IKEA: Saint Or Sinner?

With stories of child labor, intellectual property theft, and ecological damage, figuring out which companies have an ethical business, is challenging. Who should we steer clear of? Which brands can we trust? Amidst these doubts, it's heartening when companies appear to be making a positive difference. IKEA, known for its robust values and the famed "IKEA spirit," appears to be one of these companies. Its founder, Ingvar Kamprad, always stressed the importance of authenticity, driving IKEA to consistently work towards its goal of improving daily life for all. While IKEA frequently discusses its values, what actions are they actually taking? You’ll find an overview in this article.

People

Price Cuts
With the cost of living on the rise, many Americans are feeling the pinch. IKEA has skillfully streamlined its manufacturing and shipping, enabling price reductions on several popular items. Bestsellers like BILLY, VITTSJÖ, and VARDÖ have become more budget-friendly.

IKEA bestseller BILLY
source: Unsplash – IKEA bestseller BILLY


Charitable Collaborations

IKEA is deeply invested in charity. The company partners with local, national, and international organizations in volunteer and disaster relief initiatives. Their significant alliances with UNICEF, Save the Children, and the Red Cross, along with their recent partnership with the homelessness charity Shelter, underscore their commitment to social causes.

Dedication To LGBTQ+ Inclusion
IKEA’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion goes beyond the occasional Pride-themed merchandise. The company has contributed to the UN’s anti-discrimination code of conduct for LGBTQ+ individuals in society and the workplace. It has rolled out a global LGBTQ+ inclusion strategy and sells rainbow bags, donating a portion of the proceeds to LGBTQ+ organizations.

The ‘Tack!’ Loyalty Program
Annually, IKEA allocates a share of its profits to the pension plans of its employees worldwide, under the Ingka Group, its largest franchisee. This bonus, equal for all irrespective of rank or salary, acknowledges employees’ contributions to IKEA’s success. Since its launch in 2013, the Tack! (“thanks” in Swedish) program has distributed over 8.3 billion Swedish kronor.

Planet

Pre-Owned Furniture
Since 2021, all IKEA stores in Sweden have featured a circular shop, promoting sustainability by giving products a second life. This initiative helps customers reuse their unwanted items and offers bargain hunting. Most IKEA stores worldwide have a circular section as well, selling returned, showroom, or slightly imperfect items at a discount. IKEA not only promotes the sale of pre-owned furniture in its own stores but also encourages customers to use other circular platforms for this purpose. For instance, IKEA in the Netherlands recently advertised on the country’s largest circular platform to promote second-hand IKEA furniture, aiming to increase awareness about product longevity and sustainable consumption. According to their sustainability plan, IKEA plans to manufacture all its products from recycled or renewable materials by the next decade.

Plant-Based Menu Options
IKEA’s eateries cater to everyone, including those on plant-based diets. Their expanding menu of vegetarian and vegan options promotes more sustainable eating habits. The newest addition is a plant-based sausage available with their iconic IKEA hotdog.

plantbased IKEA hotdog
source: IKEA Media Library – plantbased IKEA hotdog


Expanded EV Charging Stations

Complementing its circular shops and plant-based menus, IKEA is also enhancing access to sustainable living by expanding electric vehicle charging stations at its locations. Starting in spring 2023, these charging stations are powered exclusively by renewable energy.

Is Everything As It Appears?

With all the aforementioned initiatives, IKEA certainly seems like a force for good. However, IKEA’s past isn’t without controversy. The company has faced significant criticism. For example, it was revealed that IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, had past ties to the Swedish Nazi party SSS (Svensk Socialistisk Samling) and sympathized with Nazi ideologies during his youth. This revelation cast doubt on IKEA’s commitment to equality and diversity. Kamprad later disavowed his Nazi associations and expressed remorse. In 2012, IKEA faced backlash for removing women from catalog images in Saudi Arabia, an incident later condemned by IKEA’s communications head. Additionally, allegations surfaced that IKEA’s subcontractors engaged in illegal logging in Ukrainian forests under false pretenses. In response, IKEA committed to investigating these claims and addressing any issues.

IKEA Museum: Past, Present, And Future

Interested or curious about the company? The IKEA Museum in Älmhult, Sweden, is the place to visit. Opened in 2016, it’s not just about IKEA’s history and designs; it offers workshops, delicious food, and various activities. Visitors can explore IKEA’s evolution from its beginnings to its future aspirations. If a trip to Sweden isn’t feasible, their online museum offers a glimpse of the IKEA experience from anywhere.

Florence Stroink