primark.comCareers
Primark Logo
Our Sustainable Cotton Program - Primark Cares Partners

PRODUCT

Primark Sustainable Cotton Program

The Primark Sustainable Cotton Program (PSCP) was launched in 2013 to understand and reduce the environmental impact of our cotton and support the livelihoods of cotton farmers.

What is the Primark Sustainable Cotton Program?

Cotton is often grown by farmers on small farms in rural communities, in countries including India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. These farmers often have limited exposure to more sustainable cotton farming methods, and little to no access to support or formal training.

That’s why in 2013, we teamed up with agricultural experts CottonConnect and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to create the Primark Sustainable Cotton Program (PSCP). Our objective was to understand and reduce the environmental impact of our cotton, support the livelihoods of cotton farmers, and explore how we could change the way we sourced cotton.

The program launched with 1,251 female farmers in Gujarat, India. Ten years on, it has grown to become the largest of its kind of any single fashion retailer.

How does the program work in practice?

Building resilience into farming communities is at the center of our PSCP. Cotton farmers are trained to reduce their use of water and dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, in addition to learning new skills relating to seed selection, land preparation, sowing, crop management and harvesting. The training is aligned to CottonConnect’s REEL Regenerative code.

The farmers use their new skills to reduce the costs of growing cotton, boosting their cotton output (yield) and therefore their profits. Many have used the extra money to invest in farm equipment, educate their children, or improve their housing or lifestyle.

As part of our ambition to use more regenerative agricultural practices within our PSCP by 2030, a pilot group of farmers in our program is also receiving specific training on practices to improve farm-level biodiversity and soil health. 3,000 farmers are now in the 3rd year of the pilot.

10 Years of the Primark Sustainable Cotton Program

2023 marks 10 years of investing in farmers in our cotton supply chains through our PSCP in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In that time, training has been provided to 252,800 farmers through our partners CottonConnect and local partners the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and Myrada in India; the Rural Education & Economic Development Society (REEDS) in Pakistan; and Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha in Bangladesh. This year, we have taken our PSCP to Turkey, where we’re running a pilot.

Through the program, we’ve also offered support in essential life skills to women farmers in Bangladesh and Pakistan, helping promote self-reliance and financial independence.

This year marks the beginning of a new decade in which our PSCP will continue to support the education of farmers in the context of a changing climate.

Our Sustainable Cotton Farmers and Trainers

Meet our farmers

Most farmers in our PSCP are smallholders (a small farm operating under a small-scale agriculture model), and 80% of the program participants are women. To mark 10 years of the program, we’re celebrating some of the remarkable women that have joined it.

Why is cotton important for Primark?

We use a variety of manmade and natural fibers, but cotton is the main natural fiber used to make our products.

That’s why, as part of our shift to using recycled and more sustainably sourced materials in our clothing, we’ve made a commitment that 100% of the cotton in our clothes will be organic, recycled or sourced from our Primark Sustainable Cotton Program by 2027. It also underpins our commitment to make all our products from recycled or more sustainably sourced materials by 2030.

We introduced the cotton from our PSCP into our popular women’s sleepwear collection in 2017. It's now used throughout all major product categories and departments, including menswear, womenswear, kidswear and homeware. Today, cotton from our PSCP can be found in 38% of our cotton products – from T-shirts to babywear, denim to duvets.

The program has allowed us to increase the amount of more sustainably sourced cotton available for our products, while also creating a more transparent cotton supply chain.

Enhancing the traceability of the cotton in our clothes

Improving traceability in our supply chain is complex, but it's something we continue to focus on.

This was one of our ambitions when we started our Primark Sustainable Cotton Program (PSCP) in 2013. We work closely with our suppliers to ensure our PSCP cotton is segregated and traceable. We use CottonConnect’s system, called TraceBale, which helps us track and segregate the cotton from farmers in our PSCP as it passes through our supply chain to the ginners (responsible for separating cotton fibers from the seeds) and spinners (responsible for turning cotton fiber into workable yarn or thread).

Given the complexity of the cotton supply chain, we wanted to go further, and we were one of the first chain retailers to partner with Oritain, a specialist scientific verification firm. While TraceBale gives us better visibility over the journey of the cotton in our supply chain, from the PSCP farmers to ginners and spinners, Oritain uses forensic science techniques to confirm the origin of our PSCP cotton.

Oritain’s forensic science techniques have been used in criminal investigations for more than 40 years, and are now used to confirm the origin of our PSCP cotton. That’s because cotton naturally absorbs different levels of naturally occurring chemical elements specific to the local climate and geological conditions it’s grown in, creating a unique "Origin Fingerprint" that lets Oritain pinpoint its source.

We combine the data from Oritain with the TraceBale database to help verify that the cotton we sell genuinely comes from farmers in our PSCP.

Oritain

To date, Oritain has mapped the sources of more than 90% of the world’s cotton in their databases, including the locations in which our PSCP operates. Fabric and yarn can be tested against the genuine "Origin Fingerprint" stored in the database to see if they match.

We’ve worked with Oritain since 2018 to validate samples taken at various stages of the PSCP supply chain – from the farms themselves, when the cotton has gone through the ginning process, and subsequently after the spinning process.

Supporting Farmers in the Face of Climate Change

All PSCP farmers in Pakistan were affected to varying degrees by the floods in June 2022 which caused damage to crops, livestock, houses and community infrastructure. We worked closely with CottonConnect and REEDS to assess the damage and to understand what support they needed. The Primark Flood Relief Project was established and £140,000 was given to support the setup of 20 mobile medical and veterinary camps. These camps provided support to 2,000 people and 3,000 livestock. 250 families also received goats and hens, while 130 hand pumps and community toilets damaged by the floods were repaired and rebuilt.

©2023 Primark Stores Limited