What, IKEA is selling used furniture?  I was taken aback for a few reasons:  I did not know anyone bought used IKEA furniture; it was surprising that IKEA furniture lasted long enough to transfer to a new owner; and the whole point of purchasing furniture from the big blue and yellow store was to have that sleek modern furniture for a low price, with the added bonus of a lunch at the famous IKEA Café, while hoping that no one you know would see you there.

IKEA has received a fair share of criticism over the years, but there is evidence that the furniture giant undertaking improvements on the sustainability front.  The company has tinkered with renewable energy, is phasing out flame retardants in its furniture, and in Sweden it is making a counterintuitive business move: customers in its home country can now sell the store’s used furniture on IKEA’s Swedish site.

Peter Agnefäll, CEO of IKEA Sweden, stated that the launch of the used furniture marketplace was a step in proving that IKEA is dedicated to environmental stewardship.  Members of the company’s customer loyalty program, IKEA Family, can post and sell their items for free.  Membership, after all, is free, and to that end, Agnefäll says the company does not expect to make any money from this service.  He also expects the program to take some time, but in the long run, IKEA does not expect its sales to suffer.  At the same time, he dismissed any assertions that IKEA was trying to establish a foothold in the second-hand goods industry--a valid concern to some after last year, when the company had a naming rights issue with a used furniture clearinghouse, ILoveIkea.se.  After IKEA took legal action, the site changed its name to Billyandfriends.se.

The site launched last weekend while IKEA’s Sweden locations hosted flea markets at the stores’ parking lots.  For now IKEA is only offering the online swap meet in Sweden, but if the service catches on, other countries could see a similar online service in the future.  The move is a bold one for IKEA, and for consumers, a smart one.  With all the talk about eco-friendly furniture and other products with a “sustainability” stamp, there is one fact that is true of many products.  Whether the item is a pair of jeans, sofa, car, or house, the most eco-friendly option is often the one that has already been manufactured or built.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.