Primark set to train 160,000 cotton farmers to improve sustainability
Primark announced plans to train 160,000 cotton farmers in India, Pakistan and China on environmentally friendly farming methods by 2022 in a bid to improve the sustainability of its operations.
In 2013, the retailer launched its sustainable cotton programme with the goal of using 100% sustainable cotton in all its product categories.
At the moment, sustainable cotton was used in women’s pyjamas, some denim items, towels and bedding, with the company set to extend the initiative to menswear and t-shirts next year.
The methods being taught at the farmers programme included efficient irrigation, planting in rows with trenches in order to maximise drainage, and introducing organic pesticides and fertilisers such as cow dung, when possible, to reduce the use of chemical options.
Primark’s ethical trade and environment sustainability director, Katharine Stewart, said Primark has “taken the view that we’re going to do as much as possible to minimise it [the use of fertilisers and pesticides on crops], but equally what we don’t want is for the farmers not to be able to deal with some of the pests when they have them.”
Stewart also highlighted the improvement to the livelihoods of farmers on the Subcontinent, some of whom had seen their incomes increase by 200% since enrolling in the programme.
According to the same executive, Primark was “one of the few options where [many of its customers] can afford to go and buy clothes” and “a lot of what we sell is what we call fashion basics - T-shirts, jeans, sweater, underwear, socks”, which people get a lot of wear from.
She said Primark was striving to influence customers to “wear clothes for longer and also what they can do with them when they no longer want them”.