Providing consumers with ethically sourced garments
A Primark case study

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Page 3: Ethics in practice

A company needs to be constantly alert to the challenges of operating ethically. It needs to develop ethical practices and principles that are supported and adopted throughout the business and to work in partnership with the many industry and international bodies seeking to secure ethical practices and protect the rights of employees.

Code of Conduct

Primark bases its Code of Conduct on the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Code. The ILO is an agency of the United Nations. It brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to shape policies and programmes. This unique arrangement enables the ILO to incorporate 'real world' knowledge about employment and work. The ILO code describes a set of standards for international labour. These promote opportunities for women and men to work in freedom, equity, security and dignity.

Primark's Code of Conduct is translated into 26 languages, all published on its website, to ensure clear communication on standards. The Code of Conduct sets out the company's policy and is part of its legal terms and conditions. See the full Code and additional detailed information on the 11 points of the code on the Primark website

The code states that within its supply chain:

  1. Employment is freely chosen
  2. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected
  3. Working conditions are safe and hygienic
  4. Environmental requirements - Primark shares its commitment with suppliers
  5. Child labour shall not be used
  6. Living wages are paid
  7. Working hours are not excessive
  8. No discrimination is practised
  9. Regular employment is provided
  10. No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed
  11. Legal requirements - Primark is committed to compliance of all countries” laws.

Working with suppliers

Primark works closely with the suppliers and factories that produce its goods. It provides training for suppliers, factories and its own buyers so that they understand ethical issues. For example, it offers guidance on issues such as child labour and home working in Asia, as well as immigration and right to work issues in the UK.

The role of Primark buyers is important in helping to support ethical business practices. When selecting new suppliers and factories, Primark requires them to go through a selection process. This enables Primark to establish if working conditions are appropriate or if improvements are necessary before the supplier can be approved.

Auditing and compliance

All Primark suppliers are also subject to thorough independent audits and follow-up visits to make sure that the supplier is maintaining ethical practices. This involves an audit of labour standards. An auditor is someone that checks factories to ensure that Primark's code of conduct is being implemented within the factory. This includes, for example, checking that the factory has the appropriate fire safety equipment and that staff have been trained how to use it, to ensuring that all employees receive the wages and benefits they are entitled to.

Primark seeks to work collaboratively with its suppliers when auditors identify issues of non-compliance against the code of conduct. Often factories need support and training to implement changes to their factories that are permanent and effective.

Primark | Providing consumers with ethically sourced garments