IKEA's Green Initiatives: Changing Our Opinion?

IKEA's Green Initiatives: Changing Our Opinion?

Angie Cho
Sep 27, 2011

Is IKEA mean and ungreen? Does it equate cheap, non-environmental furniture and accessories with poor design? People love IKEA, hate it, or wrestle between the two. People love IKEA for making modern design attainable for the mainstream public, but they hate that their affordable designs make it difficult for local designers to compete. People love IKEA's smart designs and notable international designers but hate the homogenizing effect of their global market. And last but not least, people question whether or not IKEA, a huge global corporation, is environmental enough.

Whether you hate IKEA or love them, there's no denying the big environmental strides they've made. No small deal when you consider a huge company like IKEA with worldwide reach. Greenopia named Ikea one of their Top 7 Green Corporations of 2010. In recent news, Ikea UK is on track to use 100% renewable energy.

Here are some highlights of IKEA's green initiatives, published in their Never Ending List and their Sustainability Report 2010.

IKEA As a Company:

  • Top green employer three years in a row. In April, 2011, IKEA Canada was named one
     of Canada's Greenest Employers by Mediacorp Inc. in their "Canada's Top 100
     Employers" list for the 3rd year in a row.
  • Passes routine environmental audits in Canada.
  • One of the earliest companies to phase out incandescent bulbs.
  • Reduces climate impact by using sustainable transport of their signature flat packs.
  • Education, philanthropy and manufacturing processes using green principles.
  • Established a Waste Management Manual requiring all stores to sort waste into
     categories. This resulted in 80% of store waste (at the end of its life) to be recycled
     or used for energy production.

IKEA's Ban on Bad Chemicals:

  • Formaldehyde! They cut formaldehyde from all lacquers. Then, they cut it from their
     adhesives.
  • Years ahead of other companies, Ikea banned the use of Freon (CFCs) and HCFCs.
  • Ceramic and glass products contain zero cadmium and lead, even though some
     countries allow trace amounts.
  • Uses water-based lacquer.

IKEA's Wood:

  • Doesn't accept illegally-felled wood, or wood harvested from intact natural forests.
     They hold suppliers accountable for tracing the origin of their solid wood.
  • Maximizes the return on every tree trunk, utilizing the knotty top part of the birch
     tree instead of burning it as firewood or grinding it for chipboard production.
  • In 1997, in cooperation with furniture and particleboard producers, they developed a
     new type of particleboard specially designed for furniture. Because of this, use of raw
     material was reduced by 85,816 tons.

IKEA's Textiles:

  • Never uses optical brighteners in the textiles used in quilts and pillows. They don't
     contain hazardous substances, and they minimize the use of chemicals.
  • Uses a whole lot of cotton, so they partnered with the WWF to run Farmer Field
     Schools in Pakistan and India where cotton farmers learn new and better ways to
     grow and harvest cotton. After two years, the cotton farms in Pakistan alone used
     30% less water, 60% fewer pesticides and 40% less fertilizer.

IKEA's Plastic:

  • Uses recycled PET plastic (some, not all products).
  • Uses polyolefin plastic, not PVC (which contains chlorine and other harmful
     chemicals).
  • Only permits PVC in electric leads.

IKEA's Paper:

  • Products are made of 80% recycled paper (some, not all).
  • First major company in the world to print their color catalog on 100% chlorine-free
     paper.

Related Posts:
Simple Green: Recycle at Ikea
IKEA's New Solar-Powered SOLVINDEN Table Lamp
Talking Ikea: Can Disposable Furniture Be Sustainable?

(Image: Flickr member John Pastor licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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