Implementing Codes of Conduct
A C&A case study

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Page 3: Codes of conduct at C & A

Ca 4 Image 2A mission statement is a general statement of intent by an organisation which declares to stakeholders what the core organisational values are and how the organisation intends to achieve its overall objectives. C&A has redefined its mission statement to combine traditional values and strengths with an added focus on the importance of the retail customer, who is the core reason why the Company exists. Everything C&A does is ‘on behalf of the customer’ where a ‘lifetime’ relationship is established through improvement, innovation and evolution. Implicit in this lifetime relationship is that C&A conducts its business with an agreed standard of responsibility. Its two Codes of Conduct - one for the supply of merchandise and one for executives - make sure that this standard is achieved.

The Code of Conduct for the Supply of Merchandise describes the standards of business conduct which C&A sees as fundamental when dealing with merchandise suppliers.
Many suppliers are from different countries with cultures and values different to those of Western Europe. C&A, however, believes that certain basic standards are universally valid and must apply therefore to all commercial activities in which it engages.

The key aspects of C&A’s Code of Conduct for the Supply of Merchandise are set out below:
Supplier relationships We seek to develop long-term business relationships with our suppliers who should have a natural respect for our ethical standards in the context of their own particular culture. Our relationships with suppliers are based on the principle of fair and honest dealings at all times and in all ways. We specifically require our suppliers to extend the same principle of fair and honest dealings to all others with whom they do business - including employees, sub-contractors and other third parties. For example, this principle also means that gifts or favours cannot be offered nor accepted at any time.

We will always comply fully with the legal requirements of the countries in which we do business and our suppliers are required to do likewise at all times. The Intellectual Property
Rights of third parties will be respected by all concerned.

Employment conditions

In addition to the general requirement that all suppliers will extend the principle of fair and honest dealings to all others with whom they do business, we also have specific requirements relating to employment conditions based on respect for fundamental human rights. These requirements apply not only to production for C&A but also to production for any other third party.

  • The use of child labour is absolutely unacceptable. Workers must not be younger than the legal minimum age for working in any specific country and not less than 14 years, whichever is the greater.
  • We will not tolerate forced labour or labour which involves physical or mental abuse or any form of corporal punishment.
  • Under no circumstances will the exploitation of any vulnerable individual or group be tolerated.
  • Wages and benefits must be fully comparable with local norms, must comply with all local laws and must conform with the general principle of fair and honest dealings.
  • Suppliers must ensure that all manufacturing processes are carried out under conditions which have proper and adequate regard for the health and safety of those involved.

The realisation of environmental standards is a complex issue - especially in developing countries. It therefore needs to be continuously reviewed within the limits of what is achievable per country. We will work with our suppliers to help them to meet our joint obligations towards the environment. C&A recognises and respects the freedom of employees to choose whether or not to associate with any group of their own choosing, as long as such groups are legal in their own country. Suppliers must not prevent or obstruct such legitimate activities.

Disclosure and inspection

Ca 4 Image 1We require suppliers to make full disclosure to us of all facts and circumstances concerning production and use of sub-contractors. All C&A suppliers are obliged to make their sub-contractors aware of, and comply with, the C&A Code of Conduct. Additionally, our suppliers are required to authorise SOCAM, the auditing company appointed by C&A, to make unannounced inspections of ‘The use of child labour is absolutely unacceptable’ any manufacturing facility at any time. An actual example of this was when, in January 1997, an inspector filed the following report on an Indian factory:

“When I went into the workshop I saw a 10 year old boy folding clothes. A bit further on three girls and a boy aged between 12 and 13 were counting pieces of fabric. I started to take
photographs. Immediately the boss asked, in the local dialect, why the children hadn’t been removed He ordered everyone to say that they were aged between 16 and 17”.

After detailed investigation and upon confirmation that the regulations in the Code of Conduct had been infringed the Belgian supplier who had subcontracted the work to the factory in question was summoned to C&A. All merchandise orders - both current and
planned - were cancelled. However, if a supplier proposes an acceptable corrective plan and agrees to modify his working practices to adhere to the Code, and does so to the agreed standards, the situation will be reassessed by C&A’s Sourcing Department and his supplier status may then be re-established. The Code for Suppliers is subject to an ongoing process of improvement and development which allows C&A to assess its ethical performance to maintain best practice.

C&A | Implementing Codes of Conduct