IKEA has said it “deeply regrets” the use of forced labor by political prisoners in communist East Germany.
The Swedish furniture giant asked accountants Ernst & Young to look into the matter, dating back to the 1970s.
The study, now published, indicates that political and criminal prisoners were involved in manufacturing for IKEA suppliers.
It also said that IKEA representatives at the time knew that political prisoners were possibly used.
IKEA gave contracts to the East German government in the 1970s.
Former political prisoners of the Stasi, the feared secret police, said they worked on the furniture, prompting IKEA to commission the Ernst & Young report.
Those former prisoners may now expect compensation.
“We deeply regret that this could happen. Using political prisoners in production has never been accepted within the IKEA Group,” said Jeanette Skjelmose, IKEA’s sustainability manager.
The company said that although it took steps to try to ensure that prisoners were not used in production, “it is now clear that these measures were not effective enough”.
Jeanette Skjelmose added that IKEA now had one of the most rigorous codes of conduct for suppliers and this, together with close co-operation with suppliers and external inspections, effectively reduced the risk of something similar happening again.
“IKEA had contracts with GDR Enterprises to produce their furniture here,” said Dr. Hubertus Knabe, director of the Stasi Prison Memorial, a former prison that has been turned into a museum.
“They didn’t ask who were producing their furniture and under what kind of conditions,” he said prior to the report being published.
“In each case you are responsible [for] with whom you are dealing and if you are dealing with dictatorship, if you don’t have a look under what kind of conditions your furniture is produced, then you are responsible for that.”