Primark’s sustainable cotton uses more natural farming methods, including minimising the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers and reducing water consumption, as well as increasing the income of cotton farmers to improve their livelihoods

Primark’s sustainable cotton uses more natural farming methods, including minimising the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers and reducing water consumption, as well as increasing the income of cotton farmers to improve their livelihoods

Value fashion chain Primark has taken another step in its move towards using sustainably sourced cotton across its product ranges, launching its first line of jeans made with 100% sustainable cotton, purchased directly from farmers participating in its Sustainable Cotton Programme.

Launched in Gujarat, India's biggest cotton and cottonseed producing state, in 2013, the programme helps farmers grow cotton using more natural farming methods, including minimising the use of chemical pesticides and reducing water consumption, whilst also increasing their incomes. 

Developed in partnership with agricultural experts CottonConnect, and local NGOs SEWA (the Self-Employed Women's Association) in India and REEDS (the Rural Education and Economic Development Society) in Pakistan, the programme trains farmers in the most appropriate farming techniques for their land. This ranges from seed selection, sowing, soil, water, pesticide and pest management, to picking, fibre quality, grading and storage of the harvested cotton.

Following the expansion of the programme into Pakistan last year, Primark says more than 28,000 farmers across both markets have now enrolled in the training.

In addition, the retailer says early year one results recorded in Pakistan are promising, with farmers' profits already increasing. They are also starting to see average reductions of more than 20% in chemical pesticide and fertiliser use and more than 15% in water use.

A more sustainable product offering

The cotton produced by the farmers has made its way into some of Primark's pyjama designs – the value clothing retailer's first line of clothing made using 100% sustainable cotton, and the first in which it is able to track its cotton through the supply chain from farm to store.

With more than 11.2m pairs of the pyjamas sold since launch, Primark is now rolling out its first range of jeans made from 100% sustainable cotton. Produced in three different washes (indigo, black and light blue), the women's skinny jeans will be sold in stores across all markets, at a cost of GBP13/EUR17 (US$17).

Katharine Stewart, ethical trade and environmental sustainability director at Primark, says the new jeans are an important step as the retailer aims to introduce sustainable cotton across its entire product range.

"For us, the aims of the programme are three-fold: to help reduce the impact of cotton production on the environment, to equip farmers with the skills they need to improve their livelihoods and to offer our customers sustainable products at a great price," she adds.

The jeans – launched under the Primark Cares initiative – are Primark's latest sustainable staples following its recent, in-demand collaboration with social media influencer Alice Liveing, which featured a top and leggings set made from recycled polyester, as well as two biodegradable water bottles.

In addition, the retailer promises more sustainable cotton products will be released in the coming year, including homeware.

"Following the successful introduction of sustainable cotton pyjamas into store, we are so proud to introduce this range. From harvesting the sustainable cotton from fields in India and Pakistan, right through to using recycled paper for our Primark Cares labels, sustainability has been at the heart of every stage of developing and designing these jeans," explains Paula Dumont Lopez, trading director at Primark, who leads buying, merchandising and design of Primark's womenswear.

"Our Sustainable Cotton Programme is not only good for the planet, but it is also changing lives in India and Pakistan. That's why I was so passionate about using the cotton in jeans, one of our most popular product ranges."

Alison Ward, CEO at CottonConnect, adds: "We have been working with Primark since this programme was first launched 2013. Not only are we materially changing the lives of farmers and their families in rural cotton communities, but by working closely with Primark and their supply chain partners we have been able to trace the cotton all the way from the farm into products – a challenging but important step towards increased supply chain transparency."