Meet the E&E Award-winner: Environmental Initiative - Primark
Like almost every other fashion retailer, Primark products are made in Asian countries such as India and Bangladesh, where wages are lower and factories are closer to raw materials. Meet the Environmental Initiative Award winner...
With cotton making up a large proportion of the discount retailer’s clothing range, Primark’s long-term ambition is to ensure that 100% of the fibre that enters its supply chains is sourced ethically and sustainably.
In this vein, Primark has brought together agricultural experts CottonConnect sand the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to create the Sustainable Cotton Programme. Agricultural expertise is provided by CottonConnect, while Primark provides managerial oversight and funding for the programme, ensuring it is delivered on time and on budget.
The three-year training programme, which has so far involved 1,251 female smallholder farmers in India, comprises classroom sessions, in-field training and the formation of learning groups to help farmers produce more environmentally sustainable cotton; increase cotton quality and improve livelihoods be increasing income.
The training is focused on techniques that make conditions optimal for increasing yields, reducing environmental impacts and producing better quality cotton. Farmers are taught about the most appropriate farming techniques for their land; from seed selection, sowing techniques, soil and water use, and pesticide and pest management through to picking, fibre quality, grading and storage of the harvested cotton.
The results: farmer yields have increased by 12.6% in the space of two years, with average profit up by a massive 211%. Moreover, the amount of fertiliser and pesticide used has been reduced, by 14% and 54% respectively, and water usage decreased by 27.9% - indicating that Primark’s efficiency training practices are being successfully adopted.
By having more disposable income, the farmers have been able to spend money educating their children and improving their lifestyles through better nutrition and housing. But what is perhaps most notable about this programme is the cultural shift it has generated.
The success of this programme has empowered often-neglected women – their livelihoods have improved and their voices are now heard and respected. This empowerment means these women are now part of the decision-making process within their families and communities, helping to narrow the gender inequality gap in these areas.
The overall success of this project has led to Primark extending its Sustainable Cotton Programme for a further six years, with an aim to reach a further 10,000 farmers and their families. With cotton accounting for around 40% of global textile production, this is a much-needed project in the global transition to more sustainable supply chains.
This is how environmental projects should be done. With its Sustainable cotton Programme, Primark has focussed on a holistic approach, taking the time to do it right rather than being fixated on short-term outcomes. This is a great collaboration between a major retailer, issue expert and on-the-ground-contacts, and it’s fantastic to see it being rolled out further.
Environmental Initiative: Meet the finalists
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