In a recently launched pilot program, IKEA has created an online marketplace where people can sell their used IKEA furniture, free of charge. Currently this program is only available in Sweden (IKEA’s home country), and then only to those who are members of the free “IKEA Family”. This is part of the inexpensive furniture retailer’s goals of increased environmental stewardship.
Known for its affordable coffee tables and in-store meatballs, IKEA claims the used furniture sales fit with the company’s environmentally-friendly ethos. “It is about taking an environmental responsibility for how our products are used in the longer term and making it easier for our customers to do their part for their responsibility towards the environment,” Agnefäll says.
The company does not expect to make any money from the program, and has no long term plans or goals to monetize off the peer to peer marketplace. It seems the goal is purely to help lengthen the lifecycle of their products, and increase their accountability for their furniture’s end of life. Most of the discussions about the program that you come across contain at least one quip along the lines of “I didn’t know any IKEA furniture survived long enough to be resold” or general trash talking of the build quality of the furniture. As trendy and fun it is to complain about IKEA furniture, doing this is completely missing the point of the program. If you take care of IKEA furniture, and especially if you actually build it correctly in the first place, it can last, and there already is an aftermarket for used and hacked IKEA furniture. This is an example of a company actually taking ownership of more of the lifecycle of their product, and not doing it for the money. That is not to say that IKEA gets nothing from the situation, they get more people with their furniture, more eyeballs on their site, and they get the positive PR of a company acting in an environmentally ethical manner. While some might think it silly, or worse yet, pointlessly economically draining for IKEA, what they need realize is that this is the type of accountability and transparency that is going to be expected of every company, regardless of size or industry. The time where companies could mask their manufacturing processes, material sourcing, and labor practices behind a shroud of secrecy, only concerned with their products from the factory floor to the customers hands is ending. Logistically, trading and selling used IKEA furniture is the first step towards furniture recycling, and as more and more companies and industries begin to buy back product for in house recycling, do not be surprised if this is next big press release you hear coming out of everyone’s favorite yellow and blue Swedish retailer.