Primark announced today (9 August) that a range of sixteen different women’s pyjamas have gone on sale, all of which are using cotton from the Sustainable Cotton Programme, which has been running since 2013.

The sustainable cotton range will go on sale at £6.00 per set, the same price as Primark’s regular cotton pyjamas. Primark claims to have introduced the range with the ambition of making sustainable cotton a permanent fixture across stores, having previously trialled products within its supply chain.

Primark’s ethical trade and environmental sustainability director Katharine Stewart said: “Our long-term ambition is to ensure that all the cotton we use is sustainably sourced. There has never been a single definition of sustainable cotton.

“For us, sustainable cotton is about reducing the environmental impact of cotton production, improving the livelihoods of the farmers, and doing so in a way that means we continue to deliver great value to our customers.”

Currently, around one in three women’s pyjamas in the UK are purchased from Primark stores, potentially creating a wide market for the new range. Primark will ensure that all pyjamas are clearly labelled to help shoppers identify which clothes consist of sustainable cotton.

The cotton is sourced from Primark’s Sustainable Cotton Programme, which was launched in 2013 in partnership with agricultural experts CottonConnect and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). The aim of the programme is to train female farmers in India, a key sourcing market for Primark, in new farming methods.

Budding progress

So far, more than 6,000 farmers have benefitted from training through the programme, which has helped rural female farmers in India increase average profits by 247%. The programme trains farmers to minimise their environmental impact while boosting income through aspects like seed selection, pest management and grading and storing of harvested cotton.

As well as reducing input costs for farmers by more than 19%, a 40% reduction in the use of chemical fertiliser and a 10% decrease in water use has benefitted the local environment. The focus on female farmers is also prominent. Figures from the International Trade Centre show that women account for 70% of cotton planting and 90% of hand-picking of cotton.

Primark announced in March 2016 that it was scaling up the initiative to recruit a further 10,000 female smallholder farmers in India onto the programme over the next six years.

“Through our partnership with CottonConnect and SEWA, we’ve been able to make a tangible difference to the lives of the female farmers and their families, and local communities,” Stewart added. “What’s particularly exciting for us is we know that this cotton has come from sustainable sources because we’ve been able to track it through our supply chain. It’s a first step towards achieving our long-term goal, but a significant one.”

During the edie Live exhibition in 2016, Primark’s environmental sustainability controller for ethical trade, Charles Dickinson, signalled his intention to sign the firm up to WRAP’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) and the European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP) initiatives. The company officially announced its membership in November.

Matt Mace

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