Primark expands Sustainable Cotton Programme into second major sourcing country
- 4.4 million pairs of Primark cotton pyjamas made with sustainably sourced cotton sold in the first year
- Programme developed to track sustainable cotton from farmers to store extends to reach independent cotton farmers in Pakistan
- Over 30,000 farmers¹ will have been enrolled in the programme to learn sustainable cotton farming methods by 2022
One year on from the launch of its first range of cotton products using sustainable cotton grown by independent farmers in Gujarat, Northern India, Primark is expanding its Sustainable Cotton Programme into Pakistan, one of the key sourcing countries for cotton.
Today in the UK, one in three pairs of women’s pyjamas are bought in Primark. Last August, Primark announced plans to introduce sustainably sourced cotton into one of its most popular product lines – women’s pyjamas – under the Primark Cares initiative. Twelve months on, 4.4 million pairs of pyjamas made with cotton tracked through the programme from farmers to store have flown off the shelves – and Primark has recently introduced over 20 new designs to choose from.
In the next step forward for the Sustainable Cotton programme, Primark has worked with established agricultural experts, CottonConnect, alongside local NGO REEDS (the Rural Education and Economic Development Society), to introduce the programme into Pakistan. With an additional 20,000 farmers enrolled in the programme in Pakistan, over 30,000 farmers across both sourcing regions will be trained in sustainable farming methods by 2022.
Pakistan is already a key sourcing country for Primark. The country’s fertile landscape creates an optimal environment for cotton to grow, with an established textile manufacturing industry in the region and strong trade routes to other markets. Building on the success of the programme that launched in Gujarat, India in 2013 – which has so far seen more than 6,000 independent cotton farmers enrolled in the programme and an average profit increase of almost 200% for those who have completed their training – farmers in Pakistan can expect to take home increased profit and yield.
The Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme was designed to train smallholder farmers in sustainable farming methods. Farmers are trained by CottonConnect in the most appropriate farming techniques for their land, from seed selection, sowing, soil, water, pesticide and pest management, to picking, fibre quality, grading and storage of the harvested cotton. By starting at the very beginning of the supply chain, the partnership allows Primark to trace the cotton through every stage of the supply chain, from farming to the supplier’s factory floor to Primark shelves in store.
Shahid Saleem, Executive Director at REEDS, said: “We’ve been working to try to improve lives within rural communities in Pakistan for 16 years. This is the first time we have partnered with a large clothing retailer on one of our programmes. By partnering with Primark and CottonConnect, we’ll be able to provide support to thousands of farmers and their families in the Punjab and Sindh regions of Pakistan.”
Alison Ward, CEO at CottonConnect, said: “We’re delighted to continue our work with Primark to train more cotton farmers in sustainable farming methods. We see huge potential among the farming community in Pakistan, and we look forward to working in close collaboration with REEDS to develop a programme that meets the needs of local cotton farmers.”
Katharine Stewart, Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability Director at Primark, said: “We’re very proud of the Sustainable Cotton Programme, and we’re delighted to be able to use our experience in India to help train and support the farming community in Pakistan. We’ve deliberately targeted regions that are already used by our suppliers, so we can introduce even more cotton grown using sustainable farming methods into our supply chain as soon as possible. Our expansion into Pakistan is the logical next step for us, as we continue to move towards 100% sustainable cotton in our supply chain.”
Paula Dumont Lopez, Trading Director at Primark, said: “At Primark, we’re committed to a sustainable future for everyone and everything involved in our business, so designing these Primark Cares pyjamas made with cotton grown using sustainable farming methods was a really exciting moment for us. As we expand the programme, we’re looking forward to using more and more sustainable cotton across our clothing and homeware ranges.”
About the Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme The Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme first launched in 2013 in India – one of the main countries Primark sources from. Through a partnership with agricultural experts CottonConnect and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Primark supported the training of female farmers in sustainable farming methods to increase the farmers’ cotton yields and profits.
So far, more than 6,000 farmers have received or are receiving training through the Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme in India, with 20,000 more recently enrolled in the programme in Pakistan. The programme trains farmers in sustainable farming methods so they minimise the impact on their local environment and improve their livelihoods through increased income. Farmers are trained in the most appropriate farming techniques for their land, from seed selection, sowing, soil, water, pesticide and pest management, to picking, fibre quality, grading and storage of the harvested cotton.
The impact of the programme is manifest in the average results from the first group of 1,251 farmers in India, who participated in the programme from 2013-2016. Across the three years, this first group of female farmers saw:
- An average profit increase of almost 200% and an increase in yield of almost 10%
- A reduction of input costs by 15.8% (e.g. by reducing chemical pesticide and fertiliser usage, buying seeds collectively with other farmers, and a reduction in additional labour costs)
- A 24.7% reduction in the use of chemical fertiliser and a 50.3% reduction of chemical pesticide usage, indicating that environmentally sustainable farming methods are being adopted
- A 4% water usage decrease, revealing sustainable water efficiency practices in action
About Primark Primark is an international retailer that offers high quality fashion, beauty and homeware at value for money prices. We help customers find their amazing, whatever their age, gender, background or budget. We have over 355 stores in eleven countries: Republic of Ireland, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, France, the US and Italy; and over 75,000 employees.
At Primark, we don’t own the factories that manufacture our products but we are very selective about those we work with. We require every supplier and factory making goods on our behalf to commit to meeting internationally-recognised standards as set out in the Primark Code of Conduct. To make it onto Primark’s approved factory list, each factory is audited by our Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability Team, a group of more than 100 experts based in key sourcing countries, who monitor compliance against our Code. We’ve been a member of the independent Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) since 2006 and have held the top level of leadership since 2011. As a member, our Code of Conduct incorporates the ETI’s Base Code, which is in turn based on the standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations body.
About Primark Cares The Primark Cares initiative is a clear and committed statement to our customers, employees, partners and suppliers that we take our responsibility as a large retailer seriously. It’s a reminder that we’re always investing in ways to support the people who make our clothes and to protect the environment. Primark Cares labels can be found across a wide range of products in our stores. You can also read more about the work we’re doing under the ‘People’ and ‘Planet’ sections on our website – Our Ethics
About CottonConnect CottonConnect was created in 2009 and aims to deliver a market-driven approach that provides opportunities for retailers and brands, as well as farmers, to simultaneously expand economic opportunity, reduce poverty and protect the environment. For more information, visit www.cottonconnect.org
About the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) SEWA is a trade union registered in 1972 for self-employed women workers who earn a living through their own labour or small business. For more information, visit www.sewa.org
About the Rural Education and Economic Development Society (REEDS) The Rural Education and Economic Development Society (REEDS) is a local NGO with 16 years’ experience supporting the development of rural, marginalised communities in Pakistan. REEDS focuses on improving the skills of the farming community, running health and immunisation programmes, promoting education and providing relief and rehabilitation for those affected by drought and flood.
¹ 31,251 farmers in total (20,000 in Pakistan & 11,251 in India)