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Ikea: Affordable and Environmentally Friendly?

Ikea: Affordable and Environmentally Friendly?

While there will always be disputes between the lovers and haters of Ikea, this international manufacturer has been making strides since 2000 towards environmental responsibility. With over 200 stores worldwide and around 10,000 products, Ikea’s commitment to sustainability is a great example for other large retail stores.

The Ikea Way on Purchasing Home Furnishing Products (IWAY), created in 2000, not only outlines things like child labor and minimum wage, but also responsibility for waste, emissions and the handling of chemicals. Third-party auditors complete over 1,000 audits a year to ensured all suppliers are following the guidelines. Audits are also done for all of Ikea’s wood suppliers to make sure that all meet the minimum requirements which include no illegaly harvested trees, no harvesting in uncertified intact forests and no GM trees. Currently 94% of Ikea’s suppliers meet the minimum requirements, with a growing number of suppliers becoming FSC (Forest Stewardship Counsel) certified. Ikea’s long-term forestry goals aim for 35 percent of its suppliers attaining this certification [Source: Ikea]. To be FSC certified, these suppliers must follow the FSC principles:

   1. Prohibit conversion of forests or any other natural habitat
   2. Respect of international workers rights
   3. Respect of Human Rights with particular attention to indigenous peoples
   4. Prohibit the use of hazardous chemicals
   5. No corruption – follow all applicable laws
   6. Identification and appropriate management of areas that need special protection (e.g. cultural or sacred sites, habitat of endangered animals or plants) [Source: Forest Stewardship Counsel]

While wood does make a large part of Ikea’s products, the company is also looking to eventually phase out the use of raw materials by creating new techniques to combat this problem. A good example of this is the like board-on-frame that puts a core of stiff card between thin sheets of wood. Similar techniques will be applied to Ikea, and eventually solid wood will be phased out [Source: Inhabitat].

Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, but another major hurdle Ikea faces is it’s carbon footprint. Packaging, production, transportation and maintenance all contribute to CO2 emissions, around 27 million tons in fact. In order to combat this problem, Ikea is employing several techniques. First, Ikea has announced that they will completely phase out incandescent bulbs by 2011. Ikea stores already offer a wide range of CFLs and LEDs and will offer halogen lights in Fall 2010. Not only does this make Ikea the first retail store to phase out the bulb, they are phasing it out before the federal legislation date of 2012 [Source: Treehugger]. Recent investment in startup green companies with the focus on five key areas: solar panels, alternative light sources, product materials, energy efficiency, and water saving and purification. Ikea hopes to offer consumer grade solar panels, smart meters and other technology at affordable prices in their stores.  And since Ikea also makes pre-fab houses, there is the opportunity to incorporate these technologies directly in these units [Source: Environmental Leader].

Of course, Ikea isn’t pushing all the responsibility on the consumer, they are pushing to have all factories running off 100 percent renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency by 30 percent and install solar panels on 30-40 stores [Source: Inhabitat]. Their responsibility also extends to the consumers with the removal harmful chemicals from their items like ‘copper chrome arsenic’ (CCA), antimony compounds and PVC (with the exception of electrical cables). Other chemicals like formaldehyde is a restricted substance allowed in small quantities for wood products and much stricter levels for textiles [Source: Treehugger].

Ikea’s efforts are encouraging, however there are still flaws in their ideas. Completely phasing out solid wood could have the effect of creating more junk in landfills. Solid wood furniture lasts for hundreds of years if well cared for or properly restored, Ikea furniture does not have this longevity. With Ikea’s continual growth, their carbon footprint has also increased 13 percent since 2006 despite their efforts. Still, Ikea’s commitment running a sustainable company could go a long way in pushing other companies to follow suit.

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Jasmine Greene

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7:07AM PST on Nov 22, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

12:26AM PDT on Aug 24, 2012

Thanks for sharing this important info. I just received the new IKEA catalogue just a few days ago. I do not like every single product they have, but I do enjoy some parts of their style, and I am planning on visiting my local IKEA mall soon, as a lot of time passed since I last bought something from them.
Even though IKEA has still some issues, its concrete efforts and constant commitment are remarkable and an example for every other large company. Very appreciated.

5:07PM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

Thanks for the info...but if the product doesn't last, all you are doing is just buying next year's garbage.

9:01AM PDT on Aug 23, 2010

thanks for trying ikea! that's more that we can say for most others.

1:32PM PDT on Aug 4, 2010

While I don't personal;y care for IKEA's furniture styles I am impressed by their efforts to reduce negative environmental impact.

12:14PM PDT on Aug 2, 2010

Corporate social and environmental responsibility is an important concept. While IKEA might not have the solution for everything and not all its steps are necessarily beneficial, at least this article shows that they are taking their responsibility seriously and trying to do something positive.

1:05AM PDT on Aug 2, 2010

One of the only large producer of furniture that is even mentioning any carbon footprint of tits actions let alone actually DOING it. Outgassing of their furniture is common though, being made of pressed woods and their is a signifigant amount of flame retardant on ALL furniture and childrens bedding items at IKEA and all stores in CAlifornia due to laws enforcing its use. Overall a model store one which stands for oversight and improvement along with financial growth.

10:10PM PDT on Jul 21, 2010

I have been to the IKEA here in the Northern Suburbs of Chicago.
Its huge and I just do not care for it. The furniture is sub par and to add to the misery you have to put it together. I refuse to do so and have stopped purchasing furniture there. I will buy items that do not need to be assembled, though (but not that many can be bought with no assembly needed). The other issue I have with IKEA is that as I get older the store is just too big to get around in(for me).
Overall the furniture is sub par (I would not buy anything for college bound kids as it is far from sturdy) For young kids the same issue, it looks nice and 6 months later it needs to be tossed and buy something to replace it.
As for any green ideas I am not sure if anything can be called green if you have to replace it once or more a year.

6:40AM PDT on Jul 21, 2010

I now have a new opinion of Ikea. I formerly thought all they sold was cheap junk. I'm glad they are trying to be environmentally responsible.

4:28PM PDT on Jul 20, 2010

It's nice to see that Ikea is trying to hard to be environmentally-friendly.

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