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Primark announces five-fold increase in its sustainable cotton programme

Lauretta Roberts
28 August 2019

Primark has announced a significant expansion of its Sustainable Cotton Programme, with plans to train more than 160,000 independent cotton farmers in sustainable farming methods across three of its key sourcing countries by the end of 2022.

The move increases the number of farmers enrolled in the value fashion giant's programme to more than five times the current size. The retailer said the expansion marked an important part of its ongoing commitment to minimising its impact on the environment and bringing more sustainably-sourced cotton to its customers at affordable prices.

Cotton is the main natural fibre used to make many Primark products – from pyjamas, t-shirts and jeans, to babygrows, bedding and towels. It is often grown by farmers in rural communities in countries including India, China and Pakistan, where knowledge of environmentally-friendly farming methods is limited.

For the past six years Primark has been working with agricultural experts CottonConnect and local partners to train female farmers in India to use less water and chemicals.

In a major step forward, the programme has now expanded into China – one of the largest cotton-growing countries in the world and a key sourcing location for Primark. Primark is again working with CottonConnect, alongside its implementation partner the Heping Cotton Farmers’ Cooperative, to introduce more than 80,000 independent cotton farmers in China to the programme.

Additional male and female farmers will also be enrolled onto Primark’s existing programmes in India and Pakistan meaning that, by 2022, more than 160,000 farmers will be on the scheme.

Each farmer that goes through the three-year programme is trained on 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.

As well as minimising environmental impact, the programme is said to greatly improve the livelihoods’ of the cotton farmers through increased income, achieved by increasing their cotton yields as well as helping to save on input costs including water, chemical fertiliser and pesticide usage.

Primark said the expansion of the programme came amid growing demand from customers for sustainable cotton products at affordable prices. Primark first introduced sustainably sourced cotton from the programme into one of its most popular product lines – women’s pyjamas – under its Primark Cares initiative in 2017. More than 14 million pairs of pyjamas have since been sold, in addition to 3 million pairs of jeans, and six million duvet covers and towels.

Katharine Stewart, Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability Director at Primark, said: “As a leading international retailer, we know that many people rely on us for great quality cotton products at affordable prices. Cotton is one of our most important fibres and, like other retailers, we rely on farmers working in rural communities around the world.

"Improving the long-term sustainability of how that cotton is grown has therefore been a key priority for some time. What’s particularly exciting for us is that we can be confident our cotton has been grown in an environmentally-friendly way because we’ve been able to track it all the way from farm to store.”

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