Does Primark Hit the Mark

Fast fashion is a global trend referring to the abundance of accessibility to low-priced, fashionable clothing. With new designs and trends developed nearly every day, these items of clothing are not necessarily meant to be worn for the long haul but rather should be cycled through with the changing of fashion trends. 

With growing attention and awareness of this issue, consumers are speaking up and some retailers are choosing to listen, making efforts toward more sustainable fashion while maintaining the low price and trendy designs consumers love.

In the UK, Primark is one such brand. While Primark is gaining popularity in the US, it has taken over the UK fashion market, offering clothing choices for men, women and children as well as home goods, makeup and other fun accessories. 

On their website, Primark says all the right things, explaining their focus on expecting fair wages and working conditions for factory workers, producing their products with as little strain on the environment as possible, and giving back to the community through donation drives and fundraisers. One of their larger efforts is their sustainable cotton program which launched in 2013 and has been growing ever since. A recent Guardian article detailed Primark’s intention to train “160,000 cotton farmers in India, Pakistan and China in environmentally friendly farming methods by 2022.” This will include the teaching of efficient irrigation, encouraging methods to maximize drainage, and utilizing organic pesticide and fertilizer when necessary. 

A program like this, as well as all their other stated efforts, sounds impressive, but are they as good as they seem?

Like several fast fashion brands, Primark does not own their factories, which ultimately means that they are not in control of their supply chain and, should any labor issues emerge, they have the ability to shrug off responsibility. 

A red flag I see as a consumer is that, on their website, there is not a clear statement of their desired greenhouse gas reduction target, nor is there clear information on their targets and methods to reduce water consumption, only that they aim to do so. A lack of clearly stated actions, methods, or goals when it comes to environmental practices is a warning sign that a brand may not be as environmentally conscious as they claim and should be a sign to consumers to do more research before supporting said brand. 

As a rule, one should always conduct outside research on brands because the brand’s website or personal information platforms will always provide content generated for their best interest. 

At the end of the day, Primark is not doing enough to be considered an environmentally conscious brand. While sustainable cotton might be making its way into their products, polyester is used in a majority of products which, when washed at home, releases microplastic fibers into water sources and the environment. Although they have been using paper bags since 2002, their products are sold in single-use plastic which ends up in landfills and waterways around the world. 

Seeing as how Primark is such a leader in the fast fashion industry, they need to own up and take on their share of the blame. If they were to practice on a wholly environmentally friendly level, others would follow their lead meaning there could be a complete change over in the fashion industry. 

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For further reading, look at the articles below:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/brands/sustainability-really-future-fashion-primarks-profits-soaring/

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/aug/28/primark-to-train-cotton-farmers-environmentally-friendly-methods

In addition, look to Good On You for a database of clothing brands and a ranking on their sustainability efforts. https://directory.goodonyou.eco/