Work Towards Sustainable Environment Commerce Essay

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For the better future in next few years Primark have to look forward and need to work towards sustainable environment. The main focus for achieving the sustainable environment is finding innovative resolution. For this, first it is critical to recognize the issue and moving forward to solve this.

This business report presented is intended to know about the social and environmental impacts of the Fashion and textile industry to this world and the sustainability challenges in this industry.

As number of new brands and clothing labels emerging in present time, so, there has been a lot of media attention towards fair trade fashion. But to make sustainable clothing mainstream there are few key aspects that needed in the fashion industry to be tackled. There are few issues that are identified:

1. Fashion consumption - the increasing number of fashion items that we buy and then dispose of.

2. The Production of cotton requiring lots of energy, water and pesticides.

3. Working conditions across the supply chain from cotton production to sweatshops.

6. Man-made fibres- Unsustainable and fibres take longer to degrade in landfill sites.

7. Fashion miles that burn carbon as fabric and clothing are transported around the world.

Throughout this business report we have try to find the ways towards sustainable fashion. The Primark's vision is to prepare the sustainable garment for the future, should be designed carefully and made from renewable material. And care be taken in regards with pesticide i;e should be pesticide free and produced by labourers in decent working conditions. It would washed at low temperatures and have fashion upgrades to extend its fashionable life. Finally it should be recycled, reused or composed off. To make this vision a reality Primark need to act, including the consumer.

The headlines for action are:

Awareness: - There is need to raise the awareness and understanding within the industry of the whole picture - the breadth of sustainability issues that need to be addressed.

Transparency: - The transparency in supply chains are must. Retailers need to be able to trace the origins of their stock. This will ensure they can enforce high standards of sustainability.

New Standards:- New international standards required to be framed and should be harmonise. This will help in collecting all brands on a platform and they can differentiate on other issues - for example fabrics used, design and responsible practice.

Training and Development: - Training, support to suppliers, incentives, terms of trade and encouragement is needed along the supply chain to convert to sustainable practices.

Information: Research shows that carbon footprint of an item of clothing increases with washing, ironing and tumble-drying. Raising awareness and information should be provided to consumer to change behaviour and this will make a big impact toward sustainable clothing.

Designers:- Designers are also key players in making sustainable fashion as they are promoters hence they should try to promote sustainable solutions for clothing, and making ethical fashion to the consumer make sure that it is desirable, functional and stylish.




This report aims to draw a line in the sand for Primark to be able to move forward and seize opportunities.

Primark and (un)sustainability

Presently Primark the clothing industry is stucked into a cycle of (un)sustainability. The relationship between productivity and resource use has entered into a long term unsustainable pattern. The general life cycle for the clothing are shown below. In the full life cycle, in every stage there is impact of social, environmental and economic parameters. Research shows how energy consumption at the 'usage' phase is dominant than any other stage. Hence impacts should be reduced at every stage to achieve Primark's vision.

Why is Primark clothing unsustainable?

The reason of unsustainablity in the Primark is complex because social and environmental factors are poorly considered in clothing. There are two main factors that make Primark to be 'unsustainable'.

First one is the high street dynamic. Because of severe competition the driving costs and quality goes down also the fast pace of changing of fashion makes the clothing more disposable.

The next one is complex as it involves global supply chain. Primark has various stages of manufacturing often taking place in many parts of the world. Retailers can either buy clothing directly from suppliers or through agents and/or vendors. Before to that, most of the raw materials such as fabrics (wool, cotton etc.) are bought on global commodity markets. Being high turnover also means that keeping track of items can be difficult and if Primark don't know the origins of the stock, it is very difficult throughout the supply chain to identify and ensure standards of sustainability.

So, these two factors are not only critical to Primark but to any fashion industry for creating a more sustainable industry. Now, we are seeing some mainstream that Primark hold more sustainable options as organic or fair trade products- and bring in the profit.

The benefit of better track in the supply chain will permit Primark to procure more ethically and also allow customers to make more informed choices. This report unfold these, and concerned challenges, and give some possible ways forward.


Fashion fabrics: producing natural fabrics sustainably

The issues

â- Pesticide use in growing cotton

â- GM (???? Full name)

â- Water use

â- Fair conditions and prices for growers

Nowadays clothes are manufactured by combining natural, man-made (cellulose from timber, e.g. viscose) or synthetic fabrics (oil is used to create polymers, e.g. polyester, acrylic and nylon).

Any of the fabrics used have in some amount of sustainability impacts which need to be managed and, where harmful to people and planet, should be reduced. In this report we will focus on cotton as it is by far the largest single fibre in production, it is in demand globally than any other fabric and also is cheap so encourages large scale, intensive production.

Fibres of cotton are blended and sold from different origins around the globe so tracing of its origin is very difficult. This complication in the supply chain makes the incorporation of sustainability more challengeable. There are lot of pesticide used in the production of cotton and pesticide has many side effects on workers, soil degradation and loss in biodiversity.

In the production of cotton there is great need of water so it is also known as thirsty crop. For making 1 pair of jeans some times 10 tonnes of water is required for the enough cotton. This much use of water in harvesting of cotton have great impact on sustainability. Although there are few side effects with cotton but also there are benefits engaged with cotton as employment and economic benefits to the developing countries.

