Following a successful first year of retailing apparel which incorporates cotton from the company’s Sustainable Cotton Programme, Primark has announced that it will expand the initiative to encompass suppliers in Pakistan – one of its largest existing supplier nations. The next goal set by the retailer is for over 30,000 farmers to be enrolled on the programme by 2022, receiving training and support in order to successfully provide Primark with cotton that adheres to its sustainability criteria. The Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme was established to train and support smallholder farmers in the application of ‘sustainable’ farming methods. In association with CottonConnect, growers are educated on the most appropriate farming techniques for their land. This advice covered topics including: Seed selection, sowing, soil, water, pesticides and pest management, picking, fibre quality, grading and storage of harvested crop.

The initial roll-out of the programme began in 2013 and was exclusive to India, with over 6,000 independent farmers in Gujarat working with the programme pioneered by the high street retailer. On average, Primark claims, profits increased by almost 200 per cent for those who completed the training; a figure which almost certainly makes the initiative an easy sell to many independent Pakistani growers.

In the next phase of development, Primark has worked alongside CottonConnect and REEDS (Rural Education and Economic Development Society) to introduce the programme into Pakistan. It is hoped that, with an additional 20,000 farmers enrolled on the programme in Pakistan, more than 30,000 farmers across both sourcing regions will be trained in sustainable farming methods by 2022.

Katharine Stewart, Primark’s ethical trade and environmental sustainability director, stated: “We’ve deliberately targeted regions that are already used by our suppliers, so we can introduce even more cotton grown using sustainable farming methods into our supply chain as soon as possible. “Our expansion into Pakistan is the logical next step for us, as we continue to move towards 100 per cent sustainable cotton in our supply chain.”

Primark sees the project as a good way to trace the cotton throughout every stage of its supply chain, a sentiment which aligns with the brand’s decision to launch a Global Sourcing Map at the beginning of the year. The inaugural year of selling garments made using cotton from the scheme yielded sales of 4.4 mn pairs of Primark cotton pyjamas, with information about the programme communicated to consumers via tags on the garments. Interestingly, the apparel which contains cotton from the programme does not differ in price to the end consumer from that sourced elsewhere.