Primark announces new sustainability drive, countering claims of unethical practices

The fast fashion retailer, which recently opened its first Czech store, has set out a new vision for more sustainable operations. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 15.09.2021 16:19:00 (updated on 07.12.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

The name Primark doesn't tend to be associated with high ethical standards. The company has been accused of poor protection for staff working in clothes manufacturing centers, while the nature of its fast fashion business model is often criticized as posing significant problems in terms of sustainability and the environment.

With the Irish brand having opened its first Czech store earlier this summer, it has now for the first time published measurable targets for reducing its environmental impact and ensuring good conditions for workers.

The new sustainability strategy will aim to ensure that all Primark clothing is made from recycled materials or other materials from sustainable sources, and that garments are recyclable to extend their life. It will also involve halving carbon emissions across Primark’s operations while ensuring a living wage for workers in the brand’s supply chain.

Fast fashion brands have faced severe scrutiny over worker conditions since the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,100 workers. One of Primark’s suppliers was based at the Rana Plaza building and the brand had to pay out millions of pounds in compensation to victims of the disaster.

Primark Cares - in store display.
Primark Cares - in store display.

At the start of September this year, Primark had still failed to sign up to a new deal to protect garment workers in Bangladesh, potentially casting doubt on the degree of its commitment to ensuring a living wage for workers.

The fast fashion industry as a whole has also come under fire for its heavy use of water and chemicals, as well as the fact that it encourages a culture in which millions of items end up in landfill. Primark sells more than a billion products a year, and this summer opened its first ever store in the Czech Republic, on Prague’s Wenceslas Square.

Primark says its new strategy will make sustainable strategy open to all, no matter their budget.

“With these steps, we are entering a new era for our business. Our ambition is to offer customers products made in a way that is better for the planet and the workers involved in the process. At the same time, however, we want to maintain the affordable prices that our customers know and love,” said Paul Marchant, Primark CEO.

The announcement will no doubt lead to speculation about where the company will save costs in order to fund a sustainable transformation while keeping prices low for customers. By introducing a framework for measuring its results on sustainability, however, it is hoped that Primark’s commitment to improved business ethics will now become reality. 

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