Reviewed: How ethical and sustainable is Ikea? — The Ethical Home Edit. (2023)

Ethical Home Edit Rating: GOOD

Sustainability: ✮✮✮✮✩

Social empowerment: ✮✮✮✮✩

Animal friendly: ✮✮✩✩✩

Price: $ - $$

Ships to: Worldwide

The Swedish flat-pack furniture giant IKEA needs no introduction. Ah IKEA. We’ve all been there, picking up tealights and other accessories you didn’t know you needed, being disappointed that the one thing you actually wanted is out of stock, buying yet another blue bag because you left yours at home, and arguing with a loved one over whether or not to cut through the home display set-ups and head directly to the marketplace.

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And lest we forget the tiny pencils.

It’s a bit tricky to review IKEA as one entity. IKEA stores are actually operated by the Ingka Group (Ingka) under franchise agreements with Inter-IKEA Systems B.V. Inter-IKEA Systems B.V. owns the IKEA concept and is part of the Inter-IKEA Group who are responsible for IKEA products, systems, design etc.

Ingka operates 367 IKEA stores in over 30 countries that generate over 830 million in-person visits per year and receive 2.35 billion visits to the website. In the 2018 financial year, IKEA generated EUR 34.8 billion in total retail sales. That’s a lot of flat-pack.

It’s also worth noting that Ingka employs over 160,000 people, owns approximately 180,000 hectares of responsibly managed forests, offers home solar energy under the IKEA brand, and has partnerships with 58 social entrepreneurs and social businesses in 14 countries.

People & Planet Positive

IKEA’s sustainability strategy - People & Planet Positive – was launched in 2012, putting IKEA well ahead of the curve in terms of setting out its acknowledgement of its social and environmental responsibilities and in taking steps to reduce its negative impact. So, seven years on from the start of its sustainability journey, how well is IKEA doing?

Like all good sustainability strategies, People & Planet Positive is built around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The strategy is divided into three focus areas:

  • Healthy and sustainable living

  • Circular and climate positive


  • Fair and equal

I particularly like IKEA’s ambition ‘to inspire and enable more than one billion people to live a better everyday life within the limits of the planet by 2030’. One billion people is a lot. But it just goes to show the impact large corporations can have if they choose to put planet and people on an equal footing to profit.


The ‘Planet’ section of IKEA’s sustainability strategy covers a range of commitments relating to plastics, chemicals, water, cotton supply, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), wood, energy use and efficiency. There are some lofty commitments to be achieved by 2030, including becoming climate positive by reducing the amount of GHGs than the company emits. However, while there are a lot of big, bold statements, it’s tricky to spot the concrete targets IKEA intends to deliver in the years running up to 2030.

Having said that, IKEA and Ingka both publish an annual report on progress so it will be easy to keep tabs on how well they are doing against their stated aims.

One thing that stands out for me as truly positive, and extremely exciting, is IKEA’s recognition that one of its biggest challenges is unsustainable consumption. IKEA has committed to defining what responsible consumption means for the company and exploring how it can prolong the life of its products and make it easier to buy, fix, sell, share and give products away.

A circular approach

IKEA is working on becoming a circular business, including when it comes to the design of its products. It wants all of its products to have circular capabilities: designed from the very beginning to be repurposed, repaired, reused, resold and recycled. This is a lofty vision, and it will be interesting to see how IKEA develops the concrete steps to make this a reality, particularly the challenge it faces regarding what happens once products leave the store.

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To that end, IKEA has been trialling different approaches to help customers repair, reuse and recycle, and give products a second life through reselling. IKEA Retail Japan, for example, offers a buy-back service for IKEA furniture that’s still in good condition but no longer needed. Customers can exchange their unwanted furniture for a voucher to spend in store. The furniture is then refurbished and sold at a reduced rate to a new customer.

I’ve also spotted in Ingka’s report that it is working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Circular Economy 8 (CE8) on its approach to becoming part of a circular economy. This is great news.

More to do when it comes to cotton

IKEA is working on improving how it sources its cotton as part of its goal of sourcing all raw materials from more sustainable sources by 2020. IKEA has signed the Uzbek Cotton Pledge to avoid the use of cotton made using forced labour in Uzbekistan, and is part of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), sourcing at least 75 percent of their cotton as Better Cotton in 2018. That still leaves 25 percent of their cotton sourced elsewhere however, and given the volumes they use, that’s a sizeable environmental impact.

Sustainability rating

I’ve given IKEA a four star rating (good) for its approach to sustainability. It’s doing some pretty amazing things to reduce its negative environmental impacts - significantly more so than many other furniture and home decor brands. However, as it stands, it is pretty hard to reconcile IKEA’s gargantuan size and mass production model with genuine eco-friendliness. I’m watching with keen interest to see how IKEA develops its approach over the coming years.


