Hand-made rugs are very popular for their unique craftsmanship and rich history. On the other hand, rug weaving has often been linked to poor working conditions and exploitation by middlemen. At IKEA we believe there should be a way to work with producers, to maintain the quality and feel of a handmade rug, while at the same time radically improve working conditions. And as it turned out, there is.
Improving the way we produce hand-made rugs, with decent working conditions and fair pay, quickly proved to be a win-win situation. For weavers it's meant that orders, work and income are steady, regular and predictable. We've cut out middlemen and agents, and replaced them with official weaving centres that fulfil the IKEA code of conduct and safety conditions.
In India and Bangladesh, rug weaving has traditionally been regarded as a side income. The work has been done at home or in unregulated factories, and workers have often had to face a reality of irregular and unpredictable orders, work and income. On top of that, agents controlled the business and earned the money.
In 2010 IKEA started an initiative in order to change the production of rugs. In collaboration with suppliers in India and Bangladesh regulated weaving centres were established, improving conditions for weavers on many levels.
Kushal Chakravorty, IKEA Business Development Manager
Our ambition is to place weaving centres close to where weavers and other workers live, so they don't have to move away from their home and family to find a job. We've also made changes to the weaving process, by developing a new loom that requires less physical strength to operate. The new loom has introduced weaving as profession for women, getting them into work and the economic stability it brings. We also decided not to patent the new loom, making available for everyone to use.
Improving conditions for weavers will not only have a positive impact on society, improve supply and care for the environment. It will also help make the unique craftsmanship of a hand-made rug affordable and available for people everywhere to enjoy. Because even though most of us will use it to walk on, a hand-made rug deserves to be admired as the piece of art it really is.