We use cotton in many of our products, from sofas and cushions to bed linen and mattresses. It is a soft, durable and renewable fibre that breathes and is good at absorbing moisture.
All these great qualities make cotton one of our most important materials, but it isn’t without its challenges, much having to do with conventional farming methods that negatively impact the environment and poor working conditions for farmers.
With our size and production volumes, we want to drive change in the cotton industry. By only using recycled cotton or cotton from more sustainable sources, working with partnerships and initiatives on the ground and prioritising compliance, we believe that we can make a positive impact in the world of cotton.
As one of the first steps, Ditte and her colleagues invited a group of international university students to test mock-ups the development team had created by hacking IKEA products with cardboard, fabric and foam. From the feedback they received, they made new designs that were turned into actual prototypes of LINNEBÄCK. They brought the prototypes to IKEA stores in China and Denmark so that customers could test them. Their reactions surprised Ditte.
“The customers were eager to talk to us and not shy at all. One of the things they told us was that they preferred a lower backrest to make the chair more discrete. That’s especially important if you have limited space and want to avoid an over-furnished feeling at home. We also decided to rule out the armrest that we had on one of the prototypes for the same reason.”
One feature that few customers seemed to care about was that the fabric on the back of the chair was as thick and cushy as on the front.
“They thought it was unnecessary since they probably would place the chair against a wall and not in the middle of a room,” says Ditte. The lack of attention this detail got actually turned out to be a good thing.
“We found another solution for the fabric, and it contributed to the low price. Every time I see LINNEBÄCK, I’m reminded of what we learned when we met the customers. Their suggestions have filled LINNEBÄCK with history before it has even reached people’s homes.”
Since 2015, all cotton in IKEA products is either recycled or comes from more sustainable sources*. This means that we only source cotton grown using sustainable farming practices that reduce the use of fertilisers, pesticides and water, improve working conditions and earnings for farmers, and benefit ecosystem health and biodiversity conservation. We have set up a system that enables use to trace all our cotton and ensure that the final product is from approved, certified sources.
*Cotton from more sustainable sources commits to the following schemes: Better Cotton (as defined by BCI, including their equivalence in various geographies), cotton from farmers working towards the BCI standard (TBC).
Each year, IKEA uses around 0.5 percent of all cotton grown around the world. This may not seem like a lot, but the number is big enough to drive change in the industry.
For many years, we have been working with partners and stakeholders globally to transform conventional large-scale cotton farming and set social and environmental standards for cotton production. As an example, we helped set up the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) who runs the world’s largest cotton sustainability programme. BCI exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future. Today, more than 110,000 farmers have adopted more sustainable farming practices within IKEA projects.
All IKEA products are produced in accordance with the IKEA IWAY Standard, our Supplier Code of Conduct. It sets out the minimum environmental and social standards expected from our suppliers, including compliance with local laws. We do not accept any form of forced labour, child labour or treatments in breach of our supply chain requirements.
Our cotton teams across the globe ensure that all cotton used in IKEA products meets the demands of compliance in our supply chain. By having teams on the ground in areas where it has previously been challenging to work responsibly, we can challenge the traditional ways of working and improve the industry.
If we discover that we are acting in places where we cannot ensure our requirements are being met, we follow-up on the ground and drive change.