IKEA furniture was allegedly produced by prisoners in Belarus penal colonies under forced labor conditions, according to a new report by the French non-profit investigative journalism network Disclose.
Disclose alleges that at least ten of IKEA’s subcontractors in Belarus “had ties with penal colonies over the past 10 years,” according to accounting records and witness interviews, including with former detainees.
“These are forced labor camps that are particularly brutal, known for practicing torture as well as food and healthcare deprivation, the exact opposite of the values flaunted by the Swedish firm,” Disclose said in its report.
One of the subcontractors identified by Disclose, Mogotex, allegedly worked with “at least four Belarusian penal colonies” to produce “table linen, curtains and towels” for the Swedish manufacturer.
Disclose says other IKEA suppliers resorted to forced labor from prisoners in Belarus’ IK-15 penal colony and IK-2 juvenile prison.
IKEA takes the report “very seriously and never accept[s] human rights violations” in its supply chain, the company told CNN in an emailed statement.
“We are clear across all markets where we are present that human rights abuses have no place in our business…In June 2021, we decided to stop all new business development due to the human rights challenges in Belarus and the unpredictable environment,” IKEA said, adding the war in Ukraine accelerated its June 2022 decision to leave Belarus and terminate all its contracts with suppliers there.
“While present in Belarus, we carried out regular audits in combination with the mapping of our supply chain to secure compliance with our requirements. Anytime we receive indications of misconduct, we take them seriously, investigate and act on them. We always strive to live up to our values and the expectations of those in our supply chain,” IKEA said.
Belarus annually produced goods for IKEA worth approximately $83 million under a strategy called “Go Belarus,” with the volume of products manufactured by Belarussian companies registering an annual growth of 50%, according to a 2019 statement by the Belarus Ambassador to Sweden.
At the time the ambassador, Dmitry Mironchik, said IKEA was “planning to double the volume of purchases from Belarus” in 2020, “which is more than Belarus’ exports to other big European countries.”
IKEA was previously accused of using political prisoners in what was then called the German Democratic Republic in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2012 the Swedish company admitted to the fact and said it deeply regretted it.