- Fast fashion retailer Primark's first ever line of women's jeans made from organic cotton will soon be available in the U.K. and European Union — selling for the equivalent of less than $20, according to a press release.
- Primark launched a sustainable cotton sourcing program in India in 2013 and now sources organic cotton from Pakistan as well. The cotton sourced through the program has to date been used in Primark pajamas.
- These jeans fall under the retailer's "Primark Cares Initiative" under which the company has used fabric made from recycled polyester and water bottles. Katharine Stewart, ethical trade and environmental sustainability director at Primark, said the brand intends to eventually employ organic cotton "across our entire product range."
As consumers become more aware of the types of labor and fabrics they support when buying fast fashion, brands are looking to show more awareness, too — without sacrificing a low price point.
According to the Retail Industry Leaders' Association (RILA) 2017 Sustainability Report, supplier engagement for responsible sourcing is a growing but immature trend within retail supply chains. Of the retailers who are "excelling" in this area, according to RILA, all report positive effects on brand reputation.
H&M's Conscious Collection, for example, uses recycled materials and some organic cotton. In fact, H&M is the largest buyer of organic cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) with 59% of its total cotton procurement weight coming from recycled or organic sources, according to BCI.
Primark touts the better incomes of the farmers growing organic cotton, verified by CottonConnect, and local NGOs in India along with the Rural Education and Economic Development Society (REEDS) in Pakistan, which also teaches farmers better farming techniques.
While the upside of sourcing organic cotton by a fast fashion brand is clear, the effort doesn't erase the many other ethical issues associated with high street brands broadly and Primark specifically.
Last year, Primark — along with other fast fashion retailers such as Boohoo and Missguided — was questioned before the British Parliament about selling t-shirts for £2 ($2.65) — members implied that at that price, the garments seem destined for the garbage.
"We are proud of the quality and durability of our garments. They are not bought to throw away," answered Primark's then Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability Director Paul Lister. He added: "Factory to store, we keep our costs to the absolute minimum and in-store we keep margins very tight," he said. "Our business model takes us to a £2 T-shirt," the Guardian reported.