The Ikea Group has apologized for using forced labor in the former German Democratic Republic to manufacture certain products. The company acknowledged it was aware of the forced-labor conditions and profited from the practice.
An investigation of Ikea by Ernst & Young confirmed the use of forced labor by the company, Inter Ikea Systems B.V. said Friday. The forced labor involved criminal and political prisoners in the former East Germany between 25 and 30 years ago.
Ikea had arranged for the investigation after media reported this year allegations that the multinational company founded in Sweden had known about, and profited from, forced labor in its supply chain, the New York Times said.
Those allegations were proven true by Ernst & Young's investigation.
Some Ikea managers were aware of the forced-labor practices, but did little to stop the practice, as noted by the Los Angeles Times.
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Ikea representatives visited locations in East Germany where certain products were manufactured, but those visits were tightly regulated and restricted to certain areas of the plants, as pointed out by the New York Times.
“We deeply regret that this could happen," Jeanette Skjelmose, Ikea of Sweden's sustainability manager, said in a statement. "The use of political prisoners in production has never been acceptable to the Ikea Group. At the time, we didn’t have today’s well-developed control system and obviously didn’t do enough to prevent such production conditions among our former GDR suppliers.”
Ernst & Young also investigated Ikea's possible use of forced labor in Cuba, but cleared the company of wrongdoing there.
Ikea was not the only company to profit from forced labor in East Germany, Rainer Wagner, chairman of the victims’ group Union of the Association of the Victims of Communist Despotism, UOKG in Germany, told the Associated Press. Many other large companies may have, knowingly or unknowingly, benefited from forced labor in East German prisons, Wagner said. Investigations concerning forced labor in the former East Germany are ongoing.
Ikea will be making a financial contribution to UOKG's scientific research project on forced labor in the former East Germany, the company said.
Wagner would like to see Ikea also donate money to former East German prisoners who were subjected to forced-labor practices, AP reported.