4. Empirical findings
The empirical findings from our study shall be presented in this section. We have focused our attention on three main areas of IKEA’s CSR practices – the supplier relations, the stores and the partnerships with NGOs. Our findings are based on empirical data from secondary sources (research papers, newspaper articles, books, company website and official company documents such as sustainability reports) and data from the primary sources of our qualitative study - our interviews with key people at top management and at store level.
4.1 Development of CSR at IKEA
At IKEA, CSR is referred to as environmental and social responsibility going beyond legal requirements.42 According to Thomas Bergmark (Social and Environmental Responsibility Manager) the increasing focus on CSR can be seen as a very natural development at IKEA and not something that the company has thrown itself into.43 The focus on CSR has existed since the beginning, as the company is rooted in social values (see 4.2). The modern development started in the late 1980s and intensified in the 1990s (see Appendix 1). The first manager for “Environmental and social responsibility” was appointed in 1991 and in 2002 this became a separate organizational function to ensure the following objectives: clear CSR strategies, follow-up and evaluations of actions taken and that those CSR activities are coordinated externally and internally.44
Although there have been CSR goals from the beginning, the main developments came as a result of a series of crises. In the early 1980s, tests showed that some IKEA products emitted more formaldehyde than was permissible under Danish legislation.45 In 1992, an investigative team from a large German newspaper and TV company found that IKEA’s best-selling bookcase series “Billy” produced marginally higher emissions of formaldehyde than were legal.46 In the early 1990s, several documentaries accused IKEA’s suppliers of using child labor. These events caused extensive damage to IKEA’s reputation and hence improving, not only the issues highlighted in the scandals, but also the company’s image as a whole became increasingly important.
During the 1990s the focus of CSR was on optimizing the product lifecycle in order to reduce the environmental and social impact. According to Anders Gyhlenius (Store Manager at Kungens Kurva), the focus at the stores was primarily on environmental issues such as waste management at this time.47 Environmental and social impact was not largely discussed or communicated, instead the focus laid on action. Finally in 1994/95, IKEA started to more visibly discuss and communicate environmental and social issues and CSR.48 According to Susanne Koerfer (Store Manager at Barkarby) and A. Gyhlenius, the scope of IKEA’s responsibility is much broader today and is continuously widening49. Even the act of giving furniture to the Astrid Lindgren hospital can in a broader sense be considered as contributing to their vision of a “Better everyday life for the majority of people”.50 However, at the same time IKEA is also seen as becoming clearer in the focus of its CSR initiatives and more specialized.51 The newest direction within the IKEA sphere is that of “community involvement”, in
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Interview, Heidenmark-Cook, P., 2008-12-05. Interview, Bergmark, T., 2008-05-26. Interview, Bergmark, T., 2008-05-26. Bartlett, C. et al (2006). h t t p : / / w w w . n a t u r a l s t e p . i t / l e a r n / d o c s / c s / c a s e _ i k e a . p d f Interview, Gylhenius, A., 2008-11-10. Interview, Hrdlickova, I., 2008-12-23. Interview, Koerfer, S., 2008-10-22, Interview, Gylhenius, A., 2008-11-10. Interview, Koerfer, S., 2008-10-22 Interview, Gylhenius, A., 2008-11-10. .