Primark, the budget clothing retailer with 350 stores in Britain, mainland Europe and the US, has published details of its supply chain factories as proof that it does not feed off slave labor.
The information consists of an online map showing more than 600 suppliers’ factories in 30-plus countries and lists the number and gender of the workers involved.
In addition, the company has ditched its claim that listing supplier factories would blunt its competitive edge. It explains that most rival retailers use the same factories and many have named them.
Primark, which has previously denied vigorously that it bought from sweatshop and slave labor factories, says it has intensified its efforts to eliminate the risks of forced employment and has provided hotlines enabling aggrieved or exploited workers to blow the whistle.
Katharine Stewart, Primark’s head of ethical trade, said: “We are opening up about our suppliers to boost transparency and visibility in our supply chain.”
Peter McAllister, executive director of the Ethical Trading Initiative, a global alliance of trade unions, employers and charities promoting workers’ rights, said: “Primark joins the select but growing group of leading companies that disclose details of their supplier factories.
“It is one more step in meeting consumer expectations and we hope that other brands and retailers will follow this example.”
The large brands now sharing supply chain information amid rising regulatory and consumer pressure include the sportswear specialist Adidas, the fashion group H&M and the online retailer Asos.
About 25 million people worldwide are believed to be trapped in forced labor, but the complexity of supply chains makes identification a mammoth task.
Stewart, however, takes pains to emphasize that Primark regards workers’ rights as paramount: “We want to challenge the wrongly held perception that price and ethics are entwined.”