My Thoughts on Supporting IKEA
My Thoughts on Supporting IKEA
by Melissa Caputo,
MAD Market CEO
So IKEA has been getting a lot of buzz in the conscious consumer community for their new eco initiatives. When I first heard about it, while of course happy to see movement in the right direction, I was skeptical and still had (have, actually) many questions. I've been going through all my concerns and the pros and cons of supporting IKEA in my head, so I figured I'd share them with you and get your input.
To be clear, I'm still researching these topics: I'm reading through the documents IKEA provides, reading outside reports and I will hopefully be meeting with someone at our local IKEA. So feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on anything. But these are my initial thoughts:
The positives of supporting IKEA
Rewarding changes toward eco-friendly and fair practices
Giving a more accessible option to consumers
My concerns with supporting IKEA:
Lack of third party verification
Lack of standards for VOCs and other chemicals
Low product quality
Few products actually reflecting significant eco solutions
For more information about my view on supporting unethical parent companies, read my other article: Come at Me Bro.
If we want big companies, or really any companies, to transition into better practices, we're going to have to reward them for the steps they take. The fact is, most companies won't be able to fully transition into all ethical, sustainable practices over night. Especially a massive company like IKEA. We want to encourage them, pay the likely slightly elevated prices and buy the products that are made right (and only those products). This will tell them that they're on the right path and to keep going. Don't believe this is true? IKEA claims a massive boost in revenue since making these moves toward sustainability, despite the large initial investment. Money speaks to companies, and it seems IKEA has gotten the message. Will this idea then spill over to other companies that see their success?
Companies like IKEA are far, far more accessible to the average consumer than most ethical or hand-made furniture companies. Personally, I can't even afford to buy furniture from companies that align with all my values (other than secondhand, but that's really tricky to get specific looks, fits and qualities). So if IKEA starts offering products that are responsibly made, a vast number of people suddenly have access to more ethical choices.
The cheap construction of products makes it more accessible, but also enables more wasteful practices. Buying IKEA furniture likely means you're committing to just a few years of good use. I'd rather invest in products that can last a lifetime and won't need to be thrown away. But this is less of an issue for me because I understand that higher quality products simply aren't an option for a lot of people (myself included).
While I know third-party verification can often be expensive and even corrupt, I still expect a larger corporation like IKEA to address this. Their model is based on keeping prices as low as possible, but how can we really trust a big corporation that audits itself?
They talk about IWAY auditing, which is their own standard laid out for raw material sourcing and production. It all sounds pretty good, in fact really good, considering the company size and product price. They mention several organizations with which they work, like WWF (wildlife protection) and FSC (responsible forestry) but very few (if any?) of their products actually carry an FSC certified seal. This is one example, but holds true across all their claims, I don't see any certifications or verifications. I'd be more comfortable if they even said "we aren't certified because of..." or "we're aiming to be certified by...".
Again, I need to reiterate that I understand third-party verifications are imperfect and just because a company isn't certified does NOT mean they aren't doing good things. But for a company as huge as IKEA, I think I need some kind of assurance that they're doing what they say they are.
Along these lines, if you're someone who aims to be low VOC or VOC free or if you're concerned about chemical off-gassing or leaching, IKEA products may not meet your standards. There are no clean air certifications. Cheap materials, lots of varnish and finishes, and plastics like Polyurethane and polypropylene rank high on their material lists (though there are certain collections that are unfinished).
Finally, and honestly, probably my biggest deterrent is the lack of options. I want to reward their initiatives in recycling and better material sourcing but... where are the products that contain these materials? I found a decent amount of products that had recycled paper, but that was just one of many other materials on the list. And then there was the famed ODGER chair- made of wood and 55% recycled materials. I say "famed" because every article I've found about IKEA's new sustainable products lists the ODGER chair... and little else.
But for a company as huge as IKEA, I think I need some kind of assurance that they're doing what they say they are.
What are theeese?
So here's the thing.... I don't need a chair. If I did, I'd consider buying the ODGER chair to reward this kind of product construction. But I need some sort of cabinet, buffet kind of thing, even an entertainment center might work... I'm flexible...but not THAT flexible.
I'd probably purchase one of their recycled paper content products if only one (or even two?) of my four concerns was an issue. But all of three added up to make me really hesitant to make a purchase. I'm still undecided, I'm going to do more research. But these are my initial thoughts. What do you think?