Swedish furniture giant Ikea admitted on Friday that some of its suppliers in the 1970s used forced labour in former Communist East Germany and expressed regret that controls were less strict at the time.
Releasing a report by auditors Ernst and Young into the use of forced labour in East Germany, Ikea said there were “indications that political prisoners and convicts were partly involved in producing parts or pieces of furniture that were delivered to Ikea 25 or 30 years ago.”
“In addition, the investigation showed there were Ikea managers who were aware of the possibility that political prisoners would be used to manufacture Ikea products in the former East Germany,” the report added.
While the firm took steps to ensure this did not occur, “it is now clear that these measures were not effective enough,” the furniture giant acknowledged.
“At the time, we did not yet have the well-organised control system we have today and clearly did not do enough to prevent this type of production method,” the firm said.
The Ernst and Young report examined documents from the Ikea archives as well as from the German historical files.
The auditors also carried out some 90 interviews with a variety of Ikea employees, prisoners and witnesses.
But the report has already come under fire.
Klaus Schroeder, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said: “It would have been simpler to come and ask us because we are the experts on this subject.”