22 January 2010 | Jake Kanter

Low-cost clothing chain Primark has “significantly ramped up” its ethical purchasing activities, an investigation commissioned by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) found.

The probe, carried out by independent auditors, concluded the retailer had recruited ethical trade staff, introduced updated responsible procurement standards and provided training for buyers and vendors.

It follows allegations made by the Observer and the BBC last year about poor worker conditions at Primark’s Manchester-based vendor TNS Knitwear.

Dan Rees, director of ETI, said: "Primark has made enormous strides over the past 12 months and, while there is still a great deal of work left to do, given the pace of improvement and the resources now committed, we are satisfied that Primark is committed to a robust and credible ethical trade strategy.”

In a statement, Primark welcomed the findings and set out further ethical trade targets. The firm aims to increase its team of eight ethical trade managers to 15 this year and will launch a website for suppliers to provide them with training tools and guides.

The retailer, which is owned by Associated British Foods, spends around £700 million in developing countries and nearly doubled the number of vendor audits it conducted last year to 1,080.

Primark’s ethical trade director Katherine Kirk told a CIPS/Traidcraft conference last week that she wanted the firm to publish a complete list of suppliers on its website in the next five years. She said this would build transparency and help stamp out bad practice.

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