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Is doing good, good business?

How IKEA makes Democratic Design possible


IKEA wants to offer products with prices so low, everyone can afford them. But does this allow them to be produced in a sustainable way? With the right working conditions? Fair wages? And a healthy and safe environment?

Democratic Design

Truly good design combines form, function, quality and sustainability at a low price. In other words “Democratic Design”, because IKEA believes that good home furnishing is for everyone. This is easy to say, but how does it work in reality?

IWAY – The IKEA way of doing things

Torbjörn Ellesson, Supply chain Sustainability Manager, IKEA of Sweden, says, “Our Democratic Design approach is directly connected to our IKEA supplier code of conduct, IWAY, and the way we work and develop with our suppliers. It’s so much more than rules to follow – it’s a partnership for growth for both parties.”

Product engineers, supply planners and business developers give support by visiting factories regularly, sharing their knowledge and solving problems together with the workers.

LISABO tables are just one of the things IKEA Industry Lubawa in Poland make.

The average supplier cooperation is today about eleven years, where we develop and grow together.

What is “sustainability” to IKEA?

“Sustainability is about enabling more people to have a better everyday life, within the limits of the planet. Accomplishing this requires rethinking, and inspiring changes in lifestyles and consumption as well as adopting new ways of working. We want to lead and co-create the way forward together with our co-workers, customers and suppliers,” says Lena Pripp-Kovac, Sustainability Manager, IKEA of Sweden.

IWAY also ensures a safe and healthy work environment and prevents pollution to air, ground and water, as well as at least minimum wages and overtime compensation. Today, all IKEA home furnishing and goods transports, are working with IWAY.

A co-worker from a supplier outside Shanghai in China.

Sustainability is about enabling more people to have a better everyday life, within the limits of the planet.

The IKEA Supplier Days

Every year, IKEA invites hundreds of suppliers to Älmhult in Sweden. “During these days, we strengthen our business partnerships and create room for innovation. We share knowledge, strategies and competence so that we can develop together,” says Henrik Elm, IKEA Purchasing & Logistics Manager, IKEA Supply AG.

Shortening working hours

In some parts of China, families are separated for long periods of time due to work in other regions, and parents work as many hours as possible to be able to take time off to go home. Lena Pripp-Kovac says “IKEA wants families to be together and for children to have access to education, so we arrange for that to happen together with some of our suppliers. This means working hours can be shortened, there’s no loss of competence or interruptions in the production – and everyone is much happier!”

IKEA has worked closely together with suppliers to reduce working hours on a broad scale in China. Thanks to open mindedness towards business development and new ways of working and addressing issues, the IWAY goal was reached.

A co-worker from a packaging material and paper pallets supplier, located in Dongguan, south-eastern part of China.

Doing good IS good business

Suppliers feel good about IWAY, as implementing it helps them become more competitive. Also, co-worker safety is much improved, as access to healthcare, education and childcare.

A supplier in Beijing, China says “We deliver much better products on time, workers are more motivated, and they can receive a higher salary than before, working less hours.”

So, the answer to whether affordable products can be sustainable from every point of view is:

Yes! It is possible.

Fifteen years of implementing IWAY prove that caring and doing things a better way, is good business for everyone.

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