For quite some time, the fashion industry has been undergoing drastic changes in the way products are produced, consumed, sold, bought, and promoted, especially since the Covid 19 pandemic, today more than ever consumers have become more critical when they clothes, they demand sustainable garments, some companies have begun to make efforts, some from a basic aspect and others at a deeper level like the purchase of raw materials, good salaries to garment workers, etc., however, there are companies whose DNA is precisely sustainability as C&A which has always been a leading force in fashion and shaped the industry for decades. Using its heritage as an inspiration, its vision for the future is to make sustainability the new normal for example the brand has received various awards in this field, they are proud of Sourcing and producing its clothing in a way that respects people, the environment, and animals. Pioneering circular fashion by designing clothing with its next use in mind and making a positive impact on its sourcing communities by ensuring that the people who make its clothes are safe and treated fairly. Supporting a clean environment wherever the company operates.
The fashion company believes that all its employees have a leadership role to play, they have a strong corporate culture based on fairness, openness, equal opportunity, and mutual trust so I had the pleasure to talk Mariana Fabregat, Human Resources Director at C&A México to discuss a little bit about what they are doing to enhance the wellbeing of the employees.
Mariana, C&A promotes a culture of non-discrimination, diversity, equity, and inclusion; how do you ensure that the culture of non-discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual harassment is enforced? Do you have any metrics?
Since the beginning of the brand, 180 years ago, responsibility is implicit in each of our actions and processes. Building a culture requires much more than the desire to achieve it; it is essential to have clear expectations as well as a reinforcement and consequence system. Leaders promoting the culture, congruently modeling behaviors and making consistent decisions, is fundamental. In terms of non-discrimination, we provide each person who joins the company with a series of resources that define the permitted behavior of employees, what we expect from everyone and what is not tolerated. We have a black and white code of ethics, that frames de way we do business, as well as a single policy that addresses non-discrimination of any kind. It all is constantly communicated and reinforced to keep this information current, present, available.
“We have several women on our leadership team; from our CEO, Kelly Kroger, to our middle managers, in total 44% of the management and leadership positions are held by women at C&A Mexico”
Likewise, as a Human Resources area, we have a business partner role, which accompanies each person -specially our leaders- in his or her journey, reinforcing the desired behaviors. We also have a methodology in place that regulates our culture through an ethics committee. Finally, we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment or discrimination within our culture. To ensure that we are aware of any actions of this nature, we have channels open to our entire internal community through an anonymous contact line to make the cases information accessible and secure for investigation.
You joined the UN Women's Empowerment Principles (WEP) as a company, what activities do you carry out to support this initiative? Does C&A Mexico have women among its C-Suite? If so, in which departments of the company?
Supporting equal opportunities for women has been a fundamental emphasis in C&A´s history. It is about an environment of equal opportunities as well as creating the conditions for those opportunities to be taken by women. It has been an encouraging experience that started with an in-depth review of possible gender gaps in the work environment, such as salary gaps and access to leadership positions; that has evolved to profound discussions, sometimes even beyond the work environment. We have several women on our leadership team; from our CEO, Kelly Kroger, to our middle managers, in total 44% of the management and leadership positions are held by women at C&A Mexico.
Awareness is critical for change; we truly believe that transformation comes from our collective consciousness. We have and will keep training leaders on gender equity in the workplace, from different perspectives with experts on the subject. We encourage equal treatment in our labor relations and have a benefits scheme that goes beyond the law, including maternity related topics.
C&A also seeks to promote the education, training, and professional development of women inside and outside the company, which is why we carry out business development practices such as the various training sessions we have given to our personnel on diversity, equity and inclusion, and why we frequently launch collections with communication campaigns focused on these values. Likewise, the company is committed to evaluating and disseminating the progress made in favor of gender equality. Moreover, derived from C&A's commitment to equality and non-discrimination, in 2018 the company joined UN Women's 'Women's Empowerment Principles' (WEPs). By signing these principles, C&A is committed to promoting gender equality, respecting, and upholding human rights and non-discrimination, as well as ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of all workers.
“We believe that through fashion we can make a positive change in the communities where we are present and that everyone should look good and feel good without compromising the well-being of those who produce our clothes or the planet”
C&A Mexico was recognized with the "Best LGBT Workplaces 2021" certification from HRC MX's Global Workplace Equity Program, coordinated by the Human Rights Campaign and ADIL Diversidad e Inclusión Laboral. Could you detail the activities that are being carried out to facilitate the LGBTTTIQ community to find C&A the best place to work?
We ensure that our respect policy is reflected in a culture and environment of non-discrimination for our employees, from the stores to our Distribution Center and our headquarters. With a good portion of our population belonging to the LGBTTIQ community, we ensure that C&A is a safe and comfortable place for everyone to thrive both personally and professionally. Within our leadership and management teams, we have community members who have a long history with the company and are testimonies to our LGBTTIQ- respectful culture. We are also members of Pride Connection Mexico, a network of companies that seeks to promote inclusive workspaces for sexual-orientation diversity.
You mentioned that C&A's mission is to make fashion for everyone. Are you convinced that, to achieve this goal, it is necessary to WEAR CHANGE? What are the benefits that the company has achieved thanks to its culture of non-discrimination, diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Our mission is to offer accessible fashion in a responsible way for everyone. We believe that through fashion we can make a positive change in the communities where we are present and that everyone should look good and feel good without compromising the well-being of those who produce our clothes or the planet. That is why C&A invites its customers to wear the change by buying and wearing the brand's clothes every day. At C&A Mexico, we have several proofs of the benefits that being a diverse and inclusive company can bring to any business; from valued and committed employees who become high-performing teams through our differences, to customers who can make smarter informed decisions that fit their values and beliefs, counting with public recognitions such as certifications and awards that confirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“I would sum up my advice in three words for all companies that want to fight these social problems: purpose, empathy, and honesty”
In 2019 the media outlet Fashionista.com published a study in which it revealed that in the fashion world there is a lot of bullying, which generates stress, burnout, anxiety. As HR director at C&A, a company that is a role model, what advice would you offer to other fashion companies to change this situation?
I would sum up my advice in three words for all companies that want to fight these social problems: purpose, empathy, and honesty. Customers and employees relate better to companies that have a mission based on purpose and not just motivated by sales. Brands that empathize with social issues and realities and know their power to speak on behalf of minorities will get closer to people, whether they are their customers or their employees. Finally, companies and brands must be honest about what they can and cannot do. Companies can champion a cause without losing their essence as a for-profit organization.
Anything else you would like to add
We at C&A are building a vision where sustainability is and will continue to be the norm. Part of this vision includes creating a culture of sustainability not only through our product and supply chain, but also with every person involved in the process. One of our most important pillars within our sustainability strategy is Sustainable Lives, which objective is to promote employee and customer engagement. For that reason, our employees are not only part of an inclusive and sustainable work environment, but also receive a deep awareness of the role of sustainability in a better world and can be part of it. Today, C&A’s efforts in terms of sustainability are recognized in different international markets and, undoubtedly, part of this success comes from the philosophy of life that we apply within the organization across our teams.