What is Primark doing in Bangladesh following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building?

For information and updates on our work in Bangladesh please see www.primark-bangladesh.com

How important is ethical trading to Primark?

Ethical trading is a key part of our strategy. Primark’s Director of Ethical Trade reports to its Chief Executive and sits on the Executive Committee. We have expanded our ethical trade team significantly on the ground in the countries we source from and in the UK to provide support to our suppliers and our buying teams, ensuring that ethical trade is integrated into our supply chains. As a member of the Ethical Trade Initiative, we report annually on our progress and were pleased to be rated as Leader for the second year running in 2012.

At a wider level, Primark is a subsidiary company within Associated British Foods (ABF), and as part of the ABF family we share its core values: taking care of our people, being good neighbours and fostering ethical business relationships. We also share the group’s overriding principles in relation to human rights, employment conditions, business practices and engagement with suppliers and stakeholders.

ABF Corporate Responsibility Report 2010

How does Primark rank among other high street retailers in terms of ethical trade?

Our Code of Conduct sets out the core principles that suppliers and factories must follow to ensure products are made in good working conditions and the people making them are treated decently and paid a fair wage. It is based upon the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, which is itself founded on the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and is an internationally recognised code of labour practice, used by many other high street retailers as the basis for their own codes of conduct.

In 2012, we were pleased that the ETI recognised our efforts in improving our programme by categorising Primark as Leader for the second year running.

The ETI recognises four progressive stages of a company’s commitment to, and performance of, ethical trading. These are Foundation, Improver, Achiever and Leader. The ETI classifies a Leader as “tackling the root causes of labour rights problems beyond individual workplaces with collaborative initiatives aimed at the sectoral level and / or in raw materials or components supply. The company can demonstrate positive impacts for workers in its supply chain and reports transparently on progress. The company is advocating for greater respect for workers rights throughout its sphere of influence.”. Ethical Trading Initiative Management Benchmarks 2010.

Read more about our ETI report

95% of the factories we source our products from also make for other high street retailers, and we believe that collaboration with other retailers can be an effective way of improving factory performance and working conditions. Read more about our work in collaboration with other retailers and industries.

What is Primark required to do as a member of the ETI?

As a first step, companies must adopt the ETI Base Code in full. The Code is widely acknowledged as a model code of labour practice and is derived from the Conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

As well as adopting the Base Code, corporate members must also sign up to ETI's Principles of Implementation, which set out the approaches to ethical trade that member companies should follow. These require companies to:

  • demonstrate a clear commitment to ethical trade;
  • integrate ethical trade into their core business practices;
  • drive year-on-year improvements to working conditions;
  • support suppliers to improve working conditions, for example through advice and training; and
  • report openly and accurately about their activities.

Member companies must also play an active part in ETI activities alongside their trade union and NGO colleagues, including in members' meetings, projects and working groups.

How does the ETI measure your performance?

Member companies must submit annual reports to the ETI Board which set out the steps they are taking to tackle working conditions in their supply chains. They must tell the ETI:

  • who is driving the company's ethical trade strategy
  • how much money they have spent on ethical trade activities
  • what training they have given to staff and suppliers
  • what progress they have made in integrating ethical trade into their business practices
  • how they assess working conditions at their suppliers' worksites
  • how they ensure that any improvements requested of their suppliers have been made
  • Concrete changes to workers' conditions are recorded

Each year the ETI Secretariat, together with representatives from trade union and NGO membership, conducts random validation visits to a minimum of 20 percent of reporting members. The purpose of these visits is to check that the company's management processes and systems for collecting data for its annual report are consistent and reliable. The visits also help build dialogue with member companies about what progress they are making as well as about any problems that arise.

Once company annual reports have been reviewed by the ETI Board, the Secretariat provides detailed feedback to each company, identifying where progress has been made and where further action is required. If member companies do not make sufficient progress, or fail to honour their membership obligations, membership is terminated.

Key trends in performance are analysed by an independent organisation and examples of innovative approaches developed by companies are shared within the membership.

Is Primark’s Supplier Code of Conduct in line with international labour standards?

Our Code of Conduct sets out the core principles that suppliers and factories must follow to ensure products are made in good working conditions, and the people making them are treated decently and paid a fair wage. It is based upon the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, which is itself founded on the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and is an internationally recognised code of labour practice, used by many other high street retailers as the basis for their own code of conduct.

How do you ensure that factories are meeting your Code of Conduct?

When selecting new factories, we require them to go through a process which entails a comprehensive audit of labour standards against our Code of Conduct. Audits are conducted by our own regional ethical trading teams and external partners. Our external partners are selected on the basis of their local expertise, specialist skills, robust practices and innovative methodologies. Read more about how we audit our factories.

