Ikea Between Sustainability And Investigations

IKEA continues its commitment to the defense of minorities against social issues: after the communication campaign  against gender inequality and domestic violence in 2018, in February 2019 launched one against cyberbullying and May as against discrimination against the LGBT community

Read also There is no room for gender inequality in Ikea

His commitment was rewarded at Cannes with a Lion grand prix Health & Wellbeing (health and wellness) thanks to product innovation created by Mccann Tel Aviv aimed at improving the social impact of Ikea products making them accessible to people with disabilities

The ‘This Ables’ campaign was carried out with the cooperation of several NGOs specialized in designing solutions for people with physical disabilities

All the campaigns mentioned so far are so-called cause-related marketing initiatives, that is advertising that supports social causes, and that represent the values ​​of the brand (and suggest how the brand wants to be seen by its consumers)

Initiatives that also aim to correct the perception of the brand  modified by some news that created a backlash like that of the single mother of two children – one of whom is 100% disabled – fired by the company (the judge’s sentence then confirmed the provision ) or the accusations of age discrimination in some stores in the United States [1]

Not only social in the Swedish giant brand communication: in order to align with the goals of sustainable  development in the 2030 Agenda, Ikea developed with DDB Group Italy ” minds of change: we support the idea of changing ” an advertising campaign which promotes the initiative of those Italians who propose to improve the environment in response to the ecological emergency. In this perspective, Ikea has announced that starting from 2020 it will distribute only recycled plastic products or products made from renewable materials in its stores and that by 2030 it will reduce the impact of each marketed product by 70%.

Ikea is active in  promoting responsible consumption styles and a stronger environmental awareness , as well as making us reflect and take a stand on controversial and debated issues of high social value, always connecting with the theme of the home. It is no coincidence that Ikea has embraced a strategy called ” People & Planet Positive “, for which sustainability and social activism take the form of projects and actions that allow more and more people to have a better, healthier and future-oriented daily life. Planet, explains a press release issued on the occasion of the 30th anniversary in Italy .
 “The ambition to improve the daily life of the majority of people has guided us in these first 30 years in Italy. We are proud to continue to do so every day together with our 7,500 employees and over 40 million customers who have chosen us only in the last year  – says again in the statement Assunta Enrile, Country Retail Manager and Country Sustainability Manager of Ikea Italia -.We look at the present and the future with optimism, thinking about how to continue to be close to the people and the challenges they are facing, in social and environmental terms, remaining faithful to the idea of ​​democratic design. Ikea, in fact, will continue to be at the forefront of these issues, because we are convinced that change also comes from small daily gestures and that design can help us live better in our homes, in society and on the planet that is our common home “.

Ikea has shown in recent years to be attentive to ecology, investing in product innovation, in particular on one of the ‘main’ raw materials of its furniture: wood. Ikea has been committed since 2016 to obtain 100% of wood from ecological sources [2] and works with environmental associations (such as the WWF) to develop a more sustainable market for wood and cotton [3]

The ecological policy is also applied to address the problem of pollution generated by indoor toxic substances, because it is at home that we are exposed to 95% of pollutants, according to a study by the National Renewable Energy Protection Association. The Swedish giant says it does not use flame retardant chemical solutions normally used in furniture (to have a certain level of fire resistance) to the benefit of more sustainable solutions such as wool [4]

And it is always with this in mind that in 2019, together with a team of engineers, designers and specialists, universities in Europe and Asia, Ikea designed the curtains that purify the air : GUNRID , made in a fabric that ‘dissolves’ common pollutants indoor air, such as formaldehyde. This fabric consists of a mineral-based photocatalytic coating that is applied to the fabric. If activated by light, both internal and external, GUNRID breaks the common indoor air pollutants. The GUNRID air purification tent will be available in IKEA stores in 2020. It is one of the first IKEA products to deal with indoor air pollution, but probably not the last.


The importance of ethical communication

If it is essential that the multinationals today promote dialogue on important issues such as bullying, gender inequality, homophobia, it is equally fundamental that they do not do it to deflect attention from their potentially harmful  or bad practices, what in jargon is called ‘attention deflection’. It is a current topic, at a time when many citizens are worried about their future, and companies communicate their ‘green’ and social commitment like never before

Read about this ‘ Communication for Good 2019 Italy trends

Surely the adv campaigns created by Ikea in the world have the ability to make sustainability exciting, encourage users  to move from intention to action, are new because they challenge the status quo, are Nurturing as they focus on the needs of Others, and inclusive  and Respectful of all humans, they avoid discrimination

Despite their efforts of innovation and communication , for greater environmental sustainability and a maximum responsibility towards its consumers , to which Ikea would like to facilitate everyday life, the Swedish company risks a fine   such as that assigned to FCA and Starbucks . By the end of the year, in fact, the European Commission, which has been investigating since 2017 on Inter IKEA Systems, will have to communicate its position regarding a 2016 report presented by the Greens in the European Parliament.

