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Primark’s Sustainability Agenda Targets Carbon, Waste and More

Primark‘s wide-reaching new sustainability strategy aims to slash fashion waste, halve carbon emissions across its value chain and improve the lives of the people who make the fast-fashion retailer’s products.

The new strategy commits the Dublin-based company to change the way its clothes are made while keeping prices affordable. Primark’s new commitments will ensure all its clothing is made from recycled or more sustainably sourced materials by 2030, up from 25 percent today, with big plans for sustainable cotton as well.

As a next step, all men’s, women’s and kids’ entry price point T-shirts will transition to being made with sustainably sourced cotton over the next year. Primark will make changes to its design process as it looks to ensure its clothes can be recycled at the end of their life to help reduce fashion waste.

The company will also eliminate single-use plastics in its own operations, building on the more than 500 million items removed already. It is also committed to improving garment durability so clothing can be worn longer, and it’s working to define new industry guidelines on durability with WRAP, the UK charity committed to accelerating the fashion industry’s move to circularity.

“This is a new and exciting chapter in the Primark story,” Primark CEO Paul Marchant said. “Our ambition is to offer customers the affordable prices they know and love us for, but with products that are made in a way that is better for the planet and the people who make them. We know that’s what our customers, and our colleagues, want and expect from us.”

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Marchant went on to say that Primark’s journey toward sustainability has been a 10-year process.

“One in four of all the clothes we sell already come from our Primark Cares range of products made from recycled or more sustainably sourced materials,” he said. “Our new commitments mark a significant acceleration in the pace and scale of change, requiring us to think differently about how we do business, right from how our clothes are designed and manufactured, through to how we sell them in stores.”

Primark has launched a wide-reaching sustainability strategy designed to reduce fashion waste and cut carbon emissions in half.
Primark Cares is a range of products made from recycled or more sustainably sourced materials. Courtesy

Primark noted that the new strategy expands on commitments the business has already made as a signatory to major industry initiatives. These include Textiles 2030, the WRAP initiative to accelerate the fashion and textile industry’s move toward circularity and system change in the U.K. The business has also partnered of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to inform its journey towards circularity, including making all its clothes recyclable by design.

Primark will expand its Sustainable Cotton Program, which launched in 2013 and accounts for 14 percent of all its cotton clothing, and train farmers to use more regenerative farming practices, building on sustainable practices such as using less water and fewer chemicals. This will be done through its partnership with CottonConnect, using the REEL Regenerative Code to enhance biodiversity, adapt to climate change and improve farmers’ livelihoods.

The retailer will build on its established ethical trade initiatives and existing partnership with ACT to improve the lives of the people who make its clothes by pursuing a living wage for workers in its supply chain and investing in programs that provide greater opportunities for women.

“We believe that sustainability shouldn’t be priced at a premium that only a minority can afford,” Marchant said. “Because of who we are, we believe we have the opportunity to make more sustainable fashion choices affordable to all.”

Primark will use its 397 stores across 14 countries to share more information with customers about the changes it is making with its “How Change Looks” campaign. It will also make it easier for customers to make changes themselves with initiatives ranging from expanding the number of recycling bins in stores to collect and recycle clothing at the end of its life, to educating consumers on techniques to lengthen the lifespan of their wardrobe, from sewing skills to guidance on washing practices.

The business will report back annually on its progress.