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Ethical Issues – Primark

Primark is an Irish clothing and accessories company which is a
subsidiary of AB Foods, and is headquartered in Dublin. Primark own over 350
stores in 11 countries.  They have an
annual revenue of £5.9 billion. The Mission statement of Primark Company is to
provide good and quality product to the customer relativity low as compare to
the other retailers working in the market and with this stay competitive and
should have a competitive edge with other clothing retailers in order to promote
the culture of “value for money”.

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The aims and objectives of Primark is to provide the public with
good, quality products at a cheap and good for value price. Primark also want
to get the message out that just because their products are cheap, it doesn’t
mean that they will be of a bad quality. A way that Primark do achieve this
goal is by getting their products checked for quality before they are put on
sale to the public. Another aim of Primark is to give the public a wide range
of products and to cater for all different customer’s needs so that Primark can
create a large base of loyal customers.  In the aims and objectives, there is no
mention of Primark trying to help the environment or make their factories have
better working conditions. This suggests that Primark do not care about their
ethics and overall makes them seem unethical.

Primark demonstrate that it is aware of ethical concerns of its
stakeholders.  At Primark, suppliers and
factories commit to make our products in factories with good working conditions
so that people are treated decently and paid a fair wage. Primark do not own
the factories so therefore have to be very selective about who they work with.
To make it onto Primark’s approved factory list, each factory is vetted to
internationally-recognised standards set out in the Primark Code of Conduct.
The Code covers areas such as pay, employment policies and health and safety. Once
approved, it’s the job of our Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability
Team, a group of more than 90 experts based in key sourcing countries, to
monitor compliance. They audit every factory at least once a year, sometimes
more, to check whether international standards are being met. Primark carry out
over 2,500 audits a year to check these standards are met.

However, it has been said that Primark are linked to sweatshops in
developing or under-developed countries. Many people would see this as almost
slavery as some workers work long hours for little pay. Some factory workers,
as young as 11, have been sub-contracted to sew beads and sequins on to Primark
tops in India. Some employees in these under-developed countries claimed they
earned as little as £19 a month before overtime. According to Primark’s code of
conduct, workers should work a maximum of 48 hours a week, however, factory
staff said they have worked up to 84 hours, without access to clean drinking
water. Female workers said they were subjected to “verbal threats” if
they complained or asked for time off.

Primark investigates claim of ‘cry for help’ note in trousers
alleging slave labour conditions in Chinese prison. The note, wrapped in a
prison identity card, claimed inmates were forced to work 15 hours a day making

Sustainability is another ethical issue which Primark have had and
dealt with. Over the years Primark has implemented a series of strategies and
initiatives which vary from improving the livelihoods of its garment workers,
to reducing its carbon footprint as well its chemical usage, water usage and
waste output, to using more sustainable materials. ABF claim that it is their
purpose to provide safe, nutritious and clothing that is great value for money.
Primark also make a real effort to reduce their impact on the planet whenever
they can. For example, customers from Primark have been showing off the brown
paper bags for years. Primark also have a longstanding partnership with the
children’s charity Newlife in which they donate unsold items from our European
stores. In doing so, they’re able to reduce the number of unsold items that
could end up in landfill, whilst helping Newlife to raise money.

How could Primark be more ethical?

Primark is a big business who has a lot of power, which can be
used either responsibly or selfishly. Ethics is about doing the right thing.
Ethical behaviour requires firms to act in ways that stakeholders consider to
be both fair and honest. Many business owners believe that by acting ethically
they will have to increase costs and therefore profits will be reduced. For
example, a business can cut costs by hiring child labour at very low wages in
developing countries. Paying below average wages lowers the firm’s total costs.
Business activities that meet the requirements of the law, but which are
considered unfair by stakeholders can result in bad publicity.

The first unethical issue that Primark has is that they are linked
to sweatshops in under-developing countries. Primark should get to know their
suppliers and production lines and refuse to work with those who are giving
themselves a bad reputation. Once consumers hear about factory workers as young
as 11 working in sweatshops, it is a possibility they will stop shopping at
Primark. This bad media will influence consumers to find alternative shops who
do not promote child labour.  Primark
could look for factories within countries such as the UK as the UK have set
working hours and minimum hourly pay rates. Also, in the UK children have to
now be in education till the age of 18, meaning that there would be no child or
underage labour.

Another unethical issue which Primark have is that they are not
certified as being cruelty free. However, Primark do claim to be cruelty free.
The policy which they do have on animal testing is very vague. Primark have a
sketchy ethos in general so it is unclear currently whether their cosmetics are
tested on animals.

