We use cotton in many of our products, from sofas and cushions to bed linen and mattresses. It is a soft, durable and renewable fiber 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 prioritizing compliance, we believe that we can make a positive impact in the world of cotton.
The inspiration for these rugs comes from traditional Swedish handicraft, where leftover fabric scraps are woven into rag rugs – a smart and responsible use of resources. The idea for TÅNUM originated from a young design student named Erik Bertell. He reimagined the rag rug in a modern way and showed that you could create contemporary and unique rugs using only reused textiles.
As we were developing the rug, the passionate manager of one of our supply factories came up with an idea – that women in the village of Karupannya, in Northern Bangladesh, should weave the rugs. He wanted to make everyday life for people in the village better by giving women jobs and a stable income. And since this region in Bangladesh is known for good textile craftsmanship, it was a perfect match.
The easiest way to produce the rugs would have been to make new fabrics instead of shipping leftover pieces to the weavers – but that wouldn’t be the IKEA way. “We like to keep things simple, but also to make products in a more sustainable way. The supplier and the rug team at the IKEA office in New Delhi worked together to make it happen,” says Rasmus Jönsson, who works with TÅNUM.
Having people in Karupannya weave the rugs became a part of our initiative called Made by People: Handmade rugs. It’s a long-term IKEA project that establishes weaving centrers close to villages. By bringing weavers together, the production process and the working environment can be monitored and improved. This creates better conditions for the weavers, their families and ultimately the rug industry throughout the region. We’re also helping to develop a new loom that enables weavers to have a more ergonomic working position and requires less muscle power to operate. “The best part is that we can offer functional and beautiful rugs for thousands of homes by using leftover materials, and at the same time create jobs for women in Bangladesh. It's good for both people and the planet," says Rasmus.
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 labor, child labor 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.