Primark has announced the launch of its first sustainable cotton products – women’s pyjamas - using cotton purchased directly from female farmers participating in its Sustainable Cotton Programme. The range of sixteen different women’s pyjamas will go on sale across Primark’s stores as sustainable cotton becomes a permanent fixture in Primark stores. With women’s pyjamas being one of Primark’s best-selling products, the move represents a significant step towards the brand achieving its long-term ambition of sustainably sourced cotton across its supply chain.
Primark has partnered with agricultural experts CottonConnect and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) since 2013, to train female farmers in India, a key sourcing country for Primark, in sustainable farming methods. Primark began the programme with an ambition to introduce the sustainable cotton into product. Having successfully trialled the use of the cotton throughout its supply chain in India, Primark is now able to introduce sustainable cotton into one of its best-selling women’s product lines.
The range of pyjamas will go on sale at $8 per set – the same price as regular cotton pyjamas – as the brand continues to uphold its commitment to deliver amazing fashion at amazing prices. All pyjamas are clearly labelled to help shoppers easily identify which clothes are made with sustainable cotton.
So far, more than 6,000 farmers have received or are receiving training through the Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme. The programme trains female 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.
Results from the first intake of farmers (1,251 farmers from 2013-2016) shows that investment in female cotton farmers in India can deliver significant results for the women, their families, and the local communities involved. Participating farmers recorded improved cotton yield, through the reduction in water and chemical usage, and on average, an increase in profits by more than 200%.
Katharine Stewart, Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability Director at Primark, said: “Our long-term ambition is to ensure that all the cotton we use is sustainably sourced. There has never been a single definition of sustainable cotton. For us, sustainable cotton is about reducing the environmental impact of cotton production, improving the livelihoods of the farmers, and doing so in a way that means we continue to deliver great value to our customers.
“There has been a concerted effort in countries including India to support the livelihoods of those working on the land. Like other retailers, we rely on cotton farmers working in rural India to produce our most important fibre for our suppliers. But, with large amounts of cotton grown on small farms, it can be difficult to track through the supply chain. We wanted to learn more about sustainable cotton production and deliberately targeted a region that was used by our suppliers. Through our partnership with CottonConnect and SEWA, we’ve been able to make a tangible difference to the lives of the female farmers and their families, and local communities. What’s particularly exciting for us is we know that this cotton has come from sustainable sources because we’ve been able to track it through our supply chain. It’s a first step towards achieving our long-term goal, but a significant one.”
Andrew Reaney, Trading Director at Primark, said: “This is a really exciting moment for all of us at Primark. Our pyjamas are some of our best-selling products. We’ve chosen one of our key product lines because we’re serious about bringing sustainable cotton into our business.
“We feel strongly that our shoppers shouldn’t pay more for sustainable cotton. From this week, there will be a selection of designs to choose from in store, at the great prices that our customers know and love. We will expand the options over the coming months.”
About the Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme
India is a key sourcing country for cotton used in Primark clothes. It is often grown on small farms, where women play a crucial role in its cultivation - figures from the International Trade Centre show that women account for 70% of the cotton planting, and 90% of the hand-picking. 1 In India, as with other countries, knowledge of the most up to date and environmentally-friendly farming practices can be limited. Women in particular, represent an under-recognised and under-supported demographic, often with little or no access to formal training.
Farmers participating in the programme recorded significant results. By the third year of the programme, they saw:
- An average profit increase of 247%
- A reduction of input costs by 19.2% (e.g. by reducing chemical pesticide and fertiliser usage, buying seeds collectively with other farmers, and a reduction in additional labour costs)
- A 40% reduction in the use of chemical fertiliser and a 44% reduction of chemical pesticide usage, indicating that environmentally sustainable farming methods are being adopted
- A 10% water usage decrease, revealing sustainable water efficiency practices in action
In 2016 it was announced that an additional 10,000 women will be trained in sustainable farming methods over a six year period. In total, over 6,000 farmers have either received, or are currently receiving, training as part of the programme.
1 Women in Cotton: Results of a Global Survey, Technical Paper 2011 Available at: http://www.intracen.org/uploadedFiles/intracenorg/Content/Exporters/Sectors/Food_and_agri_business/Cotton/AssetPDF/Women%20in%20cotton%20-%209%2011%2011%20FINAL.pdf
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Primark was first established in Dublin in 1969 and currently has over 340 stores across the UK, Ireland, Europe and the USA.
Like almost every other fashion retailer on the high street, Primark clothes are made in countries including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and China. Primark has a strict code of conduct in place designed to ensure that the factories it works with respect the rights of their workforce. The Primark ethical trading team is made up of more than 90 individuals who work across Primark’s supply chain to ensure Primark’s standards are met. As well as carrying out almost 3,000 audits every year to check that workers are being treated properly, Primark has been a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative since 2006 and achieved ‘Leadership’ status in 2011, ranking in the top 5% of brands.
Primark also works with local partners to run programmes and initiatives designed to support the people who make its products. For example, Primark is working with Business for Social Responsibility on HERHealth, a programme designed to provide healthcare and health education to women in developing markets. The programme sees a group of women from each factory selected as Peer Health Educators. These women are provided with training and education during working hours so they can positively educate others. DFID is currently working with both organisations to train nurses in factories in Bangladesh to extend the impact of this project. Through HERHealth, more than 1,000 female coaches have been trained in Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar alone, reaching more than 24,000 female workers.
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.