, testing partnerships, filling knowledge gaps and developing nascent concepts. Those ideas and solutions with the potential to promote systemic change then need to be scaled, requiring greater investment and longer time horizons to ensure sustainability.

The diversity of our average grant sizes and their durations reflect an approach that deepened commitment as we drove impact.

The average duration of C&A Foundation implementation and core support grants was 23 months. For grants above €100,000, the average duration was 30 months.

Average grant duration

€ 8.2m | 12 grants



€ 6.8m | 9 grants



€ 7.3m | 16 grants



€ 6.1m | 8 grants



€ 7.3m | 7 grants



Sustainable Cotton

Working Conditions

Forced & Child Labour

Circular Fashion

Strengthening Communities

Grassroots organisations

Grassroots organisations are on the frontlines of change. These local organisations are often best-placed to understand and address the systemic forces at the root of problems. With strong connections to, and a deep understanding of, the communities in which they operate, grassroots organisations are also more able to develop lasting solutions that work for local people. For these reasons, C&A Foundation has sought to strengthen the resilience and reach of our grassroots partners.

Over 5 years, 27% of portfolio invested on local organisations

Multi-stakeholders initiatives (MSIs) 

Cross-sector transformation requires cross-sector engagement. And multi-stakeholder initiatives are constructive platforms for that engagement to take place. They can amplify the work of partners, convene industry stakeholders and encourage collaboration. Through fostering and supporting MSIs like Fashion for Good, C&A Foundation witnessed the ways in which these types of platforms can harness collective ambition and accelerate positive change. While they are not beyond critique, MSIs are an important part of the ecosystem of change, which is why C&A Foundation financed a number of these initiatives in 2019.

We need to build a sector dedicated to making fashion a force for good. By supporting and fostering multi-stakeholder initiatives, we harness the collective power to create change.


multi-stakeholder initiatives supported

Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)

A global initiative with 1922 members – from farmers, brands and retailers, to mainstream sustainable cotton. In 2017, they certified 11% of all cotton produced.

Cotton 2040

A collaboration of cotton standards and international brands to mainstream sustainable cotton. 
Co-founded by C&A Foundation.

Ethical Trading Initiative

This initiative has over 100 members including companies, international trade unions and non-profit organisations working to influence business to act responsibly and promote decent working conditions.

Fashion for Good

A platform for sustainable fashion innovation, supported by founding partner C&A Foundation and 18 corporate partners that represent more than €200 billion in revenue.

FIIMP – Foundations and Institutes for Impact (Brazil)

A group of 22 philanthropic organisations in Brazil united to share knowledge and provide inputs to the creation of the National Strategy of Business and Impact Investing, in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy.


Through our core support, InPacto works to reinvigorate the National Pact Against Slavery, signed by 300 companies – 115 of them part of the apparel industry, representing 35% of Brazil’s GDP.

Organic & Fair Trade Cotton Secretariat in Madhya Pradesh

A group of more than 20 organisations from government, NGOs, brands and retailers, pushing for action and policies that can enable organic cotton production in Madhya Pradesh, India. Read about their breakthrough moment.

Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA)

A platform co-founded by C&A Foundation to connect organic cotton production with demand from brands and retailers, representing around 70% of the organic cotton market.

SDG Philanthropy Platform – Brazil

A Brazilian workgroup that connects over 180 philanthropists and social investors to the global United Nations initiative in order to create alignment to the Sustainable Development Goals and scale impact.

Stichting ZDHC

A global programme co-founded by C&A Foundation with 165 current members – including 30 signatory brands and 81 value chain affiliates – working to end the discharge of hazardous chemicals in the fashion industry value chain.

Sustainable Apparel Coalition

The Social and Labor Convergence Program (SLCP) represents 33 brands and retailers that make up 15% of the entire industry, aiming to create an efficient, scalable and sustainable solution for social audits.

Sustainable Fashion Lab Brazil

A multi-sectoral platform founded by C&A Foundation in Brazil to connect over 40 industry leaders and build a more sustainable fashion industry. It includes brands and retailers, trade unions and sectoral associations, representing 27,500 textile companies and 23% of the local market.

Textile Exchange

One of the largest not-for-profit networks working to increase the uptake of sustainable fibres. It operates in 25 countries and has more than 350 organisations across all sectors of the textile supply network.