Primark says the situation in Myanmar is “extremely concerning and very complex” with international stakeholders holding differing views as to the best course of action for the garment sector.

Primark adds that as a responsible business its first priority is the safety and wellbeing of the people that make its clothes and it is conscious of the workers whose livelihoods rely on employment at its supplier factories.

While it has leveraged the strength of its ethical audit programme and its longstanding relationships and partnerships on the ground to monitor for compliance with its Code of Conduct, the recent “unpredictability of the environment” means it is now taking guidance on its future operation in the country from Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI)’s independent, evidence-based assessment on human rights and responsible business conduct within the country.

Earlier this week, the ETI urged garment brands and retailers sourcing from Myanmar to reassess their presence in the country after a report found human rights violations are taking place.

The report found ETI’s Base Code standards, a set of workers’ rights standards that are a global reference for responsible business practice, are not being met, with the ETI saying it is not possible for businesses to apply normal human rights due diligence in Myanmar.

“The ETI report makes for very difficult reading and shows there has been a significant deterioration in the situation in Myanmar. This poses significant challenges to our ability to ensure the standards we require to protect the safety and rights of the people who make our clothes and products,” Primark said in a update.

“In light of this, we believe our only option is to begin working towards a responsible exit from the country. In what remains a highly complex, dynamic and unpredictable situation, we will manage this exit in close collaboration with our partners and stakeholders in Myanmar and internationally, following the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

“We will continue to monitor for compliance with our Code of Conduct as we work through this, and as an immediate priority, we are looking at what additional measures we can put in place to support workers in our supplier factories through this interim period.”