The IKEA Way on purchasing products, materials and services (IWAY) is IKEA’s supplier Code of Conduct. It sets out minimum requirements on environmental, social and working conditions and is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, eight core conventions defined in the ILO Fundamental Principles of Rights at Work, and the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. It is clear that IKEA does not permit child labour or forced labour within its supply chain and mandates breaks and time off for workers.

IKEA operates a risk-based approach to its large supply chain, which makes sense given its size, and it audits a number of its direct suppliers. Where suppliers do not meet the standards, an action-plan is agreed to correct any issues. Suppliers and sub-suppliers are phased out if corrective actions are not put in place.

Empowering through employment

One of my favourite things about IKEA’s parent company, Ingka, is a commitment to help people who lack the skills or experience, or face other barriers that make it hard to find or maintain employment, to find work in the retail industry. Ingka is focusing on young people, people with disabilities, people over 50 years old, migrants, refugees and women who have been out of the workplace.

In 2018, Ingka ran projects in 15 countries providing skills development and work experience placements. Its goal is to have skills for employment programmes in all 30 of its markets by 2025, building partnerships in local communities to tackle unemployment, especially for people experiencing poverty and inequalities. This is a laudable approach and one that Ingka should be commended for. I am particularly impressed with its initiatives towards refugee inclusion in IKEA stores in Norway.

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IKEA works with social entrepreneurs and actively engages in local communities to be an inclusive business. There isn’t much detailed information online on how IKEA works with local artisans, though I am aware that this is something IKEA does - I’ve bought products in the past that have been co-created with local craftspeople around the world.

Social empowerment rating

I’ve given IKEA a four star (good) rating on its approach to people and social empowerment. There’s more to do to ensure that everyone throughout IKEA’s supply chains receives a fair wage and decent conditions, but IKEA is taking significant steps in leading by example.


I’ve had to give IKEA a two star (below average) rating for their animal friendliness as I have struggled to find much information at all on its approach to our furry and feathered friends.

I was able to find that IKEA has begun a journey to transform all the wool it uses in its products to 100 percent responsibly sourced wool. It says it will do this by sourcing wool which follows the ‘Responsible Wool Standard’ (RWS) guideline, meaning that the wool comes from sheep that are treated with respect, and the land where they eat and rest is managed responsibly.

This is a good start, but given that IKEA also uses feathers and leather in its products (I’m not sure about fur), I would expect to see more information about the sourcing of these products on its website.


IKEA’s overall rating is GOOD.

IKEA is demonstrating good leadership overall in its approach to sustainability and ethics in the home decor and furniture industry. If it meets the ambitious targets it has set itself, it will be an outstanding place for conscious consumers to shop by 2030. It’s main drawbacks right now are its lack of transparency when it comes to animal welfare and it’s gargantuan size. Until IKEA is able to put in place its circular business vision, it’s negative overall impact resulting from the large volume of products it is producing is likely to undermine the environmental and social progress it is making elsewhere.

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Is IKEA sustainable and ethical? ›

To meet the challenges of unsustainable consumption, climate change and growing inequality, we are taking ambitious steps towards a more sustainable future through collaboration with partners, co-workers and customers. Our three focus areas are: Healthy and sustainable living. Circular and climate positive.

Does IKEA have good ethics? ›

Our work is always based on honesty, respect, fairness and integrity. To ensure we all live up to these standards and expectations, we have supplemented our values with an ethical framework that states the behaviour we all need to mirror. This Ethical Framework applies to all co-workers of the IKEA Foundation.

Is IKEA furniture made ethically? ›

We aim to only use responsibly sourced renewable or recycled materials and will continue to secure and develop responsible sourcing standards. We are dependent on materials and ingredients for our home furnishing solutions and food products, and we will always work to find new ways to make more from less.

What are the ethics at IKEA? ›

We side with the many people and embrace development that make people's everyday lives better. By keeping their best interests in mind, we can create positive change for families, communities and societies. We also believe, that whatever we are doing today, we can do a bit better tomorrow.

How does IKEA show sustainability? ›

Regenerating resources. Our ambition for 2030 is to regenerate resources while growing the IKEA business. We aim to only use responsibly sourced renewable or recycled materials in our offer, and have a positive impact by regenerating resources, protecting ecosystems and improving biodiversity.

How are IKEA being sustainable? ›

We no longer sell non-rechargeable alkaline batteries and have replaced them with our LADDA rechargeable batteries. This helps customers to significantly reduce waste and save money in the long run. 99.5% of the wood used for IKEA products is either Forest Stewardship Council®-certified (FSC®) or recycled.

What are the negative impacts of IKEA? ›

Tests showed that some IKEA products emitted more formaldehyde than allowed by legislation which was harmful not to only people, but also the environment. The negative perception of the company caused sales to drop by 20% in Denmark.

