PRIMARKS
ETHICS

Introduction:

Primark is a hugely successful clothing retailer and a subsidiary of Associated British Foods. It has its headquarters in Dublin. It offers various products ranging from clothing for men, women and kids, home products (Kitchen ware and home décor), fashion accessories, footwear, and beauty products. Primark’s unique selling proposition of selling fast fashion (trendy) clothing and accessories at low and medium prices is often deemed the reason behind its huge success.The significantly low prices and the Primark inclination to stock on the latest fashion at throwaway prices has contributed a lot towards its success.With success, came the controversies and accusations that Primark was resorting to unfair business practices and employed illegal immigrant labour with less than minimum wages in its manufacturing houses. There were allegations that the working conditions in Primark factories in the third-world countries were poor and sub-standard.The Primark ethics were under question and this is when the retailer giant decided to launch a few programmes and initiatives with a view to promote itself as an ethically and environmentally responsible business group.

The Business Model of Primark:

Primark has fashioned its business principles based on providing high / fast fashion clothes and accessories at low prices. The company seems to have found the pulse for the constantly changing consumer preferences and purchase criteria. The group as such does not own any manufacturing houses or factories and the supply chain is primarily made up of third party suppliers, Manufacture is done mostly through outsourcing.The major sources for Primark group have been Myanmar, India, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The Primark supply chains in these countries have always been the primary focus of the many developmental programmes that the group is associated with.
Despite the many accolades that the Primark group has received for its business acumen and growth models, there have been several controversies with regards to its supply chain and its business practices.
A few controversies that have been constantly in focus regarding the Primark ethics.  The building collapse at Savar (Rana Plaza) in Bangladesh is one such incident which brought of a lot of attention to the core business practices of the Primark group. There have been some ‘SOS’ messages found in Primark clothing regarding the subhuman working conditions at garment factories in the developing nations. All this leads to questions on “how it is possible for the Primark group to offer fast fashion at rock bottom prices when compared to its rivals?”.
In response to the allegations and out of social responsibility, the group devised compensation strategies and became a signatory for important labour, social and environmental welfare schemes.

Is it feasible to offer high street fashion at throwaway prices?

The retail giant has often been questioned on “how is it feasible to combine fast fashion with low prices and ethics intact”.
Are the company ethics just bound by low price points?
High-street fashion at affordable rates is possible only when the supply chain becomes the key. The retail giant and its ethics and values have always been questioned over its responsibility to labour, environmental and other social issues.
The answer to the above allegations is that the retail group has doesn’t advertise on a large-scale and hence can save on advertising costs. The retail giant buys in bulk and out of season which also saves up on the costs. The overheads are extremely low because the group directly sources its products from the factories and does not employ any agents or middlemen.
The group works in close tandem with its supply chain and local partners. The supply chain is under constant scrutiny and the retail group has an Ethical Trade Team, which is in constant touch with the suppliers taking measures to build on an effective sustainable business model where the progress is dynamic.

What are the socially and environmentally responsible initiatives of the Primark group?

The Ethical Trading Initiative:

  • The clothing giant is a part of the Ethical Trading Initiative which focusses on labour rights and issues in supply chains. The code of conduct is based on the International Labour Organisation’s directives. It has earned a ‘Leader’ status in this initiative. The Ethical Trading Initiative is a collaboration of companies and business groups, labour unions and voluntary organisations and NGOs that work towards the betterment of the living conditions of labourers who help in making consumer goods or produce the raw materials that go into the manufacture of consumer goods.

Primark’s initiatives towards economic empowerment of women:

  • Primark has also collaborated with the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), its local partners, and suppliers to provide healthcare and health literacy programmes for women working in the Primark factories and supply chains. The ‘HER’ project is an outcome of Primark’s partnership with BSR. The sustainable cotton programme is a part of this initiative. The women of north-western India have benefitted from this programme.

The labour welfare initiatives:

  • There are programmes that consider the welfare of garment workers and constant measures to improve working conditions in garment factories in the developing nations. These programmes are done under the purview of Department for International Development (DFID). The DFID collaborated programmes also focus on the economic empowerment of women in Primark’s key sourcing markets like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, India, and Ethiopia.

Environmental responsibility initiatives:

  • The retailing honcho has also initiated and is a part of several environmentally sustainable programmes. The Primark team for environmental sustainability oversees the chemical management and waste management in the factories and works in close coordination with the Ethical Trade Team as well.

Primark and International Labour Organisation:

  • The group’s representatives have attended International Labour Organisation or ILO conferences in Geneva to create a methodology for long term compensation measures.
  • The group has a clear strategy for providing food and financial aid to garment workers both in the short-term as well as the long-term.
  • The group is also committed to living wages as per the local condition and labour laws and provide a progressive setup where the workers can come together to address their wage issues and bargain for more wages whenever required. On principle, Primark does support the right to collective bargaining and unionisation.
  • The Primark group was also the first UK-based retail company to sign an accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

The focus is on Primark ethics motivated growth and developmental models that are self-sustaining and effective. The group is well-aware of the consumer preferences and its own ethical developmental goals. So, it is looking for effective ways to develop a sustainable business model that combines both.
These measures have earned much appreciation although the group’s initiatives and business dealings have always been under close scrutiny.

Primark- Online Shopping:

Though the group has its own website, there is no option for online shopping, because online marketing and commerce does not work at the lowest price point, as per the group’s Chief of Finance. The retail giant has chosen not to join the online or e-commerce bandwagon. The wide array of products displayed online in the official site is just to have an idea on the products that are on offer.
However, Primark products are available at other online stores and these online products have been hugely successful in attracting a lot of customers. The wide array of products is on display all the time and interested people can avail of the service at any time or day of the year.
The Primark online shopping portal is out to change the way people shop for Primark products. Online shopping adds a lot of convenience to the shopping aspect and the products seem to be offered at better prices and deals. It is easier to browse through a variety of products on the net rather than physically shop at the retail store and tackle your way across the jostling crowds.
The Primark online store site has a discussion forum where customers are invited to give honest reviews of the products that they have purchased. Reviews and opinions are sought-after because they give reliable information on the positives and drawbacks of the product and help others in making an informed and apt choice.
Review sites and fan sites give adequate quality and suitability information on products and brands which help other consumers. Most of these discussion forums are independent sites which are in no way linked to the real store and the information is mostly provided by the consumers who have availed of the products and any information is just for guidance and reference.

Conclusion:

The Primark ethics, thus has its fundamental focus on an ethical and value-based approach to its business dealings.
This article intends to highlight the core ethical practices and programmes of the Primark group. This is a fan site that intends to offer specialised information on the Primark ethics and business values and give latest information and news regarding their latest social and environmental initiatives. This is also an unofficial resource site which shows how to shop for Primark online and purchase Primark clothing and accessories.