I have to say I have never been a fan of Primark. Even before I became more conscious of where I shopped I would avoid the store like the plague. I don’t think you will believe me when I tell you that I have only ever set foot in a Primark once. That fateful day was back in 2009 when the store opened in Cambridge. I didn’t really enjoy the experience. It was like a giant jumble sale with more clothing on the floor than on the rails and I only came away with a ring which cost me about £1. I also came away with a feeling that didn’t sit well with me. How is everything so cheap? There is something fundamentally wrong with that.
And so began my journey to shopping more sustainably.
Last month (September 2021) Primark committed to make all of its clothing from recycled or sustainably-sourced materials by 2030. Not only that but they say this will not lead to price increases. The retailer aims to make its items more durable so that they last longer and make clothing that can be “recyclable by design” by 2027. Currently only a quarter of their clothing is made from recycled or sustainably sourced materials.
Primark’s new sustainability strategy also pledges to halve its carbon emissions throughout its supply chain while eliminating single-use plastics from its operations by 2027. They are also committed to pursuing a living wage for workers through the global supply chain by 2030.
Over the next year the plan is to start making its men’s, women’s and children’s T-shirts with sustainably sourced cotton.
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.”
Many brands have pledges that are essentially greenwashing, with next to no intention of any meaningful change. Yes Primark now has this pledge but what is that going to do about the problem of overconsumption? Generally speaking truly sustainable brands have a higher price tag because this reflects the fact that workers are paid fairly and that materials have been responsibly sourced. However, Primark seems to think that it can do both these things without a price increase. This just isn’t mathematically possible.
If Primark can somehow meet its pledge then that will go a long way towards making sustainability accessible for all. But the retailer will still be churning out ridiculous amounts of clothing that quite frankly we don’t need. You can manufacture clothing in the greenest, most sustainable way possible but if it isn’t actually needed then it isn’t truly sustainable.
I believe that sustainable clothing should be affordable and more accessible. However, we should all be questioning just how much we actually buy.