Primark has committed to making all of its clothes from recycled or more sustainably sourced materials within a decade, promising the strategy will not lead to price rises.
The retailer has also pledged to make clothes that can be “recyclable by design” by 2027. Only a quarter of the clothing it sells is made from recycled or sustainably sourced materials.
Primark, which is owned by Associated British Foods, intends to start making its men’s, women’s and children’s entry-price T-shirts with sustainably sourced cotton over the next year.
The chain has also vowed to make its clothes more durable, so they last longer, as part of its promise to “make more sustainable fashion affordable for all”.
In addition, it plans to work with suppliers to halve carbon emissions throughout its supply chain while eliminating single-use plastics from its operations by 2027. Primark has also committed to pursuing a living wage for workers in its global supply chain by 2030.
Its chief executive, Paul Marchant, said: “Our ambition is to offer customers the affordable prices they know and love us for, but with products that are made in a way that is better for the planet and the people who make them. We know that’s what our customers, and our colleagues, want and expect from us.”
Marchant called on the fashion industry to do more to improve sustainability. “We don’t have all the answers and we know we can’t do it alone. We’re committed to work in partnership with the industry to drive real change at scale,” he said.
The retailer, which usually accounts for £1 in every £14 spent on clothing in the UK, recently confirmed that its sales had recovered after the reopening of its stores following the spring lockdown.
Despite not selling any of its products online, Primark is the biggest clothing retailer by value in the UK, according to the market analysts GlobalData, although it briefly lost the top spot in 2020 to Marks & Spencer after its stores were closed for lengthy periods during the coronavirus pandemic.
Patrick O’Brien, a UK retail research director at GlobalData, said most consumers were still focused on price. “It is notable that [Primark’s] announcement is aimed not at its customers, but at its investors,” he said. “Investors are the ones who are driving companies to be more sustainable in order to meet their own sustainability criteria, rather than shoppers.
“While surveys reveal it to be a growing area of consumer concern, there is scant evidence that, for the moment at least, sustainability and other ethical concerns are usurping price as the key purchasing driver,” he said, adding that Boohoo’s sales had not been affected by revelations last year about the treatment of workers in its supply chain.