Don’t buy new furniture, says Ikea

By Kitty Knowles 18 January 2016
Ikea announce move to sustainability. Pic: iStock/Adamo Di Loreto

The Swedish flat-pack giant switches to surprise new sustainable ethos.

Our grandparents were part of a ‘make-do-and-mend’ generation. You didn’t just replace something that broke: you fixed it, or you stripped its parts for alternative use.

Today, after the boom of post-war commercialism, many of us can’t move for stuff – but there has also been a surge in return to a repair and recycle culture. 

Hand-in-hand with the recession, the number of people I know who have made clothes out of old curtains, dressed up worn sofas with new fabric, or got hands on with basic mechanics and woodwork is ever-growing.

And, as global warming prompts dire floods, extreme droughts and devastating storms, our awareness that a more sustainable life might be better than an abundance of stuff is growing too.

Surprisingly, Ikea, the world’s largest furniture retailer, agrees.

Ikea’s green promise

Better know for their 1996 “Chuck Out Your Chintz” ad campaign – which encouraged Brits to fly-tip old furniture and stock up on sleek new Swedish design – the brand has now announced a move towards encouraging sustainability.

“We will be increasingly building a circular Ikea where you can repair and recycle products,” Steve Howard, Ikea’s chief sustainability officer, said at a climate change debate yesterday.

The global giant will also prioritise making products that help us use less energy, such as solar panels, LED lighting and water-saving taps.

Indeed, the brand itself owns 224 wind turbines and has 700,000 solar panels on its buildings.

“In the West we have probably hit peak stuff,” Howard said.

“We talk about peak oil: I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff, peak home furnishings.”

In line with this, Ikea last April even introduced a line of “veggie balls” to sway shoppers away from its famous meatballs. 100m have been sold so far.

Doubts over Ikea’s claims

Some have claimed that Ikea’s announcement is inconsistent with the brands goal of almost doubling sales to €50 billion by 2020.

Given that the furniture house launches 2,000 new products a year, It does seem unlikely that the brand will achieve this surge in profit by touting spare LACK table legs, or new BILLY bookcase shelves.

But then, perhaps the company’s simply ahead of the curve in its prediction that solar panels or energy saving lights could see a surge in mainstream popularity in the next few years.

However Ikea move forward toward its new sustainable goal, we hope Howard hasn’t just made an empty promise.

As Green MP Caroline Lucas said at the same event: “Beyond a certain level, material consumption is not adding to our happiness.”