When we arrived at the soft toy factory of the Danu Vina supplier, we met the friendly faces of our tour guides. We were accompanied by the IKEA communication responsible Melanie Casul.
We were invited into a conference room filled with soft toys. I instantly felt that we had entered a place where childhood dreams can come true. This supplier is 25,000 square metres in size and is the workplace for 1,600 people. It is the supplier for many different companies, although IKEA accounts for 60% of their business. According to Jaroslow Kielek, the Sustainability Manager for IKEA Trading Area South East Asia, this is a good thing. A supplier who works with more companies often has an easier time implementing IWAY standards, in many cases the highest in industry. IWAY is a standard that all companies must comply with in order to work with IKEA. It contains many many many important rules, such as no child labour, a safe working environment, how many hours a week the employees can work, to name just a few examples.
The goal for the people of IKEA Trading Area South East Asia is not only for the suppliers to fulfil the IWAY specifications, but also to truly accept it and see the benefits of this way of working. In the long run, the supplier will actually save both time and money complying with IWAY. Although that is the dream, it cannot be taken for granted. That’s why unannounced visits are sometimes necessary.
We got a chance to walk around the soft toy factory to see what it is like, and I must say I was very positively surprised. I was not sure what to expect, and since I had not read the IWAY rules, I didn’t know much about them. The employees have much better working conditions than I expected. For example, they get a free lunch, free health checks twice a year, a reward system, and their children get a school education.
When I walked around, many of the employees looked up with curious eyes and when I smiled at them, they all smiled back. It made me feel so happy, and it looked to me as though they were happy at work. The fact that our soft toys are made by hand and are secured in so many different ways was an eye opener. The factory is a noisy place and from time to time there is an intense smell; all the employees at the noisy stations are wearing ear plugs. But the feeling I walked away with is that the IKEA spirit is flowing all the way out to our suppliers such as this one, knowing that they take the time to celebrate each other with parties for Women’s Day, karaoke and live music.
Overall, this was another fantastic day on the IWitness trip, and I left the supplier with a smile in my face and a good feeling in my stomach. I often put my employer on a pedestal, and this day made me feel sure that I can do that with confidence.