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It's true! Primark Beauty are now cruelty free. I was kindly invited to go to a  fancy-pants brunch celebrating the announcement that all Primark own-brand makeup, skincare and haircare has officially been Leaping Bunny Certified. This is amazing news as it means that at no stage in the development and production process of P.S. Beauty are animals tested on. Suppliers of the ingredients that go into products are also independently audited by Cruelty Free International to make sure no animal testing occurs during the production stages of the ingredients either. Pretty sweet, huh? 

To see my vlog on the announcement + the chat with Cruelty Free International CEO Michelle Thew,  click here

Read on for more chat about the announcement itself and the related debate within the cruelty free / conscious consumer community. As well as a little insight into the [somewhat constant] debate inside my head.  

Here comes the disclaimer you've been waiting for, because I think it's necessary for this particular announcement. When you hear the word Primark, there are many things that may pop into your head. The continual refreshing of stock, knock-offs of the latest trends and fads, rows after rows of plastic-y smelling shoes, uncomfortably busy changing rooms... the fastest of fast fashion at the lowest of prices. Bargains galore.

But I would be highly surprised if the thought of sustainable fashion crossed your mind when you think of Primark - unless it was about how highly unsustainable the brand's business model is. Sustainability is totally not their niche. It's just not. They may make incremental improvements, introducing recycling here and there and so on. But they are not set up to be sustainable. *Here comes the business graduate spiel* . . . Primarni pretty much ticks along due to them pursuing a strategy of cost leadership, meaning that their supply chains are specifically designed to be low cost and highly efficient in terms of logistics. Strategic buying allows the brand to offer high volumes of stock at very low prices. This is therefore effective because it undercuts other high street fashion retailers in price. People buy from Primark primarily because of the price, not the quality or longevity (both of which are part-and-parcel of fashion sustainability) of their clothing.

Then we have ethics. Ethical fashion and sustainable fashion may overlap, but they are not the same thing. Much the same as how cruelty free and vegan makeup are two different categories but often overlap commercially, ethical and sustainable fashion are frequently lumped together when, in reality, they are two separate areas of corporate responsibility. For instance, a brand can be ethical in terms of the treatment of their employees but their production techniques may be damaging to the environment, and vise versa. I feel that it is better to talk about both separately in order to get a true grasp on a brand's ethos. In the case of Primark, it is definitely worth doing so.

Because it should be noted that Primark were producing clothes in the factory that was the site of the tragic Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in April 2013. Some 1,100 workers died in this tragedy and around 2,000 were injured. If you know anything about sustainable or ethical fashion you will likely be familiar with this event as it acted as the wakeup call that many consumers and producers needed to take a step back and think: damn... what are we doing?  Primark was one of many brands who subsequently signed up to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh in order to move towards making amends to their supply chain. So yes. There's a brief background on Primark's ethics. 

With all this said, you may be thinking to yourself... Becky.. gurl.... why on Earth are you supporting this brand? Doesn't it go against your own personal morals? Well, yes. Yes and no.

Because there are two main types of change in business: radical and incremental. Radical change involves completely rearranging the business structure, model and company culture. For example, a particularly unsustainable and unethical brand may decide it wants to improve its ethics and sustainability. If the brand took a radical change approach, they would completely rework their connections to suppliers, the links between these (e.g. transport logistics), change their commercial brand ethos and internal company culture, and possibly also completely redesign the management of their operations. As you may have guessed, not only is the radical change described incredibly expensive and takes a long time, it's also often pretty difficult to get top management on board with authorising the change if they aren't convinced of the long term benefits. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?  

Of course, the rationale behind such change is that the money spent initially will later be saved and earn the business more custom in the long term as social norms and demands on businesses change with time. But the upfront monetary cost of this approach means that many businesses instead choose to change incrementally which is why this approach is more common. When you hear of a mainstream brand vowing to go cruelty free? That's an example of incremental change. It is a strategic choice by the brand because branding their range as cruelty free is commercially viable. As much as I wish I could tell you it's because the brand loves animols...... it's usually just so they can use it as a marketing tool. Which is fine! At the end of the day, I don't care why a brand vows to stop funding animal testing, as long as they do it. I just want animols out of cages and into loving homes or out in the wild where they belong.

I have taken the time to type out all of these rambling because I feel that Primark going cruelty free is a prime example of an incremental change towards being a more ethical (though not necessarily sustainable) brand. And I applaud this change. I really truly do. I think that every little change towards a more kind world should be celebrated, respected, shouted about from the rooftops. Credit where credit is due in my view. 

But that is only my opinion. And I totally get that some people won't agree with that and I am totally cool with that. Open communication about my internal moral debate when choosing to raise awareness of different brands going cruelty free is really important in my eyes. Did I have reservations when Primark reached out to let me know about their new cruelty free accreditation? Sure. Of course I did. At the end of the day, fancy-pants brunches are all well and good but behind the pretty flowery pictures - and the quite frankly *delicious* olive bread - I know the morals that I live my life by and make my purchases according to, and I am happy with them. I do not want animols to be harmed for the purpose of my makeup bag and I'm continually striving to be the best version of myself I can be, but I also have to remember that I am only one person and it is not attainable for me to be an entirely ethical or perfect consumer. I make no illusions about this. 

I want to continue to communicate honestly with all of you whenever one of these dilemmas comes into my mind, whenever I have to weigh up the costs and benefits of a purchase or an online endorsement (and I say endorsement here and not sponsorship because I'm not paid to do any of this. But when I post about a particular brand on my blog or channel or instagram, it is a form of endorsement in terms of the implied support from me of their ethos/ethics). Overall, I've kinda conclude that this just is life as a 'conscious consumer' who documents their journey online. It seems to be a series of continual trade-offs with us just trying to make the best decision given that particular circumstance and given our accessibility and means. We do what we can where we can. And that is enough :-) 


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