Lindsey works with certification bodies to improve the effectiveness of ethical sourcing as well as to facilitate collaboration amongst labeling brands. Lindsey’s years of field experience include ethical supply chain development with tea in India and Tanzania, coffee in Kenya and Uganda, Gold and Diamonds in the DR Congo as well as multiple other projects. Currently, Lindsey is organizing the f...
IKEA a Non-Profit . . . Really?!
IKEA has been boycotted by thousands of Israelis due to "blood libel" in a Swedish tabloid, by Polish Catholics for featuring same-sex couples in advertisements and by stopikea.com for alleged dangerously breakable furniture. Yet, this rag-tag gang of complaints is remarkably benign for an organization with huge reach; IKEA is the third largest wood buyer in the world (after the Home Depot and Lowe's). How has IKEA managed to simultaneously make huge profits while keeping out of the fray?
Remarkably, IKEA is a Non-Profit founded by Ingvar Kamprad at 17 years old. IKEA is owned by the world's biggest charity (Stichting INGKA Foundation) with a mission dubiously devoted to forwarding interior design. While less-known than the Gates Foundation, the Stichting INGKA Foundation is actually the world's richest charity. To the naked-eye, IKEA appears as a company but it is actually able to exploit the loopholes of different jurisdictions to gain the benefits of its non-profit status. The legal formulation of IKEA works to reduce disclosure and tax, generously reward the founding Kamprad family and exempt IKEA from the possibility of takeover.
Once aware of IKEA's charity status, consumer's perception of the organization tends to shift from admiration of a benevolent company to outrage at a greedy charity. Given its mission of 'forwarding interior design', IKEA should be using its charity windfall to pioneer the cause of ethically-sourced materials rather than simply designing cheep swivel chairs and pencil holders.
If not for its unsettling claim as a charity, one would most likely praise IKEA for its commitment to Forest Stewardship Council certified forest products and its work with WWF to ensure sustainability. IKEA also has the commendable goal of sourcing all of its wood from forests according to high standards that are to be co-operatively developed by environmentalist and verified by an independent third party.
However, similar companies which are also sourcing wood but that do not have the financial flexibility of IKEA (such as Kimberly-Clark, the 4th largest wood buyer and B&Q/Kingfisher) are demonstrating equivalent commitment to ethically-sourced products. Therefore, if IKEA is to have any rightful claim on its charity status, it should innovate in sourcing and sustainability methods to create new supply chains and develop cheaper methods for companies in the field to emulate.
The largest companies in the forest industry will be meeting under the watchful eye of the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative at the first international conference on ethical certification (London, September 29th). I for one, expect IKEA to pony-up and demonstrate innovation and leadership in sustainable interior design and sourcing at the event. This remains to be seen . . .
For more information about the first international conference on ethical certification, Certification, Consumption and Change visit www.theinsource.com. Early Bird registration ends this Wednesday on June 30th! Register HERE