After my earlier post on IKEA, food, tax evasion and Nazi ties – I began to wonder why I reacted so strongly on IKEA’s business decision. It isn’t so much that their food has nothing to do with Swedish cuisine. In fact it is an affront mention Swedish, kitchen and IKEA FoodShop in the same sentence. But then if IKEA believe they can offer their customers something better than they used to do, that might be considered good business practice. The fact that the customers are protesting and that IKEA choose to respond with utter arrogance – well that’s just a collateral damage, isn’t it?
As for the Nazi ties, they exist, that is clear and IKEA have never denied them. And while I feel that it would be courteous of IKEA to acknowledge the horrors created by the Nazi regime I also feel some kind of fascination by a person, and a public person at that, that simply puts himself above all that. It is a kind of arrogance I feel almost refreshing.
Tax evasion, in the case of IKEA it can be considered as shrewd business practise and as with the Nazi ties, there is something equally refreshing about such an obvious and unabashed greed that Ingvar Kamprad shows in his dealings with taxation. Well in fact in all his financial dealings. IKEA is owned by a foundation which in its turn is owned by the Kamprad family. It’s Ingvar Kamprad’s way of ensuring that his sons won’t be squabble away the company after his demise – whom can argue with that? The fact that the company gives NOTHING (they have started, true) back to the society is their free choice, I don’t like it, but IKEA is a private-enterprise and as such makes its own choices. And why should they give back?
No, I think it is something deeper and goes back to Swedish values the way I remember them from my childhood. Every country has an image. If you say “Swedish” it evokes a certain picture: industrial success, consensus, fairness, openness, a society that takes care of its subjects; kindergartens, schools, dental care, free hospitals… all paid by crippling taxes but since the state gave back it was felt it was OK. And it was on the whole a positive image of a minute country in the periphery of Europe that had built a society that was envied by many. An image exploited by IKEA when building the global corporation it is today. And it is an image and values IKEA betrayed.
And yes, IKEA is a private-enterprise functioning on a market and as such IKEA only ever have to make decisions that are sound for their business. However, is financial gains the only way to measure success? It can be claimed so, as a company with red figures soon goes out of business.
But something irks me: it is like the stone in your shoe, the soreness you feel in your muscles after working out too hard – can it be that IKEA have done their job so well that I hold them to higher standards? Or is it because I’m Swedish and that I just feel an affinity which gives me the right to expect more? A right based on what? IKEA is Dutch. I used to be proud over IKEA. No longer. I feel the problem is that IKEA isn’t acting on the standards they claim they hold themselves to as a Swedish company. Instead IKEA goes down the road of greed, pride and arrogance.