The Big Bad Box Store?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Big blue and bad? (Courtesy Gothamist)

Big blue and bad? (Courtesy Gothamist)

Yesterday, the Bloomberg administration announced the winners of its eighth annual Neighborhood Achievement Awards. Among the honorees was the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership for the Placemaking Award, the Bronx Library Center for the Development Award, and IKEA Red Hook for the Norman Buchbinder Award for Neighborhood Beautification. The latter makes sense, as it sure is a nice park, but we also thought it a bit ironic considering what we saw earlier that day on Archinect, namely an Atlantic article calling the big blue designer retailer the “least sustainable company on the planet.”

Basically, the writer for The Atlantic, Ellen Ruppel Shell, compares IKEA if not to McDonalds than at least Starbucks, in that the Swedish design retailer has consider clout it lets go to waste in the name of affordable fashion. To wit:

IKEA designs to price, challenging its talented European team to create ever-cheaper objects, and its suppliers—most of them in low-wage countries in Asia and eastern Europe—to squeeze out the lowest possible price. By some measures the world’s third-largest wood consumer […] Nor, despite a lot of self-serving hoopla, is energy conservation: the company boasts of illuminating its stores with low-wattage lightbulbs but positions outlets far from city centers, where taxes are low and commuting costs high—the average IKEA customer drives 50 miles round-trip. […] Wig Zamore, a Massachusetts environmental activist who was recently recognized for his work by the Environmental Protection Agency, is working with IKEA and supports some of the company’s regional green initiatives. But as he put it, “IKEA is the least sustainable retailer on the planet.” And in real costs—the kind that will burden our grandchildren—that also makes it among the most expensive.

And to think our dear Brooklyn store is the most popular in the world. Maybe you should think twice before picking up that new EKTORP or POÄNG, think twice. (Almost made those names up, but the real one’s couldn’t be faked, so we just used them instead.)

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