By Emily Reed – Fashion PR student
I’m currently writing an assignment on a specific ethical crisis that Primark have faced and the more and more research I do into Primark as a company the more I discover about their ethical standings and the more I begin to feel for them. I find it hard to understand why Primark get such bad press. To me they seem to have a pretty good understanding of ethics and a good strategy in place.
As you may know Primark do not have a transactional website and instead their site is a great source for consumers or investors alike to see what Primark have been up to.
Their site is full of information on their charitable work within the communities of their supply chains. They work with local communities and even partner with existing projects, such as, HERproject, to help maintain and ensure the longevity of the projects.
They belong to the Ethical Trading Initiative and have been one of the highest scoring retailers. They have joined forces with DFID to improve the lives of garment workers in developing countries and they have partnered with a huge variety of companies to prove their dedication to helping the environment as well as the lives of their workers, such as; The Carbon Trust, Cotton Connect and Better Works. They appear to be doing everything possible to prove to the public that they are an ethical company, so where’s the missing link?
Primark have a solid CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) because they are owned by parent company ABF (Associated British Foods) and this means they have to comply with their way of working.
So why have Primark come under so much scrutiny? Is it because they are simply an easy target for the media? Primark have said before, not in so many words, that people shouldn’t be questioning them on how they can sell a top so cheaply but why luxury brands are able to get away with selling a top for so much? After all, a lot of these brands manufacture their garments in the same factories as budget brands!
Why are the media out to get them? In the past Primark have faced false allegations of child labour by the BBC’s Panorama. Panorama staged footage of three young boys supposedly working for Primark and it took three years for the fashion giants to clear their name and to get an apology, but by then it was too late. The allegations were already out there, their reputation had already been tarnished, and unfairly so!
Yes, I agree the collapse of one of the factories Primark happened to manufacture in was extremely upsetting and unfortunate but it wasn’t down to Primark. Since the tragedy it has been discovered that it was factory owners that demanded workers stay in the factory even after it being declared as unsafe. So could it be argued that all Primark are guilty of is a lack of communication with their factories?
After the disaster, Primark did all they could for the broken communities, they immediately released emergency aid and paid large sums of compensation to the families as well as the communities affected. This is more than could be said for some other retailers, take Matalan for example, they only paid up after they received pressure from other parties, but they don’t appear to have a stigma surrounding them?
So the question is what can Primark do to improve their reputation that they are not already doing?