Blog: Leonie BarriePrimark's sustainable cotton programme takes shape

Leonie Barrie | 13 February 2017

With the ultimate aim of ensuring all the cotton in its products is sourced sustainably, value clothing retailer Primark is adamant that having a business model focused on offering the lowest prices on the high street is not at odds with efforts to improve ethical standards in its supply chain. To find out more, just-style travelled to northern India where the company's sustainable cotton programme is taking shape.

In the US, just-released figures show apparel import volumes declined both in December and in 2016 as a whole. Shipments from Vietnam continued on an upward trajectory, booking the biggest rise of 6.9% over the 12-month period. But imports from China slipped 1.85% – although the country remains by far the biggest supplier of apparel to the US with a 41.5% share of the market.

The potential impact of key trade issues on the apparel and textile industry – including a rapidly changing economic and political climate, the relationship between trade and job creation in the US, plans for a Border Adjustment Tax (BAT), rewriting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) –were all included in a panel discussion last week.

And more criticism has been levelled at garment manufacturers in Myanmar supplying European brands and retailers such as New Look, H&M and C&A. Research into 12 export-oriented factories suggests forced or unpaid overtime and child labour remain ongoing problems.

Meanwhile German discount retailer KiK is extending efforts to improve the safety of garment workers in Pakistan by rolling out the first building, electrical and fire prevention assessments at its supplier factories in the country. The move follows a pledge by the company following a fire at the Ali Enterprises factory in September 2012 – for which KiK has finally completed its compensation payment.

Ahead of plans to ramp up expansion at its Ethiopian manufacturing site, tailored clothing manufacturer Bagir Group has acquired full ownership of the facility in a deal worth US$1.9m.

India's textile and apparel industry is banking on informal assurances of increased central government support after it was largely ignored in this month's national budget.

And the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has developed due diligence guidance for garment and footwear supply chains designed to help companies identify and prevent abuses related to human rights, labour, the environment and corruption.

In other news, Sears Holdings is to cut around US$1bn in costs across its operations to drive sourcing efficiencies; the United Textiles of Americas (Unitexa) is investing $73m in a synthetic yarn plant in Honduras; and H&M is using yarn from upcycled marine plastic for its latest Conscious line.

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