IKEA has a lot of initiatives and products upon which they are working towards their sustainability goals. While this product in particular is not the most sustainable, as IKEA has more sustainable products on its own website, IKEA is working towards its sustainability goals. My issue with IKEA is that they are doing a lot for sustainability, but as a corporation with a brand value of almost $16 billion, they could be doing more. For instance, IKEA’s goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030 seems very tame compared to Apple, which already only uses 100% renewable energy. In addition, IKEA makes their information about sustainability very hard to find, and once you do find them, their articles tend to only describe one detail, making you search again for the next question. Plus, their articles tend to be image and vision focused, not really describing in length or with data the outcome of their initiatives or the extent of their progress. IKEA tends to tell you the minimum information, and personally, I would prefer them to tell me more information than what I had initially searched for. If IKEA was a small company, I would be more accepting of their initiatives and progress. IKEA is making progress. However, with IKEA’s net worth, this progress falls short very quickly.
IKEA’s Hilver desk is made of mostly bamboo with a clear acrylic lacquer layer applied on the top and on the legs. The filling material of the legs is a honeycomb structure with a paper filling that is 70% recycled paper. By using this honeycomb structure, the designers at IKEA allow raw materials to be used more efficiently, making more products with a smaller amount of raw materials. The mounting plate is made of steel with a mixture of an epoxy or polyester powder coating.
IKEA’s choice to use acrylic lacquer is unsurprising. Acrylic is cheap, readily available, and durable, however, there is an argument online whether or not it is environmentally friendly. According to the GreenHomeGuide, clear finishes are known for their potentially high levels of volatile organic compounds, which contribute to air pollution and can cause health problems. Lacquer can also intensify the effects of any pre-existing health conditions. Despite this debate, IKEA ensures that all of their products comply with REACH legislation, and they claim that they work proactively with chemicals to stay ahead of standards and regulations. REACH is a regulation of the European Union that evaluates chemicals for their human and environmental impact.
Another common debate online is about the quality of IKEA’s products, as some of their products can be described as “downright flimsy”. While I understand that this is a “you get what you pay for” scenario, maybe IKEA ought to consider phasing out their flimsy, non durable products. Durability is a key factor of sustainability, and if their products are made of weak materials, then no amount of repairing or replacing certain parts will elongate their products’ life span.
In 2018, IKEA was the third largest consumer of wood globally. In recognition of this, IKEA strives to become a self-sustaining and a responsible environmental steward, committing to sourcing all of its wood from more sustainable sources (like FSC Certified and recycled wood) by the end of 2020 (and they have already reached 91%). To complete this goal, IKEA has bought more than half a million acres of forests across the U.S. and Europe, and it has claimed that its management is certified the the Forest Stewardship Council. The Forest Stewardship Council is an organization that promotes the responsible management of forests. However, while about 12 million acres of IKEA’s forests are commercial forestland, this forest is also the location of more than a dozen state parks and four National Forests. Despite the FSC certification, IKEA owning state parks and National Forests is not something that puts me at ease.
As far as manufacturing goes, information is vague. Most of it is done in places like China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Romania, and Poland. Worker treatment and pay is not discussed. IKEA does have a goal towards 100% renewable energy by 2030 and is working on decreasing their transportation emissions.
IKEA’s mission is to “create a better everyday life for the many people”. Through their various initiatives and goals, it is clear that planet health is a concern for IKEA. Furthermore, IKEA has also several new projects occurring right now to develop textiles that can replace or complement cotton or oil-based fabric (TreeToTextile), textiles made from recycled plastic, and ways to convert rice straw (that would otherwise be wasted) into products.