Do you love the feel of cotton as much as we do? Clothes made from cotton are soft, breathable and versatile, and there are so many types to choose from. That’s one of the reasons why it’s the main natural fibre used by our suppliers to make our clothes. You’ll find cotton in more than half of all the clothes you can buy from Primark, from our tees and jeans to towels and baby grows.
Cotton: Better for our Planet, Better for You
We all want to live in a world that’s sustainable, and that’s why we are transforming our business to be better and do better. The materials from which we make our clothes plays a big role in this and one of our key commitments is around cotton. We want to use cotton that is grown and processed in a way that has a lower impact on the environment. Here’s the problem: there is not much of that to go around. That’s why we are helping the farmers who grow the cotton to use more sustainable farming methods. This is better for the Earth, but also improves their yields and therefore their livelihoods.
By 2027, we will ensure that all the cotton in our clothes will be organic, recycled or sourced from our Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme (PSCP).
Our Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme
We’re building on a strong foundation. Since 2013, we’ve been working with our partners CottonConnect and on-the-ground partners in India, and more recently in Pakistan and Bangladesh, to train farmers to grow their cotton more sustainably.
Primark’s Sustainable Cotton Programme is the largest of its kind of any fashion retailer in the world. And it’s just one of the programmes we run to support the people who make our products. The results have been even better than we’d hoped. Our PSCP has helped farmers reduce their use of water, chemical pesticides and fertilisers - and we have already expanded the programme. Today you’ll find PSCP cotton in 14% of the cotton clothes we sell. But we know we can go further.
By 2022 we’re aiming to have trained more than 160,000 farmers in more sustainable cotton farming through our PSCP. Through CottonConnect we’re running a pilot to teach some of the existing farmers in our Sustainable Cotton Programme more regenerative farming practices that improve farm-level biodiversity, whilst also seeking to use water more efficiently. Our goal is to have all of our PSCP farmers trained in using more regenerative agricultural practices by 2030.
What’s more, we’ve gone the extra mile to ensure that when we say a product is made using sustainable cotton, grown by farmers in our PSCP, it definitely is. That’s why we are working with a company called Oritain, which uses forensic science to verify the source of cotton, to work with our dedicated in country team on the ground. We were one of the first high street retailers to partner with Oritain and use this technology at this scale.
There is a second strand to our cotton commitment: we want to use more recycled cotton. We’re right at the start of this process, but excited about the possibilities. We are partnering with a Spanish company called Recover™ that produces recycled cotton fibre for our suppliers. Recover™ manufactures recycled cotton from offcuts of material. The discarded fabric from production waste is mechanically chopped and transformed into new fibre, which is used to make more sustainable yarn – and some of that in turn becomes your Primark clothes!
The recycling process is part of what’s called a “closed loop” system that’s designed to eliminate waste. These recycled fibres, however, tend to be shorter – which means they aren’t as strong; that’s why recycled cotton is always blended with virgin cotton or other fibres to maintain the high-quality of our products.
Organic Cotton and Our Future
The third strand of our commitment is organic cotton. While PSCP cotton is grown using fewer chemical fertilisers and pesticides, often from seed that has been genetically modified, organic cotton uses no chemical fertilisers and pesticides and is not grown using genetically modified seed. Currently, organic cotton makes up only about 1% of all the world’s cotton that’s produced which makes it more difficult for Primark suppliers to source. So in order to make the affordable clothes our customers want, we also need to use other types of cotton.
It’s through big changes such as these, we’re committing to make 100% of our Primark fashion from recycled fibres or more sustainably sourced materials. And we’ll do it through collaboration and by using our scale for good. Because we believe fashion shouldn’t come with a high price tag for people, or our planet.