IKEA: Saint Or Sinner?

With stories of child labor, design theft, and environmental harm, it's tough to figure out which companies are the good guys these days. Who should we avoid? What companies are trustworthy? Which complaints are legit? Amidst this uncertainty, it's refreshing when companies seem to be making a positive impact. IKEA, with its strong values and famed "IKEA spirit," seems to be one such company. Its founder, Ingvar Kamprad, has always emphasized on keeping things real, ensuring that IKEA continually strives to fulfill its vision of creating a better everyday life for everyone. The company talks a lot about its values, but what are they actually doing? You’ll find an overview in this article.


Price Reductions
With rising costs nowadays, many people experience financial struggles. IKEA has thoughtfully optimized its manufacturing and shipping processes, allowing it to lower prices on several high-demand products. Top sellers like BILLY, VITTSJÖ, and VARDÖ are now more affordable.

Charitable Collaborations
IKEA is deeply involved in charity. The company works with local, national, and global organizations for volunteer and disaster relief efforts. They’ve got big partnerships with UNICEF, Save the Children, and the Red Cross. Plus, their recent collaboration with the homeliness foundation Shelter highlights their commitment to social causes.

Commitment To Inclusion
Ikea’s dedication to LGBTQ+ inclusion extends beyond occasional Pride-themed products. Ikea has contributed to developing the UN’s code of conduct against discrimination of LGBTQ+ people in general and at the workplace. It has implemented a global LGBTQ+ inclusion plan and sells rainbow bags, with a part of the profit going to LGBTQ+ organizations.

IKEA rainbow bag
source: IKEA catalog – IKEA rainbow bag

he ‘Tack!’ Loyalty Program
Each year, IKEA shares a portion of its profits with the pension plans of employees across markets covered by the Ingka Group, IKEA’s largest franchisee. This annual bonus recognizes employees’ contributions to IKEA’s success, with the amount shared being the same for everyone, regardless of salary or position. Since its inception in 2013, the Tack! (“thank you” in Swedish) program has distributed over 8.3 billion Swedish kronor.


Second-Hand Furniture
Since 2021, all Swedish IKEA stores have included a circular shop, promoting sustainability and giving products a second life. This initiative makes it easier for customers to extend the life of their unwanted items and also offers bargain shopping. Globally, most IKEA stores have a circular corner as well. The circular corners offer returned items, showroom items or items with a slight imperfection, all on sale. IKEA doesn’t just stimulate the sale of second-hand furniture in its own stores, but also encourages consumers to do so through other circular platforms. This year, for instance, IKEA in the Netherlands bought advertising space on the biggest circular platform of the country, to promote second-hand IKEA furniture. The aim of this campaign was to raise awareness about the lifespan of products and to encourage sustainable consumption. As part of its sustainability plan, IKEA aims to manufacture all products from recycled or renewable materials within ten years.

IKEA second-hand furniture
source: IKEA Media Library – IKEA second-hand furniture

Plant-Based Food Options

IKEA’s restaurants have something for everyone, including those who opt for plant-based diets. With a delicious and expanding range of vegetarian and vegan choices, IKEA encourages more sustainable dining. The latest addition this fall is a new plant-based sausage, optional on their famous IKEA hotdog.

More Charging Points For Electric Vehicles
Along with its circular shops and plant-based food options, Ikea’s initiative to increase electric vehicle charging points makes sustainable living more accessible for its customers. Since spring 2023, Ikea has been expanding its charging points at its properties, with all electricity sourced from renewable energy.

Is All As It Seems?

With everything mentioned above, IKEA really seems to be a company with a very positive impact. IKEA’s past isn’t entirely controversy-free though. The company has faced its fair share of justified criticism. For instance, it emerged that IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, was a Nazi sympathizer in his youth and a member of the Swedish Nazi party SSS (Svensk Socialistisk Samling). This revelation raised questions about the authenticity of IKEA’s commitment to equality and diversity. Kamprad later claimed ignorance of the Nazi connections of the groups he supported and expressed regret at being labeled a Nazi. In 2012, another misstep surfaced: IKEA edited out women from catalog images for the Saudi Arabian market. IKEA’s communications head later condemned the incident. Another concern involves allegations that Ikea’s subcontractors illegally logged Ukrainian forests under false pretenses. In response, IKEA has pledged to investigate these claims and address any issues.

IKEA Museum: Past, Present And Future

Got enthusiastic or curious about the company? The IKEA Museum in Älmhult, Sweden, is the place to be. Open since 2016, it’s not just about Ikea’s history and designs; they’ve got workshops, good food, and lots of activities. You can learn all about IKEA’s journey, from its early days to where it’s headed. If you can’t make it to Sweden, check out their online museum for a glimpse of the IKEA experience from home.

Florence Stroink