There has been much discussion over the past few years about whether or not IKEA and its products and practices are sustainable, so I thought I’d chip in my two cents. Here are the the primary points of each side of the argument:
Yes, IKEA is Sustainable:
- IKEA has policies and practices in place to ensure the materials they purchase are from suppliers that have fair labor practices and forestry operations that do not participate in illegal logging. They have also placed emphasis on procurement of organic products for their food operations.
- IKEA practically pioneered the “flat pack” box which not only helps consumers haul their purchases home, but also allows IKEA to transport their products to their stores more efficiently, saving carbon emissions in the process. IKEA also deliberately engineers their products to require as little packaging as possible.
- IKEA has been ahead of the game in reducing the amount of Urea Formaldehyde in their composite wood products. Similarly, IKEA uses chlorine-free paper for their catalogs, avoids optical brighteners in bedding and other textiles, and has completely banned the use of PVC except in electrical cords.
- IKEA has made deliberate steps away from incandescent lighting, promoting compact fluorescent bulbs as well as newer, LED strategies.
- IKEA has recently launched a plan to install solar panel arrays on 150 stores. They also use geo-exchange heating and cooling systems on several stores to reduce energy consumption.
- IKEA has two LEED certified stores in the United States
- IKEA has comprehensive plans and partnerships to address social responsibility from annual drives to provide disadvantaged children with soft toys and solar lamps to tree planting campaigns and work with UNICEF and the World Wildlife Fund.
No, IKEA is not sustainable:
- IKEA is about low cost home goods and “cheap” products do not last, which will eventually contribute to this countries growing landfills. Buying products that last a life time is inherently a more sustainable choice
- IKEA has a habit of locating their stores in suburbs, rather than urban centers, which results in higher emissions from shoppers traveling to the stores
- While IKEA has requirements for suppliers to follow requiring fair employee treatment and raw material harvesting, they lack the workforce necessary to oversee and enforce these policies
- IKEA is quick to talk about past accomplishments, but reluctant to talk about future plans. What are their future goals?
So, what does it all mean? To me, it means that while IKEA has made some great strides in improving their products and processes since beginning to push sustainability n 1999, like other large retailers they still have work to do. In fact, IKEA has recently admitted that becoming more sustainable is a never-ending job. To help document the strides they have made, they have recently launched the “never-ending list“, which is a list of sustainability accomplishments large and small. The IKEA critics do have some valid points, and IKEA would be smart to work to address them, but overall I can shop at IKEA and still sleep at night.
Want to read more? Below are some additional resources on this topic:
“Buy to Last” : Article in the Atlantic about how IKEA is not sustainable
“Is it Green?”: Post on inhabitat about IKEA