Our vision “to create a better everyday life for the many people” extends to our co-workers and customers, but also to our suppliers and their communities. One way to put this into action is to care about those products that have a purpose beyond business. But how do we do this? Well, here’s the story of SOARÉ, or how a simple place mat can make an important and positive change in many people’s lives.
SOARÉ is a beautiful rounded place mat, woven from the vibrantly green, sturdy and fast-growing water hyacinth that thrives in the Mekong River in Vietnam. The process of harvesting, drying and weaving the plant is important to the people living along the river banks. It keeps the waterway passable, it preserves handicraft tradition, and it earns the weavers extra money.
When SOARÉ became a popular product among our customers, supplies couldn’t cope with the demand. So, we thought it was time to change something in the production, or maybe replace it with a machine-made alternative. But before we decided, we wanted to go to Vietnam and look at the whole manufacturing process.
The IKEA SOARÉ team visited the weavers, listened to their stories and took part in their daily lives. The workers – mostly women – gather in different homes to weave together and have the freedom to decide how much and how often to work. They chat, laugh, keep an eye on the farms and look after their children.
“Before we went to Vietnam I didn’t have an emotional attachment to the product. I just saw cost and business,” says Daniel Bergman, one of the members of the SOARÉ team.
They decided that the solution to meeting growing customer demands, was to offer both handmade and machine-made place mats. That gives the customer a wider selection to choose from and it takes the sales pressure off SOARÉ, as the machine-made place mats can be produced in higher quantities, and the SOARÉ production can continue as it is.