Primark has promised to significantly increase its efforts to produce more sustainable clothing over the next ten years. At the same time, the fashion discounter does not want to compromise on its pricing strategy: many experts have serious questions about this, especially now that the chain may (finally) be taking on e-commerce.
The ten-year plan includes nine tangible commitments within three key areas: the Irish clothing retailer wants to produce more durable clothes, take better care of the planet, and improve the living conditions of employees throughout the chain.
The fashion chain promises to only produce clothing that is recyclable by 2027. Three years after that, the entire assortment must be made of recycled or more sustainable materials. In the fight against climate change, Primark aims to halve carbon emissions across the chain by 2030. Furthermore, the company aims to eliminate single-use plastics. Finally, Primark is also committed to meeting 'living wages' for all the workers in its global supply chain.
Doubt arises as to whether the Irish fashion chain's plans are realistic. The group Clean Clothes Campaign is far from impressed: "We welcome what they are announcing. However, when it comes to Primark, we have to see it before we believe it", a spokesperson told Dutch newspaper Trouw. "Primark has often obstructed in the past. Moreover, this plan comes from the company itself, which is less imposing than an independent agreement."
Niki De Schryver, the founder of the sustainable route planner COSH, calls Primark's announcement "misleading": she says Primark's efforts are comparable to what H&M and Levi's are doing. "To grow one kilo of cotton, they now use two kilos of chemicals instead of three. If you want cotton that is worthy of the term sustainable, you opt for organic cotton", she says in Belgian newspaper GVA.
The timing of the sustainability pledge is all the more remarkable as the chain simultaneously announced its plan to launch a new website over the next year. According to some followers at Modern Retail, this website would entail the chain's first steps into e-commerce. Various sources hint at the introduction of a click-and-collect facility in a few purposely selected stores. There would certainly not be a universal webshop yet, but for Primark, even this would already be a small revolution. But then, of course, the question arises: how do you combine the setting up of an e-commerce service - and its numerous returns - with a serious commitment to sustainability?
In reply to RetailDetail, the chain states that they are and remain "strong supporters of bricks-and-mortar retail stores". However, they do acknowledge that "digital plays an important role supporting the growth of our store estate" and that with their new website, they will "continue to review additional [online] opportunities as always on an ongoing basis."