According to  Reuters reports , the authorities would like to repress tax agreements granted to Inter Ikea Systems, from the Netherlands

Inter IKEA Systems is the owner of the intellectual property of the Ikea brand and concept,  Inter IKEA System is part of Inter IKEA Holding based in Luxembourg, which belongs to a company in the Netherlands Antilles

Inter IKEA Systems commented by e-mail to Reuters that ” like all other companies that work under the IKEA brand, Inter IKEA Systems BV undertakes to pay taxes in accordance with laws and regulations, wherever it operates. We believe that even in these cases we have paid the correct amount of taxes ”.

In fact, as Forbes also points out, the practices that derive from the corporate establishment of entities that hold the intellectual property of a trademark are not illicit and indeed allow the company to save taxes and customers to enjoy quality products at affordable prices.

According to the Greens’ report, this’ saving ‘would amount to one billion euros

The information is also reported in the online company database D&B Hoovers [5] , which considers several branches of the company that could be used for tax avoidance purposes at high risk.

independently of the decision of the European Commission, Ikea’s commitment could be extended to allow all interested parties to discover the company’s decisions : what are the benefits that European consumers will derive from the decision to create a complex corporate system as far as legal that yes, as Forbes affirms, allows the abatement of prices on the shelf, but creates a loss to the treasury for each country that goes from 35% less collected in Belgium to 64% of France?

Allowing the consumer to have all the information to help him make an conscious purchase decision is an act of responsibility that every company that decides to embrace the ‘Communication for Good ‘ should do, so that sustainability could be a genuine, integrated practice ( not bolted on)

Also read: the communication for good manifesto 
















[1] a report on the Business and Human Rights website entitled “USA: the employee filed a lawsuit against Ikea for alleged age discrimination; incl. company statement “and dated February 2019, stated:” Ikea was hit with its fifth lawsuit in just over a year in US courts, claiming age discrimination. ”

[2] The IKEA Sustainability Report 2016 stated: “All the wood used in IKEA products comes in accordance with the IKEA IWAY standard Forestry Section. In Exercise 18 we expanded the IWAY forestry section to include paper-based materials, bamboo in non-industrial applications, rattan and wood-plastic composites. For more information on IWAY, see pages 46-47. Furthermore, we aim to obtain 100% of the wood we use from more sustainable sources: Forest Stewardship Council ™ (FSC ™) or recycled. In financial year 18 we obtained 85% of our wood from these sources, from 77% in fiscal 17 “.

[3] On the WWF website, on a page called “WWF and IKEA Transforming Business for People and Planet”, it was declared: “WWF and IKEA are working together to safeguard and manage valuable natural resources and transform the business for the benefit of people and the planet. Through commitment, innovation and defense, the partnership is driving the development of more sustainable cotton and timber markets. ”

[4] on the IKEA website in the “IKEA Frequently Asked Questions” area it is specified “The IKEA approach to chemicals is to add them only if necessary. IKEA undertakes to refrain completely from the use of chemical flame retardants in our products and instead use techniques and materials with flame retardant properties, eg. lanaAll brominated flame retardants were gradually eliminated from IKEA furniture production in 2000. ”

[5] D&B Hoovers was founded by Gary Hoover and Patrick Spain in 1990 as an American research company that provides information on companies and industries through their main product platform called “Hoover’s”. Today its database contains information on over 300 million companies with 30,000 global data sources updated 5 million times a day

Author: elena grinta

I have been dealing with communication for 20 years, I have worked in marketing for large international and Italian companies and I know the mechanisms of advertising persuasion. I decided to invest my know-how and my skills to use the available resources of companies (budgets but also human capital) in positive transformation. Because to students from all over the world I teach at Purpose Brands in Catholic University I wish to give more and more examples of virtuous companies that have invested for the future, of everyone (and there are already many!). Because if we watch, without acting, without taking responsibility, we have no excuse.