Examine the ethical concerns of the communities in which Primark operates. M3 – Explain the ethical concerns of the communities in which Primark operates and suggest measures that could be taken to improve corporate responsibility. As Primark is a multi-national company there are many communities around them that will be concerned with the way that Primark operates and if they are being ethical or not because Primark brings jobs to local and regional communities meaning that they are important to improving the community and they are also important to the community as a whole because they contribute to the country’s GDP. In the UK, communities may have the concern that Primark is not acting ethically within their area, many people in the UK are concerned with Ethical trading and will not shop in certain places if they feel like the company is not acting ethically. By having a Primark store in a town this will enable more jobs to come up in that area which is good for the community, however some people may be concerned that a Primark store could make the towns too busy and therefore there will be an effect on the environment if more people are using cars in that area. Primark is trying to work with students in the UK to teach them more about ethical issues and how these can be resolved so that they can show that they are trying to act as ethically as possible within these communities.
Primark is currently running a project with Aylesbury High School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. The aim of this project is to provide a gateway for students and also teachers to access in order to gain more knowledge about ethical trading and ethical issues. This shows that Primark are aiming to spread the message about ethical trading among younger people which means that the students at the schools will have better morals and values regarding ethical issues. The Schools Project is not only ran by Primark but there are many external partners who take part in the Project as well such as campaigning groups and other voluntary organisations meaning that the students can take part in debates about controversial and complex issues, this means that they will be able to understand more about the importance of ethical issues for different people. The Project means that Primark is helping the community as a whole because this message will be passed around the community and it shows that Primark cares about all different types of people.
I think that Primark could improve this area of ethical concern by not only teaching students within the schools what ethical issues there are and how these can be resolved but they should hold meetings with council members so that they can tell the council members how they are going to improve their work within the communities and how they will help the environment, this means that the council can relate this message back to the people living within the communities. On Primark’s website in the ethical trading section they state that they receive many requests and questions from students in schools and they try to reply to and take into account as many as possible of these. It is because of this that Primark has provided case studies for the Times 100 which can be used in schools to help the education regarding ethical issues and Primarks corporate social responsibility. As Primark works globally by having factories and suppliers in different countries, particularly in Bangladesh and India there are many projects and initiatives that Primark are working on such as the sustainable cotton project. Primark have decided to develop a project that means that Primark works with farmers and other organisations to help support the programmes that are aiming to grow more sustainable cotton which helps to improve the lives of the people who depend on cotton.
The main aim of the cotton programme is to improve the working conditions and livelihoods of the farmers who grow the cotton plants and their use of pesticides as Primark will give the farmers education about how this could be causing health problems and may also end up with the farmers not being able to make as good a quality of cotton by using them. From April of this year Primark are enrolling on a three year programme in China in a partnership with a company called CottonConnect, this programme will see the partnership working with the smaller cotton farmers and there workers, the aim of the programme is to improve the lives of the farm owners and the workers on the farms and their families by putting them through more training which would result in the farms being able to reduce their costs and will enable them to produce more. It teaches the farmers about environmental, social and economic factors such as water efficiency, health, and safety and labour conditions. This shows that Primark has concerns about the livelihoods of the communities that they are working in however I feel like they could improve this by branching the programme out into more communities around the world such as in India and Bangladesh rather than just focusing on China.
Other communities that will be concerned with the way that Primark are working are pressure groups such as Greenpeace. Greenpeace and other environmental pressure groups aim to force environmental issues into the public’s eye to make the public more aware of these issues and to pressure businesses into ensuring that they are working ethically. Greenpeace are a group that is committed to stopping climate change which is caused by the burning of oils, coals and gas. They investigate into how companies get their energy sources and confront the companies that are using unethical sources of energy including nuclear power. To help work alongside environmental pressure groups Primark are now in the process of operating “Green Stores”. There is currently a model ‘Green Store’ which is helping Primark test the low-carbon technologies so they can work out the best strategy for them to use to lower their energy use. The first model store was opened in 2010 and was designed to reduce the Co2 emissions that the store uses by 40%, to do this they have implemented low energy lighting, sustainable timber and efficient chillers. Alongside this there are other things that Primark are doing in their other stores to help reduce their energy use such as operating a closed front door policy, this means that the amount of energy such as heat that gets lost through the front doors being opened is reduced meaning the stores do not have to use as much energy.
