Primark sources its products from countries like China and India, which are world leaders in garment manufacture. Workers in these countries can often be the most vulnerable part of the supply chain. Engaging with workers and the communities in these countries is therefore a crucial part of Primark’s ethical practice. Primark’s work with workers and the communities often involves working with local non-government organisations who have the local knowledge to support Primark’s initiatives. Primark engages with workers and the communities in which they operate in a variety of ways. For example, through listening to the needs of workers and the challenges they face Primark has launched a number of programmes and initiatives to address those needs.
For example, in 2010 Primark engaged in a long-term programme to improve working conditions and wages in China. The aim is to make sure that every worker has a living wage. This is a wage that is high enough to meet all of the basic needs of an adult and their family and to provide some additional income on top. At the same time, its partners are working with the factory to provide advice on how to improve the factory’s productivity and output, ensuring that it operates efficiently and sustainably. Primark is also engaged in some wider community initiatives. These demonstrate the company’s ethical values.
In India, Primark is working with a NGO to address some of the challenges facing people in communities where the company sources its products. This programme conducts surveys of garment workers to find out more about the issues they face at work and provides support and counselling where needed. It provides education on a wide range of topics such as the rights of women, safety at work, labour laws, preventing HIV and AIDs and the role of organisations such as the ETI and ILO.
Primark has also formed a partnership with Geosanar to bring banking services to worker communities in India. Geosanar has set up small kiosks in communities, often near to textile factories. The kiosks are open six days a week and staff are on hand to give financial advice. Many lowly-paid workers in India cannot read or write so customers can open an account using finger scanning technology, rather than by supplying written documentation and a signature. This initiative is helping workers to keep their money securely. They can build up, and earn interest on, savings.
Women make up 80 % of the world’s garment-making workforce. This work provides women with an important means to support themselves and their families. However, statistics show that in developing countries women are more likely than men to suffer from illness and poor health. In Bangladesh, Primark is working in partnership with Business for Social Responsibility and the Awaj Foundation. Together they are supporting health care initiatives for women. These provide advice on how to recognise and treat common health conditions, such as anaemia (lack of red blood cells) and how to look after their health when they are pregnant. The community benefits as people have better health and an improved understanding of preventative health care. Employers benefit because employees are fitter, absenteeism is lower and there is increased employee loyalty.