Primark and DFID join forces to improve the wellbeing of garment workers in developing markets

Primark has announced the start of a new partnership with the Department for International Development (DFID) to improve working conditions for garment workers in developing markets.

The partnership will combine the presence, networks and expertise of both organisations to improve the health and wellbeing of local workers, bolster national economic development and help alleviate poverty in five of Primark’s key markets which DFID also works in: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma, Ethiopia and India.

From providing gender equality training in garment factories to training female nurses, a large part of the programme will focus on creating positive change for women working in the developing world. The fashion and textile industries are the second largest employer after agriculture in developing markets, employing many female workers. Research shows providing these women with education and training is a driver of positive benefits for their families and wider communities in which they work.

The UK Government is leading global efforts to improve the rights and wellbeing of girls and women. DFID is working to improve the lives of girls and women in every area of its international development work, from education to maternal and child health, from personal safety and security to economic and political empowerment.

Together, Primark and DFID will concentrate on achieving transformative change across three key areas:

  1. Women’s Economic Empowerment – to support the empowerment of women factory workers in global supply chains to stamp out issues female workers face such as health, housing, gender equality, career progression and skills (vocational and life). For example, in Bangladesh, Primark and DFID are working together to train female nurses through the HERhealth programme.
  2. Market development – to develop ethical and sustainable garment sectors in sourcing countries that contribute to national economic development and poverty alleviation priorities. Together, Primark and DFID will identify opportunities to help create ethical and sustainable garment sectors in existing and ‘new’ sourcing markets such as Burma and East Africa.
  3. Disaster response – Primark and DFID will share lessons from response to the Rana Plaza disaster, including Primark’s work with local partners in Bangladesh to provide short-term and long-term support to the victims and their families.

Paul Lister, responsible for Primark’s Ethical Trading Team and the Rt Hon Desmond Swayne, Minister of State at DFID, signed the Letter of Intent between the two organisations.

Paul Lister, responsible for Primark’s Ethical Trading Team, said
“At Primark, we are committed to ensuring that the people who make our products work in good conditions, are treated properly and paid a fair wage. That’s why we now have more than 60 people working for our Ethical Trade Team across our supply chain to ensure our high standards are met.

“We know that as well as ensuring worker rights are protected within the factories we work with, we can positively impact lives outside of the factory too. Whether it’s financial literacy, health education or helping workers understand their rights, we’ve seen that simple initiatives with local partners can make a huge difference.”

Primark, through its Ethical Trading Team, has been working for much of the last decade to ensure that workers within its global supply chain are able to operate in a decent and safe working environment. As a leader and Board member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), Primark is dedicated to partnering with others within the industry to improve the lives of people working within the garment industry in emerging markets.

Paul continued “Our new partnership with DFID recognises the strength and depth of the work we have been doing across our supply chain. But, most importantly, it will help us use our expertise and resources already on the ground, to accelerate the impact of our programmes. In doing so, we are confident we will be able to make an even bigger difference.”

Notes to editors

About Primark
Primark was first established in Dublin in 1969 and currently has 299 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 60 individuals who work across Primark’s supply chain to ensure Primark’s standards are met. As well as carrying out more than 2000 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 the top level of ETI Leadership in 2011, ranking Primark alongside Marks & Spencer and Gap.

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 800 female coaches have been trained in Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar alone, reaching more than 19,000 female workers.

About DFID
The UK Department for International Development (DFID) leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty. They are ending the need for aid by creating jobs, unlocking the potential of girls and women and helping to save lives when humanitarian emergencies hit. For more information, visit