Once the results of the audit report have been shared with Primark, our ethical trading teams begin working with the factory to address the issues identified. Some issues are relatively quick and easy to fix such as installing the correct type of fire extinguisher. Others may need a more long-term approach and are more complex, such as identifying and implementing a way of reducing overtime. Read more about the consultation and remediation process.

What happens if a factory doesn’t comply with Primark’s Code of Conduct?

We believe in working with suppliers so that they improve their performance to meet and maintain our ethical standards. Only very rarely and as a last resort do we consider terminating a supplier’s contract for failure to comply with our Code of Conduct. Working towards ethical and sustainable supply chains is often challenging, and can only be achieved through a programme of continuous improvement, learning and assessment; one that encourages and fosters engagement and dialogue.

In which countries are Primark’s products made?

Our products are mainly sourced from Europe and Asia. Our key sourcing countries are China, India, Bangladesh, and Turkey.

How can Primark have the lowest prices on the high street?

We buy and sell in bulk and this buying power means we can pass the cost savings back to our customers. We keep our overheads low wherever we can, and have no advertising costs. Instead we rely on our customers to ‘do the talking’ about our products.

Does low price clothing mean low wages for workers?

Primark does not own the factories that make its products. In a factory, workers must be paid at least the minimum wage of the country, which is set by the government. The majority of factories we produce in make for other high street retailers and workers in these factories are paid the same amount regardless of which brand they are making for. “For the seamstress making the T-shirt, wages depend on her skill, and have nothing to do with whether she is sewing a designer or discount label” (source. WSJ).

Does Primark own any factories?

Primark does not own any of its own factories. Instead, we work with a range of suppliers and factories, some of which have been working with us for many years.

What does Primark do when poor working conditions are found in its factories?

Our ethical trading teams work with the factory to address the issues identified. Some issues are relatively quick and easy to fix such as installing the correct type of fire extinguisher. Others may need a more long-term approach and are more complex, such as identifying and implementing a way of reducing overtime. Read more about the consultation and remediation process.

We believe strongly in a process of continuous improvement, commitment and transparency. Where suppliers and factories are open with us, and share their challenges, we remain committed to working with them to address the issues.

What is undisclosed sub-contracting, and how do you prevent it?

Undisclosed sub-contracting presents one of the greatest risks in any retailer’s supply chain and happens when a factory decides to outsource the production order it has received from Primark to a factory that has not been approved and audited by Primark. This is a breach of our terms and conditions and we take this very seriously. Building trust and long-term relationships with suppliers is key, so that we can understand the challenges and pressures they face, and work with them to address these together.

Do you publish the list of factories that you work with?

For commercial reasons, we don’t currently disclose the list of factories and suppliers that supply our products.

Does Primark sell sandblasted denim?

We made a business decision in 2010 to stop using sandblasting on all our products, following concerns about potential risks to workers' health. Throughout 2011 we worked with our buyers and suppliers to look at potential alternative techniques that are safe and viable. During this period we phased out our sandblasted product. As of October 2011, Primark has now fully eradicated the process from its supply chain.

Who carries out audits of factories producing for Primark?

Audits are conducted by our own ethical trading teams based in the countries we source from and by our external partners. Our external partners are selected on the basis of their local expertise, specialist skills, robust practices and innovative methodologies. Primark pays for the cost of all the audits as a way of avoiding any unnecessary commercial disadvantage to its suppliers or factories. It also enables us to select the best external partners and to compare and test different methodologies and approaches.

Read more about who conducts our audits.

How does Primark ensure that audits capture the true story of what’s happening in a factory?

Most of our audits are semi-announced. Factories and suppliers will be notified that we intend to carry out an audit within a two week window. Using this approach, rather than specifying the exact date, means that our auditors are more likely to see the real situation at a factory. Interviewing workers forms a crucial part of any audit, and for that reason many of our auditors are trained in specialist participatory techniques, or are non-governmental organisations that are trusted by workers and understand their needs and the challenges they face. On occasion, our auditors would also interview workers outside of the factory, where they may feel more relaxed and open.

Primark’s approach is to build transparent and open dialogue and trust with the factory, from managers to supervisors to workers. In this way, challenges and problems can be shared and we can work together to address them.

Are workers able to anonymously share their concerns with Primark?

Getting workers’ views and opinions forms a crucial part of any audit, and for that reason many of our auditors are trained in specialist participatory techniques, or are non-governmental organisations that are trusted by workers and understand their needs and the challenges they face. On occasion, our auditors would also interview workers outside of the factory, where they may feel more relaxed and open. When our ethical teams and auditors visit a factory, factory managers are asked to display a leaflet in a public place which informs workers about the audit and what happens during the visit, and how they can contact us in confidence if they have any questions or comments.

