Tuesday, September 18, 2007,4:39 PM
Shopping at IKEA
So I really like shopping at IKEA. If you visit my house that fact would be obvious since almost all my furniture, curtains, and decor come from IKEA. It's not that I just really love assembling my own furniture or furnishing an entire room for the cost of just one item anywhere else, it's the way the company respects its customers, its workers, and the environment.

I know that IKEA is a business and they do business very well. But while most businesses are cutting whatever corners they can to increase their profits, IKEA seems to go out of its way to provide amenities for its customers. Free childcare while you shop, nursing rooms, diaper dispensers in the bathrooms, bottle warmers, babyfood for sale, and free milk and cookies for kids in the afternoons (not to mention a fantastic cafeteria) - can you tell I'm a mom?. Sure they are all gimmicks, but it makes being there a pleasant experience.

But beyond that, IKEA has committed to being socially and environmentally responsible. As Emma and I ate lunch there today (she calls it the "meatball store"), I noticed that all of their trash cans (as opposed to recycle cans) were labeled "Landfill Waste." I like that. Where else will you be reminded of the end result of what you are throwing away? But they also are committed to creating furniture from sustainable sources and not using unfair labor practices. You can read their environmental reports on their websites. I'm sure that they aren't perfect, but its nice to see a company that cares about these things. A company that (as they put it) is committed to "low price but not at any price." They say -
For more than 60 years IKEA has been working on ways of creating low prices – purchasing as inexpensively as possible, building our own stores, flat-packing furniture for customers to put together themselves.

But our ambition doesn´t stop there. We also want the products we sell to be free from hazardous substances. And we don´t want the wood in bookcases, tables or other products in the store to come from areas where forests are being devastated.

All IKEA suppliers must follow certain fundamental rules. Working conditions must be acceptable, child labor is not tolerated and suppliers must adopt a responsible attitude to the environment.

I am the first to admit that their furniture isn't the nicest out there and easily shows wear and tear. It won't last generations to be passed down as heirloom furniture. I hear a lot about buying stuff that will last or getting good used stuff. I see the logic there, but comparatively the ethical choice isn't always so clear. So I buy cheap furniture at IKEA that was made in a socially and environmentally responsible way, but it won't last forever. I could have bought really expensive hardwood antique furniture that was made from US companies barging into countries like Haiti and clearcutting their hardwood forests. Haiti still hasn't recovered economically or environmentally from the US sanctioned rape of their land and resources. Give the bigger picture, which is the more ethical choice?

And so I shop at IKEA. I like supporting business practices I agree with. And where else can you get meatballs and gravalox for lunch?

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posted by Julie at 4:39 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/18/2007 05:16:00 PM, Blogger Erin

    Thanks for your thoughts on that, Julie. We *JUST* got an Ikea here - it just opened like 6 weeks ago. I haven't been in it yet, but I appreciate knowing the things you have shared here and I'm going to make a point to check it out soon.

  • At 9/19/2007 12:45:00 AM, Blogger Pastor Astor

    Being a Swede, I really like this post! :)
    It is intersting, too, that Ikea is a family business - they haven't put the company out on the stock market. Kamprad (the founder) says that the main reason is that being owned by stockholders would mean they couldn´t do the stuff they have done, like launching 20 stores in Russia. Kamprad is a very humble guy, still driving a 20 yo old Volvo. When asked if he is proud the company, he answered "I have done a lot of mistakes, too".

  • At 9/19/2007 06:44:00 AM, Anonymous Rehanne

    Kind of weird, there was a furniture post on Echidne of the Snakes today, too, specifically mentioning IKEA . . .

  • At 9/20/2007 07:49:00 AM, Blogger Dori

    We like cheap, cool-looking, well-designed furniture and fixtures that we can change out rather frequently and so love Ikea...so thank you for being reminded of how green and how human they are...also about Kamprad, the owner! I've shopped at the one in Calgary and Chicago...I only wish we had one in Kansas City!

  • At 9/21/2007 10:25:00 AM, Blogger paul

    as i sit in my ikea chair writing this - i have to agree - they do a great job for families and seem to have got a fair idea of what their environmental and social impact is...

  • At 9/22/2007 03:59:00 PM, Blogger Maria

    Thanks, Julie. I've been agonizing over whether attempting to pursue ethical consumption (I like your phrase, BTW) is worth the extra bucks. Sometimes it might just be the cheaper alternative.

  • At 9/25/2007 04:48:00 AM, Blogger rodney

    I live in the cultural backwater of N ireland - WE ARE ABOUT TO GET OUR FIRST IKEA STORE. This has caused great excitment and anticipation for so many people in NI.


    IKEA has a wonderful brand name!!!!


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