In 2013, a production factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing
almost 1,400 workers. There was around 3,000 workers in the factory, mainly
young women who wear making cheap clothes for the likes of Primark and Matalan.
Bosses at the high street giant said that they would pay compensation to the
families of their workers who were killed or injured in the accident. A way to
ensure that they are more ethical when it comes to issues like this is to
ensure that they only have their workers work in buildings that are at top
standards with health and safety. Again, they should consider moving their
factories to countries which are not under-developing; even if they are more
expensive to operate. Safer working environments would mean that workers are
less likely to get hurt and therefore Primark would not have to pay out

The final way in which Primark could be more ethical is improve
its workers well-being and education initiatives. Primark is currently working
on improving its injury rate as part of its wider scheme to boost its safety
performance. Primark are now ensuring that all its workers undertake an online
health and safety induction programme. The programme covers key issues workers
should be aware of, such as health and safety responsibilities, hazard
identification, and manual handling. In addition to the online course,
Primark’s safety platform also includes additional information on safety
topics, like office safety and emergency procedures. Primark need to stick to
these schemes to see overall results.


There are many groups of people who have an interest in Primark’s
business. They are known as stakeholders as they have a “stake” in the
business. The interest each stakeholder has in a business will vary according
to their “stake”. Stakeholders can be groups or individuals. Stakeholders in a
business benefit from their involvement. For example, Primark provide jobs.
Primark employees earn money which they can spend on goods and services.
Primark’s customers will buy the goods provided and also, the government
collects tax from Primark. Primark’s owners are they key stakeholders as they
want and expect good financial performance from their investments in Primark. Stakeholders
are interested in many different topics regarding Primark:

Customers are interested in the quality of the brand and products

Employees are interested in the welfare of the staff (pay, hours

Owners are interested in the amount of profit that Primark are

The government is interested in Primark

Customers – customers are stakeholders of the business as Primark
is serving their needs and they hope that they can continue to be satisfied
with the products. If someone is a regular customer of Primark, it can be
assumed that they are satisfied with the products and service received.

Employees – employees are stakeholders in Primark as they are
providing a service from Primark to the customers. Employees are also
shareholders as they are interested in their welfare (good pay, good hours
etc.) If Primark is successful and continuously making profit, employees have a
good chance in earning higher wages.

Owners/shareholders – owners and shareholders are stakeholders of
Primark as they have invested their money into the business. They will want to
see whether the business is doing well or not. They will want to see how
successful the business is performing, this will indicate to them all the
things they can improve on as a business.

The government – the government are stakeholders as they want the
business to be successful as this will lead to a higher employment rate. A
higher rate of employment will also mean that they government will gain money
from taxing the business.

Ethical  behaviour is
important and is good for business. Ethical behaviour includes integration to
the community, social responsibility, treating suppliers and employees fairly
and having respect for the environment.

Conflicts of Interest between stakeholder groups

Primark needs to balance the aims of a number of stakeholders.
This is sometimes difficult because the interests of stakeholder groups can
conflict with each other. For example, some stakeholders, such as shareholders,
have a financial interest in a business. It is in their interest that they
shares in a business increase in value, so that their investments also
increase. Other stakeholders, such as environmentalists, are people or groups
that actively campaign on issues to do with protecting the natural environment.
If Primark were to successfully launch a new product and everything was going
well, the shareholders will be very pleased that their cash investment looks
like returning a healthy profit. If, however, an environmental groups mounts a
big campaign to prevent this business operating in the way it does, these two
stakeholders are in conflict. Success for environmentalist may mean a loss for


Most large-scale businesses today take their ethical
responsibility very seriously. They are therefore prepared to adapt their
behaviour to avoid accusations of doing wrong.

In the world, the connection through each other is now so much
better than it was 100 years ago. This means the connection to each other is
getting better, giving out messages and keeping each other up to date. For
example, Primark’s headquarters in Ireland will be able to keep up to date on
what’s happening in their factories within seconds. Most of Primark’s are
located in Bangladesh and communication needs to be quick so that if there was
to be a problem, Primark would be able to sort it without physically travelling
to Bangladesh. Primark’s behaviour will need to be positive at all times and
their actions will need to be positive too to keep the business running

The CSR programmes of businesses are a response to the growing
pressure placed on managements to take account of ethical concerns. Therefore
Primark managers have the pressure of ethical pressure as they have to make
sure they are doing business ethically. The benefit for Primark when they are
responding ethically is that they are doing business in the correct manner and
are following laws and regulations. A disadvantage of Primark responding
ethically is that it will be difficult for them to be on top of ethics.

Influence of stakeholders and pressure groups

Corporate social responsibility is partly a response to external
stakeholder pressure, partly a response to pressure group campaigns and partly recognition
that public disapproval could lead to commercial disaster. Many business in pursuit
of their primary goals cause damage to the planet. The stakeholders in this are
all of us. Environmental issues are the focus of several well-known pressure
groups which form to raise awareness of an issue or several issues. The influence
of pressure groups’ activity is significant. Their work attracts much media
attention and government always takes into consideration