Are factories penalised for poor working conditions uncovered at audits?

Factories are not penalised. In fact, Primark pays for all the costs of the audits and remediation visits. We encourage suppliers and factories to be transparent and open with us, as this ensures we are seeing the true picture and can then work collaboratively with our suppliers to address the issues. Penalising suppliers could serve to undermine this trust.

Which are the most common issues uncovered at audits?

The most common issues identified during audits fall under Working Conditions. This can include issues ranging from poor chemical labelling and storage of materials, to lack of machine guards. Read more about what our audits showed.

Do workers making clothes for Primark earn a living wage?

The issue of wages is a priority area for us and we are engaging in programmes on this issue, in partnership with stakeholders in the different regions from which we source, including NGOs, international development organisations and our suppliers. Our aim is to create long-term improvements in labour standards and find ways to increase wages in a sustainable manner for workers. More information on our programmes can be found in the case studies on Our Work Worldwide. You can also read about Labour Behind the Label’s review of our work on our External Stakeholder Report page.

The Primark Code of Conduct is founded on the ETI Base Code which states that “wages and benefits paid for a standard working week meet, at a minimum, national legal standards or industry benchmarks, whichever is higher. In any event, wages should always be enough to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income”. We subscribe to and require our suppliers to abide by this definition for all workers in our supply chain, piece-rate, subcontracted, informal and home-workers.

Does Primark work with any local NGOs and professionals in the countries where they source from?

Working with local partners in the countries we source our products from is extremely important to Primark. It ensures that we are aware of the risks and challenges within our supply base; it allows us to build trust and relationships with suppliers, workers and their communities; and helps us to ensure that our programmes are appropriate and sustainable. Working with local partners also means that we are investing in, and helping to build, the skills, capacity and strength of businesses in the countries that we source in.

Within our audit, remediation and training programmes we work with a mix of small consultancies, commercial companies, non-governmental organisations and non-profit bodies, all of whom add value to our programme.

We also believe that it’s important to engage with the communities and families of our workers to ensure that our work doesn’t end the moment a worker leaves the factory gate, and we work with several non-governmental and grassroots organisations on our community programmes.

Does Primark do anything to reduce its impact on the environment?

Yes, we do. We look at how we can reduce the impact of our operations, from greening our stores and recycling our carrier bags to working with our suppliers to improve their production processes. We recycle all our unwanted goods and returns, and we also encourage our customers to do the same with clothing and goods they no longer use or wear. Donating them to charity can help extend their ‘life’ and can raise valuable funds for social and welfare programmes. You can read more about our environmental initiatives here

What is Primark doing on sustainable cotton sourcing?

Cotton is one of the key fibres used in Primark’s clothing. Primark does not buy raw cotton directly itself, but we do have a responsibility to work with farmers and organisations to support programmes that aim to grow more sustainable cotton and improve the livelihoods of those who depend upon it. Our sustainable cotton programme aims to increase the quantity of more sustainably grown cotton within our supply chain whilst simultaneously ensuring more sustainable livelihoods for cotton farmers.

By partnering with expert organisations on the ground in key growing countries, our programme is enabling cotton farmers to improve both their agricultural practices and their working conditions, leading ultimately to improved livelihoods. For further information click here

Does Primark support any recycling initiatives of its clothing?

We encourage all our customers to recycle clothing and goods they no longer wear or use. Donating them to charity can help extend their ‘life’ and can raise valuable funds for social and welfare programmes.

Within our own operations, Primark supports disabled and terminally ill children and their families across the UK by donating all our unrequired goods and customer returns. These goods are recycled, in an environmentally sound manner, and the profits support the work of Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children. Funds raised through this recycling scheme help pay for:

  • Equipment: such as wheelchairs, pain relieving beds, technology and aids to improve communication. Equipment can cost from a few pounds up to thousands of pounds, and can revolutionise a child’s life.
  • Nurse services – qualified nurses inform, care for and support families. Often parents can face sad and challenging times and having a dedicated nurse to rely on gives immeasurable support.
  • Medical research – the foundation’s research has been successful in many areas including diagnostics, understanding foetal development, basic and clinical science related to conditions, finding relevant genes and understanding the causes of conditions.
  • Campaigns – the successful campaigning and awareness activities of the foundation have revealed the challenges faced by many families and children through the media, and have prompted government review and Commons debates. The foundation also challenges local policy makers to ensure children and families are supported.

For more information on our work with Newlife, click here

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