Primark to enrol 160,000 farmers under its sustainable cotton initiative

Retailer Primark has expanded its Sustainable Cotton Programme into China, assisting with overall plans to train more than 160,000 independent cotton farmers in sustainable farming methods across key sourcing countries by 2022.

Primark to enrol 160,000 farmers under its sustainable cotton initiative

More male and female farmers will be added to the India and Pakistan programmes

Primark has been working with CottonConnect since 2013 to train female farmers in India, and later Pakistan, to train female farmers to use less water and chemicals, boost crop yields and increase income.

The programme has now been expanded to China – one of the largest cotton-growing countries in the world. Primark will work with CottonConnect and the Heping Cotton Farmers’ Cooperative, to enrol more than 80,000 independent cotton farmers in China to the programme.

In addition, more male and female farmers will be added to the India and Pakistan programmes, meaning that, by 2022, more than 160,000 farmers will have access to improved farming knowledge.

Primark’s ethical trade and environmental sustainability director Katharine Stewart said: “As a leading international retailer, we know that many people rely on us for great quality cotton products at affordable prices. Cotton is one of our most important fibres and, like other retailers, we rely on farmers working in rural communities around the world. Improving the long-term sustainability of how that cotton is grown has therefore been a key priority for some time.

“What’s particularly exciting for us is that we can be confident our cotton has been grown in an environmentally friendly way because we’ve been able to track it all the way from farm to store. By extending the programme into another major cotton-sourcing country, we’ll be able to offer our customers even more products made using sustainable cotton – all at the Primark prices our customers know and love.”

Connecting cotton

The announcement will increase the number of farmers enrolled in the programme to more than five times the current size.

In Pakistan, where the programme launched just last year, farmers in the programme have seen a yield increase of 11.2% and an average profit increase of 26.8%. Pakistan is the world’s fourth-largest cotton grower. Combined with textiles, cotton accounts for 55% of its foreign exchange earnings. Primark has enrolled 20,000 farmers from the country onto the sourcing programme. Rural female farmers in India have increased average profits by 200% through the programme.

Earlier this year, Primark launched its first range of jeans made with 100% sustainably certified cotton from the programme.

Last year, Primark published a Global Sourcing Map detailing information on supplier sites – covering factory names, location, number of workers and gender split – across 31 countries. Stewart claimed that supply chain transparency was a “critical agenda”.

Primark is a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), has invested significant sums into the Bangladesh Accord and works with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Group (ZDHC) to improve environmental stewardship and human rights across the value chain.

Matt Mace

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