Small-scale production may not be the first thing people associate with IKEA products. However, since the IKEA business began as a small local enterprise run by an entrepreneur, it is a natural fit that IKEA of Sweden AB supports other small-scale enterprises. And since an important aspect of the IKEA business is to support people and communities, collaborating with social enterprises that benefit their local communities helps us in this mission.
IKEA of Sweden currently works with five social enterprises: Rangsutra and Industree Producer Transform in India, Doi Tung Development Project in Thailand, APIKRI in Indonesia and Yalla Trappan in Sweden. The initiative brings together IKEA designers with local artisans to create limited edition collections that are sold in selected IKEA stores in Austria, Switzerland and Sweden. All profits from the collections are reinvested into further social enterprise partnerships that support economic, environmental and social development.
Ann-Sofie Gunnarsson, Communication Manager for the initiative at IKEA of Sweden, describes the success of the partnerships: “Social entrepreneurs are doing very important work in their communities, and we can contribute by giving them business advice and selling their products internationally.” She continues, “So far, the collaborations have been successful for all involved, and the handmade collections add an extra dimension to our usual range.”
2014 – MÅNGSIDIG and INVERKAN
MÅNGSIDIG was one of the social enterprise collections launched in 2014. The collection is the result of collaboration between IKEA of Sweden and social enterprises in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka, India. The goal of the collaboration is to empower women in rural areas. The collection they produced includes hand-embroidered cushion covers, baskets, seating cushions and footstools. Many of the products are made from biodegradable banana stems and fibres, which are usually discarded.
Another social enterprise collection launched in 2014 was INVERKAN. This limited collection of pottery and textiles was created by IKEA designers, together with artisans from the Doi Tung Development Project in Northern Thailand. Doi Tung’s social mission is to revive natural forests devastated by the production of opium. They also aim to improve healthcare and education for local people affected by the illegal drug trade.
A shared ambition
These limited-edition collections not only give visitors a chance to own unique artisan-produced home furnishings. The initiative with social enterprises also addresses a growing consumer demand for more comprehensive sustainability efforts.
Partnering with social enterprises support of real social change that consumers now expect. Selling the limited edition collections in stores directly engages customers who share the same ambitions. As one visitor to the IKEA store in Aubonne, Switzerland said, “It’s good to be able to support a social mission while buying something at the IKEA store.”
Working with social enterprise – the future
In August 2014 a sewing collaboration began with Yalla Trappan in Malmö Sweden. Yalla Trappan is a women’s cooperative that provides employment for immigrant women who are finding it tough to find work. The idea behind the partnership is that customers at the IKEA Malmö store can order curtains and Yalla Trappan will make them using IKEA fabrics. Christina Merker-Siesjö from Yalla Trappan shares how the partnership has helped their enterprise. “The partnership has enabled us to employ more women in our studio. The women are very proud to be part of this project, and it has given them a lot of confidence”.
As with all sustainability efforts, the work with social enterprises is ongoing. In 2015 four new limited edition collections will be launched, expanding the initiative to IKEA stores in new countries including the UK, Italy and Indonesia.