As a college student trying to find affordable furniture for an apartment, IKEA is the first place I looked. I However, due to their extremely vague sustainability goals, I am not sure that I trust them to deliver on their promises. It seems as though they are greenwashing their products in an attempt to not lose customers since it became trendy to be sustainable, like the LISABO chair for example. The chair is advertised as crafted from sustainable wood, however they have recently faced scandals for logging in restricted forests. This means the LISABO chair could not be made of sustainable wood as advertised, severely bringing their integrity into question. On the whole though it is disappointing that they do not have enough information available for customers on their vast array of products. This would allow the customer to not doubt how they advertise their products and call them out for greenwashing.
The Ikea LISABO chair is made out of wood, a renewable resource. Like most other furniture from Ikea, it must be assembled after purchase, which allows it to be shipped in smaller packaging, using less materials. The legs and frame of the chair are made out of solid birch while the seat and back are composed of layered wood glue veneer. The entire chair is coated in tinted clear acrylic lacquer. The materials used are from renewable sources, with wood that was not recycled coming from responsibly managed sources. Ikea furniture sometimes does not last long, but they have options for repairing and replacing parts. This can help reduce the amount of furniture that gets thrown away, which is a plus. For this specific product, no acrylic paints or petroleum based products are used, which I was impressed with.
There is a dearth of information on the Ikea website about how their products are made. A majority of their products are designed in Sweden but mainly assembled in China and other Asian countries with cheaper labor pools. The wood for their furniture has stirred up some controversy in recent years as they were caught in a lie, which is incredibly disappointing as they are often thought of as a sustainable company. Ikea currently owns forests in Romania and other Baltic countries. They also source wood from countries such as: Russia, China, and the Ukraine. However, they were exposed in 2020 for using illegally harvested wood from old growth, protected forests in the Carpathian Mountains. They have been found to violate Ukraine’s environmental protection laws by chopping down trees in the spring when animals are raising their young, known as the silence period. No logging is allowed in this period, but apparently the rules do not apply to Ikea. At many sites, loggers failed to conduct the legally required Environmental Impact Assessment before clear cutting the site. They had also broken the law by blocking waterways with discarded logs and branches. So much for sustainable wood.
Ikea is a massive furniture conglomerate that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories. Founded in Sweden in 1943 by 17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA has been the world's largest furniture retailer since 2008. As a large company, it is pretty difficult to find specific information about where much of their furniture is made. In 2012, the company admitted to using forced labor in the 1980s. Despite efforts to ensure this didn’t happen, it still did. Additionally, upon admitting to this heinous offense, Ikea only released a four page report citing privacy concerns. Very suspicious. As a leader within the furniture industry Ikea should tell consumers who is making their products.
Ikea has publicly made sustainability commitments for the year 2030. However, these commitments are rather vague and there truly is very little information on their website about them. By 2030, Ikea wants all materials in their products to be recycled or renewable, and sourced in responsible ways. After making these, they have been in scandals, like the aforementioned logging scandal for not keeping up with their promises. IKEA heavily relies on the FSC (“Forest Stewardship Council”) label to identify supposedly sustainable timber sources yet the label itself is currently being scrutinized for human rights abuses, illegal deforestation and illegal timber trade. While it is nice that Ikea seems to be slowly making many of its products more circular in design and using more renewable materials, it still must source those renewable materials ethically and legally. Furthermore, they need to do a better job with transparency on their website and they are quite private about their labor practices and past human rights abuses.