Ikea under fire over Turkish supplier

Swedish furniture giant Ikea and US retailer Wal-Mart was among several international companies criticized by a Norwegian group for what it deemed "unacceptable" working conditions at a Turkish supplier.

Home textile product supplier Menderes Tekstil had threatened and fired employees who showed interest in joining a union, said Framtiden i Våre Hender (The Future in Our Hands), which focuses on ethical and climate issues.

“Health hazardous working conditions have also been reported at the factory,” the group said in a statement: in November 2008 a worker had been killed on the premises.

“The conditions are unacceptable, and it is critical that Ikea, which is Menderes’ largest customer, now spearheads the efforts to improve working conditions,” said Carin Leffler, who heads up the Norwegian branch of the Clean Clothes campaign, which is co-sponsored by Framtiden i Våre Hender.

Contacted by AFP, Ikea said Monday it “takes this matter seriously.”

“We are aware of the accidents and complaints, and have over the past year had continuous contacts with union representatives and the supplier,” the Swedish company wrote in an email statement.

“Ikea requires that all employees at our suppliers have the right to safe working conditions and should be treated fairly and equally regardless of trade union membership,” it wrote.

“Workers’ safety is a cornerstone in the Ikea code of conduct,” it added.

Neither Ikea nor independent third-party auditors had found “evidence (at Menderes) of serious safety violations or systematic actions towards employees associated to a trade union,” the company added.

But it would continue to monitor the supplier closely.

Wal-Mart, along with French retailer Carrefour and British maternity and baby equipment vendor Mothercare also figure among Menderes’ customers, said Framtiden i Våre Hender.

They should do more to ensure that the Turkish company improves working conditions, said the group.

“Ikea should, along with the other purchasers, create a so-called ‘buyers group’ and cooperate with the supplier and the (Turkish) Teksif union to find a quick solution that will secure the workers’ fundamental rights,” it said.


Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price

In the run-up to what would in normal times be the festive season sales rush, Ikea has vowed to buy back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price
Got any pieces of Ikea furniture at home? You may be able to get rid of it and get money back. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Ikea, the world's largest furniture chain, said Tuesday it would begin buying back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

The “Buy Back Friday” scheme, timed to coincide with the “Black Friday” pre-Christmas retail frenzy, will run from November 24th and until December 3rd in 27 countries.

“Rather than buy things you don't need this Black Friday, we want to help customers give their furniture a second life instead of making an impulse buy,” said Stefan Vanoverbeke, deputy retail operations manager at Ingka Group, Ikea's parent company.

To address concerns its affordable, flat-pack products encourage overconsumption and waste, the Swedish company had previously said it would start renting and recycling furniture as part of an eco-drive.

Under its buyback scheme, the group said that “anything that can't be resold will be recycled or donated to community projects to help those most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“Some countries like Australia and Canada for example are currently testing different buyback services, but BuyBack Friday will be the first time that 27 countries do this together,” the statement added.

The Swedish giant employs over 217,000 people and has more than 50 outlets. Its annual turnover is around 40 billion euros ($46 billion).

The group did not specify how it would determine the price paid for second-hand furniture and customers will receive a voucher, not cash, for their products.  

As part of efforts to reduce waste, Ikea has already begun repairing and re-packaging products in every store that have been damaged in transit, as well as allowing customers to return products – including furniture – for resale or donation to charities.