Monday, August 23, 2010

What's Swedish For Green?

The answer is IKEA of course! Those big box yellow and blue suburban home furnishing stores are doing what they can to instill environmental values into everything they do.

Some lament that the super retailer has displaced local furniture stores around the world and there is also the little fact that founder Ingvar Kamprad was a member of the far-right fascist political group New Swedish Movement as a teen until 1948.

But I tend to look at the positives. And IKEA has come a long way in terms of treating employees with respect, community involvement and of course being a steward of the environment.

Here are a couple of pictures I snapped from the College Park, Maryland location on a recent trip.

And here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on IKEA's environmental initiatives:

Environmental performance

After initial environmental issues like the highly publicized formaldehyde scandals in the early 1980s and 1992, IKEA took a proactive stance on environmental issues and tried to prevent future incidents through a variety of measures. In 1990, IKEA invited Karl-Henrik Robèrt, founder of The Natural Step, to address its board of directors. Robert's system conditions for sustainability provided a strategic approach to improving the company's environmental performance. This led to the development of an Environmental Action Plan, which was adopted in 1992. The plan focused on structural change, allowing IKEA to "maximize the impact of resources invested and reduce the energy necessary to address isolated issues." The environmental measures taken, include the following:

Replacing polyvinylchloride (PVC) in wallpapers, home textiles, shower curtains, lampshades, and furniture—PVC has been eliminated from packaging and is being phased out in electric cables;

minimizing the use of formaldehyde in its products, including textiles;

eliminating acid-curing lacquers;

producing a model of chair (OGLA) made from 100% post-consumer plastic waste;

introducing a series of air-inflatable furniture products into the product line. Such products reduce the use of raw materials for framing and stuffing and reduce transportation weight and volume to about 15% of that of conventional furniture;

reducing the use of chromium for metal surface treatment;

limiting the use of substances such as cadmium, lead, PCB, PCP, and AZO pigments;

using wood from responsibly-managed forests that replant and maintain biological diversity;

using only recyclable materials for flat packaging and "pure" (non-mixed) materials for packaging to assist in recycling.

introducing rental bicycles with trailers for customers in Denmark.

More recently, IKEA has stopped providing plastic bags to customers, but offers reusable bags for sale. The IKEA restaurants also only offer reusable plates, knives, forks, spoons, etc. Toilets in some IKEA restrooms have been outfitted with dual-function flushers. IKEA has recycling bins for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), energy saving bulbs, and batteries. In 2001 IKEA was one of the first companies to operate its own cross-border freight trains through several countries in Europe.

In August 2008, IKEA also announced that it had created IKEA GreenTech, a €50 million venture capital fund. Located in Lund (a college town in Sweden), it will invest in 8–10 companies in the coming five years with focus on solar panels, alternative light sources, product materials, energy efficiency, and water saving and purification. The aim is to commercialise green technologies for sale in IKEA stores within 3–4 years.

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