Hofheim-Wallau/Helsingborg/Berlin 16 November 2012. During the past year, media reported that 25-30 years ago IKEA purchased products from trade companies in the former GDR that possibly utilised prison labour, including political prisoners. The IKEA Group took the allegations very seriously and initiated an investigation. In May 2012, Ernst & Young’s investigation services were engaged to conduct an independent investigation into the purchase practices in former GDR and Cuba.
This investigation has now been completed. Since May, approximately 20,000 pages of documents from the internal archives of the IKEA Group and 80,000 archived objects at German federal and state archives have been analysed. Around 90 individuals, both active and retired IKEA Group co-workers as well as witnesses from the former GDR have been interviewed. In addition, a public hotline was established and questionnaires to both active and former co-workers were distributed.
The investigation indicates that political and criminal prisoners were involved in parts of the component or furniture production units that supplied to IKEA 25-30 years ago. The investigation also shows that there were IKEA Group representatives who at the time were aware of the possible use of political prisoners in the former GDR production. Even though the IKEA Group took steps to secure that prisoners were not used in production, it is now clear that these measures were not effective enough.
This investigation also looked into potential purchase activities in Cuba. The IKEA Group has never had any long-term business relations with suppliers in Cuba. The investigation confirms that only a limited amount of test products were purchased but stopped as they did not meet quality standards. There is no evidence that the IKEA Group received any other products from Cuba.
“We deeply regret that this could happen. The use of political prisoners in production has never been acceptable to the IKEA Group. At the time, we didn’t have today’s well-developed control system and obviously didn’t do enough to prevent such production conditions among our former GDR suppliers”, says Jeanette Skjelmose, Sustainability Manager, IKEA of Sweden.
All IKEA products must be produced under acceptable conditions. Since 2000, IKEA has one of the most progressive and respected supplier codes of conduct in the world (IWAY)and conducts more than 1000 audits per year to confirm compliance by suppliers.
“We are confident that today’s IWAY standard, our close relationship with our suppliers, and our comprehensive control system including external audits, effectively reduces the risk of something similar happening again”, Skjelmose continues.
The IKEA Group has, in consultation with the organisation Union of the association of the victims of communist despotism, (‘UOKG’ in Germany), decided to make a financial contribution to their scientific research project on forced labour in the former GDR.
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