Probable solutions: -

Raw materials should be grown naturally and with high level of sustainability for example organic cotton should be practised instead of synthetic one. Presently less than 1% of organic cotton is produced in comparision to total production of cotton. 11

Quantity of water used in irrigation of organic cotton is very high so its needed to use different approach such as using water harvesting and drip irrigation are combined.12

The cotton on commodity sale have label in which country of origin should be mentioned so that consumer have enough information and choice based on their knowledge of the social and environmental issues in that country.13

In turn this will allow retailers to demonstrate that they have a grip on their supply chain and are purchasing responsibly. This would needed further direct relationships with suppliers.

Largely the utmost solution might be to substitute other cotton with natural materials.

Fashion workforce

The issues

â- Working conditions

â- Human rights

â- Boycotts

â- Supplier audit fatigue

Because of stern competition in the market globally Primark clothing industry has re-located to developing countries where labour costs are less. Many trade unions and NGO's are concerned that working conditions and human rights may not be maintained in some regions of the world, giving rise to what are referred to as 'sweatshops'.

A recent report claimed that textile workers in Bangladesh get paid as little as five pence an hour to make cheap clothes for Primark.41 According to the report, this is largely due to workers being prevented from forming and joining trade unions. Poor treatment of labour can include people working for unreasonably low wages, excessive hours or overtime, in dangerous conditions and employing child workers. Many of the issues are complex and based on local cultures and so require local solutions.

Boycotts can hit brand reputation, staff morale, high quality staff recruitment and retention, and even sales and share price. There is concern over some high street working conditions (pay and working hours) for example.43 Even if supply chains can be traced, the auditing, monitoring and enforcement of standards is often weak. Just being compliant is complex for suppliers. Primark is suffering from 'audit fatigue' as they get asked to fill in multiple questionnaires from different retailers and brands, each with their own set of questions.


In 1998 UK government set up the Ethical Trading Initiative to raise the standards44. This organisation composes of trade unions, NGOs and companies who work together improve working conditions. The members of Ethical Trading Initiative are not proof of mandatory standards but commitment towards better standards. Also there is SA8000 standard which includes standard for working conditions and many companies are adapting this standard.

To date 968 facilities have been certified worldwide.45 Many fashion retailers and textile companies are calling for regulation to enforce their minimum standards to draw a baseline to be able to compete.46 From this baseline, real leaders can seize opportunities by doing more.

Once again the crucial term is transparency and now many companies are including how many audits or assessment and action they had carried in their annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) / sustainability reports.

Support for suppliers is key to help combat audit fatigue and improve conditions along the supply chain. There are various tools emerging that provide suppliers with the know-how to be able to comply with various different codes, for example the e-textile toolbox.49 The website provides guidance on setting up very basic management systems eg how to measure water use. It explains the business benefits for improving social and environmental performance.

In supply chain the retailers are on the top and having the power to facilitate the social and environmental good practice through:

â- Primark need to follow the fair pricing policies - fair trade clothing is an apparent solution, ensuring fair prices for manufacturers (see Global fashion markets and trade).

â- Primark has to start a incentive schemes for suppliers i;e rewards for good practice and fines for bad practice.

â- Commitments wit suppliers should be for longer term

â- Primark should start country of origin labelling on garments, suppliers to meet criteria if labelling is requirement

â- Frequent audit, visiting and assessment should be carried out on garment suppliers, fabric, dye house and component suppliers.

Global fashion markets and trade

The issues

â- Subsidies and quotas

â- Price pressures

â- Fair pay along the supply chain

Subsidies and quota should be provided to limit the economic impact and protect the domestic clothing industry. This means that many countries that currently produce clothing are being 'protected' from a free-market.

As 'free-trade' is introduced the transitions need to be handled carefully to avoid any set back to important industries in poor economies.

The textile and fashion industries which have large supply chains having concerns over profit distribution.

The chart explained below shows that even though most of the manufacturing occurs outside the UK, the retailers enjoy the largest gross profit throughout the clothing supply chain and because of this operating cost goes high in UK, also raises questions over fair pay further down the supply chain.

Solution: -

If the subsidies are removed that might help in counteract the constantly downward pressures on price.

Others suggest incentives to command higher prices may come from improving fibre quality and quality control in harvesting and efforts to improve the grade of cotton sent to market. Fair Trade standards also exist through International Fair Trade Association (IFAT) and reflect the terms of trade between buyer and seller.

Ensuring "free trade" whilst managing the downsides will be very challenging and will require

joined up thinking

Fashion consumption:


The issues

â- Unsustainable consumption

â- Clothes ending up in landfill when they could be recycled

Over the last decades clothing is achievable and affordable to everyone as available in lower prices because of stern competition in industry. Companies exploited this affordability by moving fresh collection as per seasons throughout the year. Because of much lower unit costs retailers need to sell more product in order to maintain levels of turnover and market share i;e People in UK are buying more clothes than ever before. This causes increase in clothing volume as turnover is very high. Increase in volume of clothing ends up in landfill when it could be recycled or reused.


The best solution will be raising awareness about the disposal, recycling and reusing of clothing. Companies have to think in long term solution rather than short term profits. Taking care to reuse hangers, carrier bags, and packaging waste. Also government could develop a 'producer responsibility' policy where clothing can be taken back for disposal in appropriate way.


These issues are inter-related and need to be considered in the wider economic context.

The clothing industry, regulators, designers, the recycling industry and consumers need to work together to deliver these improvements so that we can continue to enjoy fashion without damaging the environment and people; and the industry can continue to be productive and provide a positive economic contribution.