Sourcing raw materials
A range of natural and manmade fibres are used to make Primark products. Cotton is the main natural fibre used to make many of our products, and others play an important part in production too. Regardless of the raw material used, it matters to us that it is sourced responsibly.
TRACING WHERE RAW MATERIALS COME FROM
At Primark, we don’t buy raw materials directly. Instead, the factories or suppliers that we have approved are responsible for sourcing the raw materials used in our products.
Primark has committed to an initiative by environmental experts WRAP, called the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP). Alongside other members from the clothing sector, Primark is working towards collective industry targets. One element of SCAP aims to improve the traceability of raw materials used in the supply chain. We submit the type and amount of raw materials used in our products to SCAP with the help of our suppliers. We also register the country of origin of the materials and fabrics we use, which means we can track where they are being sourced from.
But we want to go beyond tracing raw materials. We also want to ensure our raw materials are sustainably sourced. And we’ve started with cotton.
SPOTLIGHT ON COTTON
Cotton is the main natural fibre used to make many of our products – from pyjamas, t-shirts and jeans, to baby grows, bedding and towels – and we are committed to bringing more sustainably-sourced cotton to customers at affordable prices.
So what do we mean by sustainable cotton? To us at Primark, it is cotton grown in a way that reduces the environmental impact of cotton production by minimising the amount of chemical pesticides, fertilisers and water the farmers use to grow the cotton, but also improves the livelihood of the farmers by increasing their income. Our long-term ambition is to ensure that all the cotton used in our supply chain is sustainably sourced.
But the cotton supply chain is notoriously complex. It is often grown by farmers on small farms in rural communities in countries including India, China and Pakistan, where knowledge of environmentally-friendly farming methods is limited and there is little or no access to support or formal training.
That’s why we teamed up with agricultural experts CottonConnect and the Self-Employed Women’s Association in 2013 to create the Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme.
By starting at the very beginning of the supply chain, we’re able to trace our cotton directly from the cotton field, all the way through the supply chain and into our stores. This gives us and our customers confidence in the source of the sustainable cotton, its reduced impact on the environment, and the improvements to farmers’ livelihoods.
The programme launched with 1,251 female farmers in Gujarat, India, and has seen transformative results. The quality of cotton has improved, and, on average, farmers who have completed the three-year training programme have increased their profits by almost 200%. Many of the farmers have used their increased profits to invest in equipment for their farms, educate their children, or improve their housing and lifestyle.
The programme has now expanded to Pakistan and China, working with CottonConnect and local implementing partners, including the Rural Education and Economic Development Society in Pakistan and the Heping Cotton Farmers’ Cooperative in China, to deliver the programme. By 2022, more than 160,000 farmers will be equipped with the knowledge and means to grow cotton using more natural and sustainable farming methods.
We’ve also started to use the cotton from the programme in a number of our most popular ranges – at no extra cost to the customer – including nightwear, denim and homeware. And that’s just the start as we work towards our long-term ambition of ensuring that all the cotton used in our supply chain is sustainably sourced.
Kanchanben is a 40-year-old female farmer who was trained through the Sustainable Cotton Programme in India. She grows cotton on six acres of her land. Through the programme, Kanchanben has reduced the amount of fertiliser she uses by 50% and has increased her cotton yield. As a result, she has made more money, which she has since invested in her children’s education.
Click play to watch the programme in action.