Will IKEA Become Sustainable?


IKEA, the archetypical global retailer used as a clear example for promoting a consumer throw-away society, would like us to think again. Now, IKEA is launching a sustainability product score card that could positively alter the supply chain and its effects on the global community. Maybe the image of the right to pollute at a consumption level for which IKEA provides a global standard will need to be re-evaluated.

The IKEA Sustainability Product Score Card gives products a rating based on 11 criteria which are listed below. This supports IKEA’s long-term corporate direction to make sustainability an integral part of the business. The 11 criteria are connected to the different stages in the life of a product: raw material, manufacturing, distribution, use and end-of-life.

By 2015, IKEA wants 90 per cent of its sales of home items to be classified as “more sustainable” according to its internal scorecard used for guiding both product development and purchasing. IKEA’s aim of rolling out increasingly more sustainable low price goods bodes well for the uptake of more sustainable supply chain practices around the world. Especially in view of greater environmental awareness and an incumbent rise in IKEA’s global reach that puts pressure on planetary resources.

IKEA is describing an encouraging path but there is still a long way to go. Although according to IKEA the share of renewable materials used is at around 70 per cent –mainly cotton and wood – the company has as yet far to go in terms of the recyclability of their product range. An example of an area open for development is the use of durable bio-plastics produced with local waste materials. Although the supply-side management sounds positive, IKEA is unlikely to rock the boat when it comes to the drivers of consumerism.

IKEA does have a website in Sweden that lets people buy and sell used IKEA products, the success of this policy would be strengthened if a selection of the product line were to include more durable products that could be re-sold with greater ease and could support a scheme by which items could be up-graded by IKEA itself.

What must be mentioned is that although IKEA’s premise to produce items that are affordable to most people around the world seems lofty, these goods are largely consumables and not categorised as being fundamental to the enhancement of individual’s quality of life. The larger amounts of products that are produced, consumed and disregarded add to climate change and environmental pressures. The way IKEA structures and sells its product encourages the throw-away society and goes against the grain of a more sustainable global community. Tackling some of the demand side issues would strengthen IKEA’s credibility from a sustainable point of view, but taking a pragmatic approach, IKEA’s sustainability product score is indeed very welcome.

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The criteria for IKEA’s internal sustainability product score card are:

1. Less material
2. Renewable materials
3. Recycled materials
4. Environmentally better materials
5. Separable and recyclable
6. Quality
7. Transport efficient
8. Energy-efficient production
9. Renewable energy in production
10. Raw material
11. Ensuring that products help customers to reduce energy, water or waste in their homes

It is a subjective scorecard weighted according to preferences, which provides a scale that assumes a top score that can not be realised – completely sustainable. The scorecard can be best explained using an example. The newly designed table lamp incorporates a wider base to increase stability to avoid the use of a weight (a metal plate) to hold the lamp upright and a rectangular flat cloth that acts like a lamp shade when put together with Velcro (thus stackable). That has decreased the material use and weight of the product as well as increased the amount of lamps being transported in a container which has reduced the price of transportation. The lamp constituents are designed to come apart with ease and are thus easier to recycle, in turn making the item more sustainable and cheaper.

Read more: IKEA Sustainability Report

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On a personal note, my recent planned quick exit from the IKEA premises following a tea and a sandwich caused a near confrontation with the security guards. Seeing no direct exit from the cafeteria at IKEA I tried to exit as a customer entered the premises and was faced with approaching guards and a loud alarm bell that made me retreat with slight embarrassment into the wonderland of IKEA. Not wanting to be defeated, I did not walk were the path could lead, nicely between stacks of seductive items, but found my path hidden secretly behind one of the walls, shortcutting my way to the exit doors and out into the sunlight.

Author: Alexandra Hayles
Source: Worldwatch Institute Europe
Original: http://bit.ly/r613lD


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