13 April 2011 by Pelle Neroth
Time magazine's anointment of the company as one of the world's great Green Design companies (among other such boosterish media coverage) simply does not tell the whole story.
Johan Stenebo's Sanningen om Ikea ("the Truth about Ikea") ias based on the 49-year-old's 20 years inside the company as founder Ingvar Kamprad's personal assistant and as a senior executive at IKEA in England..
The Swedish firm is the third largest user of wood worldwide, and insists the materials it takes are sustainable and traceable. Stenebo shows that this is not, in fact, the case. Only 20 percent is sustainable, and much of it comes from Siberian virgin forests, via Chinese middlemen, claims Stenebo.
Most CO2 is generated in the manufacturing process, but IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, who refused to put the company on the stockmarket, does not believe in global warming: Rival General Electric has reduced carbon emissions by 30 percent through its environmental programme; but IKEA has failed to do the same.
Stenebo ought to know what he is talking about, since he was also chief executive of compamy subsidiary Greentech, the 50 million euro venture capital fund aimed at commercialising green technologies in IKEA stories.
Kamprad, the world's richest man, prefers to stash his estimated half a trillon dollar fortune in accounts in the British Virgin Islands, while other tycoons like Bill Gates and William Buffet are donating much of their fortunes to scientific, healthcare and environmental causes.
Meanwhile, the 85-year-old Kamprad travels economy class and wears old trousers to convince suppliers not to overcharge the company and persuade consumers IKEA represents thrift (fashionably so) in a world of depleting resources.
The wind turbines prominently placed on the roofs of its airport sized shopping complexes on the outskirts of town are internally called "false noses": they do not represent a serious commitment.
Failing environmental practices are not the only target: live geese are plucked to make the down pillows, and the celebrated funny naming practices get another twist when it emerges that the BARNSLIG (literally childish) carpet range was, in fact, made by children.
In other parts of the book, Stenebo praises Kamprad's retail genius, starting out by milkfloat delivery of locally manufactured goods in rural 40s Sweden to become a king of retailing. He is critical of the tycoon's three sons, who have been overheard to make racist remarks about employees and prefer to pick the top executives from Kamprad's rural part of Sweden, despite IKEA's global reach and size. He doubts they will be great custodians of Kamprad's legacy.
It's a revelatory book, though disappointingly thin on its global mastery of logistics and supply chain management which has made IKEA a world leader; probably because of IKEA's lawyers. In the Swedish press, the company has preferred not to comment on what it calls the private views of an ex-employee.
So, IKEA remains a manufacturer of bright, well designed and inexpensive furnishing - but the quest for guilt-free western living goes on
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Edited: 30 July 2011 at 03:42 PM by Pelle Neroth
Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 13 April 2011 11:22 PM Energy
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