What problems does IKEA face? ›

However, inflation and supply chain issues led to rising costs and higher prices, meaning sales quantities were down though they cost more and there were struggles to keep shelves full.

Why IKEA is a sustainable business? ›

A zero-waste mindset

At IKEA, we hate wasting resources and are always looking for ways to make more from less. This applies to raw materials, energy and space. And we also know that waste can be a valuable resource. After all, waste is no longer waste if it's given a second life.

Does IKEA use sustainable products? ›

Sustainable materials: how being more eco-friendly can make a world of a difference. Today, 60% of our products use renewable materials. And our goal is that all our materials will be renewable or recycled by 2030.

What are the five main ethical issues? ›

Unethical accounting, harassment, health and safety, technology, privacy, social media, and discrimination are the five primary types of ethical issues in the workplace.

What are the six ethical issues? ›

These principles include voluntary participation, informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, potential for harm, and results communication.

What are the 5 ethics? ›

Moral Principles

The five principles, autonomy, justice, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and fidelity are each absolute truths in and of themselves. By exploring the dilemma in regards to these principles one may come to a better understanding of the conflicting issues.

What is the criticism of IKEA? ›

Over the years, Ikea products have been criticized for their poor quality and shoddy craftsmanship, which have resulted in allergic reactions, malfunctions, and in some cases, even tragic injuries. All told, it's enough to make even the most avid Ikea shopper think twice before buying certain products at the store.

When did IKEA go sustainable? ›

IKEA has been using 100% sustainable cotton since 2015 with all its products when comes to cotton. Their cotton used is grown with fewer fertilizers, water, pesticides, or recycled.

Why does IKEA have a good reputation? ›

IKEA is renowned for being transparent about its production process and designs and creates simple, good-quality furniture. The company is also known for paying the employees a living wage at the least. Like we said, it's a brand that cares about more than just profits.

Why is IKEA not ethical? ›

Is Ikea ethical? Our research highlights several ethical issues with IKEA including: age discrimination, violation of the right to unionise, and other serious workers' rights issues in their supply chain.

Why is IKEA not sustainable? ›

On the topic of power, it's a good thing that IKEA's sustainability goal is to produce as much renewable energy as it uses – stores this size are fossil-fuel hungry and since they have over 400 of them, the combined carbon footprint of all its stores is astronomical and completely unsustainable.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of IKEA? ›

1. Customer knowledge 2. Constantly using innovations to drive costs down 3. Supply chain integration 4. Brand reputation and market presence 5. Diversified product portfolio1. Negative publicity 2. Decreasing quality 3. Standard products
Jul 11, 2022

Who is Ikeas biggest competitor? ›

Unique brands like Jysk, Kartell, and Williams-Sonoma are also IKEA's top competitors in 2021.
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  • Williams-Sonoma Inc.

Why is IKEA being sued? ›

A class action lawsuit was filed against Ikea on May 6, 2020, alleging that the company marketed and sold millions of dressers it knew were prone to dangerous tip-overs, and then failed to issue adequate notifications and refunds to customers for the dressers after they were recalled in 2016.

How are IKEA workers treated? ›

Positive work place

Great place to work, the benefits are great, and they are very good to their employees. Most of the employees are nice and friendly and they really go make everyone feel included.

What does more sustainable materials mean on IKEA? ›

All cotton used in IKEA products is from more sustainable sources. This means it's recycled or grown with less water and pesticides. Good for the farmers, good for the planet and good for you.

What is the most eco friendly company? ›

Since 2019, Vestas Wind has seen a 24 percent cut in its volatile organic compound emissions. Its vast contribution to the renewable energy sector as well as the wellbeing and safety of workers makes it one of the most sustainable corporations across the globe today.

Does IKEA have sustainable products? ›

We aim to use only renewable or recycled materials and to provide new solutions for our customers to prolong the life of products and materials.

What are the issues with IKEA? ›

The pandemic limited growth in FY21, and IKEA retail sales benefited as the world re-opened. On the other hand, inflation and supply chain issues impacted FY22 sales, and lead to rising costs and higher prices. That means sales have grown in money, but sales quantities have not kept up.

What is the most sustainable brand in the world? ›

Siemens is ranked as the most sustainable company in its industry by The Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) published in November 2021.

What is IKEA's environmental impact? ›

IKEA currently emits 0.1 percent of the world's greenhouse gasses, but intends to slash those emissions by 15 percent. By making its products entirely renewable and designing pieces with recyclability in mind, IKEA is inching closer to that goal.

Why is IKEA closing? ›

According to the Guardian, the Swedish retailer said it was closing the superstore in order to keep up with “changing shopping behaviours”, given that more than half of its sales are now made online. It has pledged to redeploy as many of the store's 450 employees as possible.


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