All the stores also contain infra-red sensors in the staffing areas, this means that lighting and air conditioning is only used when there are people in them, this means that the energy used in these rooms is not going to waste by lighting the rooms when it is unnecessary. Any new stores that are opening will be using low energy lighting which has been shown to save up to 20% energy and 80% of all Primark stores have a BEMS (Building Energy Management Systems) in place, the systems are there to monitor the lighting and heating levels within the stores to ensure that there is no wasted energy within these stores. I think that Primark are showing that they do care about the environment by introducing these new ways of reducing the energy that they are using within their stores. However I do think that they could improve this by ensuring that 100% of all their stores operates the low energy lighting instead of just new stores as this would significantly reduce the energy used on lighting within Primark as a whole instead of just ensuring that the new stores are energy efficient. I also think that all of the Primark stores should introduce the BEMS systems instead of just 80% as this would also make a significant difference and it would also help Primark because the systems would be working out their energy usage for them meaning it would be easier for Primark to reduce these numbers.
Another way that Primark could improve the way they are working with the environment is to speed up the process of introducing green stores, as the model stores have currently been running for 3years, it would also become a good business tool for Primark to have all their stores as green stores because it would mean that they are reaching out to a new market of customer, those who care about the environment and prefer to shop in stores that are actively reducing the amount of carbon emissions that they are putting into the environment. In today’s society ethical issues are not only being looked at by individual countries but countries all over the world are looking into the actions of businesses. The governments within the UK oversee all the activities of UK businesses, to improve the ethical work of the businesses they have tried to set laws to cover as many ethical areas as possible such as the FSA (financial services authority) this regulates all of the financial aspects of UK businesses to ensure that businesses are declaring all of the money that they are making, and that they are paying the correct taxes, this is relevant for Primark because they must ensure that they can prove to the FSA that they are working ethically in terms of how they are making and using their money.
There is also the Food standards agency and the advertising standards authority, the food standards agency works to ensure that all businesses are only selling the foods that they claim to be selling and are not putting any of their consumers at any risk of any health implications, an example of when the food standards agency have had to intervene is with the horse meat scandal which originated when horse meat was found in some of Tesco’s beef ready meals, since then many other products were found to have contained meat that was not declared on the ingredients section of the product. The advertising standards authority ensures that any adverts that organisations use are not offensive to anybody and that they do not contain sexual or violent references and they do not promote drug or alcohol abuse. This would only be relevant to Primark if they decided to start advertising themselves as a brand. The United Nations has also set up regulations and standards that businesses should adhere to, the United Nations is made up of 191 countries worldwide. It aims to ensure that people around the world are being treated equally and fairly and are not having their human rights abused by businesses. Primark have taken into account the livelihoods of their oversees workers by ensuring that they do not work with suppliers that use child labour and disagreeable working conditions for their workers. In 2009 Primark cut their contracts with 3 different suppliers after learning that they were allowing children and other unauthorised people to work within the factories.
However Primark could have handled this situation better by working with the suppliers first to try and improve the working conditions of these factories, including giving the owners and senior management of the factories the correct education so that they would understand why it is unacceptable to use child labour, it could have been that these suppliers needed more support by Primark to ensure that they could successfully run and be able to afford to run without the need of using children and unauthorised workers in the factories. However Primark have learnt from, this after receiving a massive backlash of angry people after the situation occurs and they are now part of the ETI (ethical trading initiative) which helps companies run as ethically as possible and part of this is working with suppliers and factories in other countries improve their working conditions to ensure that the workers there get fair wages and are legally allowed to work including no child labour. The world health organisation was derived from the United Nations policies and it aims to improve the physical, mental and social well-being of workers across the world. It helps with funding for international health research and monitors the standards of health across the world.
Primark has set up HER-project which aims to primarily improve the health of the female workers within the factories that they work with, they have chosen to focus mainly on the female population as they make up the majority of the workforce within the suppliers. The project educates the female workers in terms of their health and safety so that they can also teach this information to their families. I think that Primark could improve this by also setting up a project that focuses of the male members of the workforce, I think it would be a good idea for the projects t run side by side each other as there are different things that reach gender should be aware of such as the females being taught about menstruation and pregnancy as these are dangerous factors for the women living I these environments, however the male members of the workforce should also be taught how to look out for their bodies as this would reduce the risks of diseases and viruses being spread among the communities.