The case study of Primark does present them in a somewhat angelic light. The brand appears to be high-end fashion at low cost to the consumer. This is more often than not accomplished by sweatshop labor, child labor, unlivable wages for employees, and other seedy practices. How does Primark do it? The case study says that they have very high ethical standards and closely monitor the steps of production to ensure ethical practices.
The only issue that I find with the information presented in this case study is the lack of concrete details or examples. For instance, there is a section titled “Auditing and compliance”. The author talks about who an auditor is and what they do in general. What audits have been done recently? What were the findings? And even more unimpressive was the statement: often factories need support and training to implement changes to their factories that are permanent and effective” (Ethics in Practice: Providing consumers with ethically sourced garments, 2012). What are some examples of those training techniques or types of support they have available? We are simply left wondering.
In my research I found that Primark has been accused of child labor violations. Although substantial evidence was never produced to corroborate the claims a BBC Trustee went on the record as saying that there was “evidence else that Primark was contravening its own ethical guidelines…. [and] there was clear evidence that work was being outsourced from factories in India in contravention of Primark’s own ethical trading principles” (Sweney, 2011). This does not incontrovertibly prove anything, nevertheless there does appear to be something going on behind the scenes at Primark. Vague reports and general statements about ethical practices do not mean that strict practices are not enforced however, I am inclined to believe that they may be doing the bare minimum or skirting around the issue by not directing purchasing or participating in the unethical behaviors.
After reading the case study and a few other reports about Primark and their business practices, one thing is clear. They should have an outside company come in and complete an exhaustive audit of internal corporate practices. A special training may need to be done to enlighten employees about current Primark procedures and policies. The lecture this week mentioned that the construction of policies is only half the battle. Primark may have great ethical policies in place but improper training compounded by greed may be to blame for the suspicions surrounding the company’s ethical standing in recent years. They may need to fight the other half of the battle: training knowledgeable and ethical employees.
Ethics in Practice: Providing consumers with ethically sourced garments. (2012). Retrieved October 18, 2012, from The Times 100: Business Case Studies: http://businesscasestudies.co.uk/primark/providing-consumers-with-ethically-sourced-garments/ethics-in-practice.html
Sweney, M. (2011, June 16). Primark legal chief claims BBC made firm 'poster boy of child labour'. Retrieved October 18, 2012, from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jun/16/bbc-primark-child-labour?intcmp=239