IKEA and sustainable
In November 1999 the Swedish furniture
company IKEA announced at a press conference in Brussels,
held jointly with environmental campaign group Greenpeace,
that it was taking action to ensure none of its products were
made from wood that came from ancient forests.
Susanne Pulverer Bergstrand, IKEA Groups
Environmental Manager told journalists that as a first step
all solid wooden products would come from well-managed forests.
This was a highly significant announcement
for the international retailer. The positive media coverage
it generated pointed out that IKEA was amongst the first major
retailers to make such a commitment.
But why had IKEA made the move? The
decision came after increased pressure from environmentalists
on wood consuming industries to take action and stop the exploitation
of ancient forests. Organisations like Greenpeace were raising
awareness of forest destruction on a massive scale to supply
cheap sources of wood and paper. The industry was blamed for
threatening whole eco-systems. Images of devastation from
the Amazon and stories of near extinction for Oran Utang and
Mountain Gorilla were carried by TV and newspapers.
In making their announcement first,
IKEA was able to positively ally itself to the wide public
concern growing throughout its main markets in Europe. IKEA
customers could be reassured that in buying from them they
were not contributing to forest destruction. Renowned as tough
opponents, Greenpeace praised the move and used it as a positive
encouragement to others - IKEAs competitors.
Whilst the announcement was fairly
easy to make it represented, nevertheless, a major undertaking
for IKEA. It could not be achieved overnight and required
liaison with dozens of suppliers. Crucially however, it did
not prevent IKEA from using highly prized exotic timber. Certified,
sustainable harvesting of trees from natural forests (FSC)
still allowed suppliers to source anything the retailer needed.
As a CSR initiative it had been a success.
It had gained an advantage over competitors and secured a
positive relationship with customers. Perhaps equally significantly,
it had avoided damaging confrontations with campaigners.
Subsequently other retailers became
high profile targets for protestors. But, it the wake of the
IKEA move others found forest friendly practices were not
only cost effective, but brought other business benefits.
Article by Rod Macrae, Macrae Media &
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