Corruption in Russia: IKEA’s expansion to the East (A)
ESMT European School of Management and Technology
This four-part case series can be used to discuss business ethics, compliance/governance, integrity management, reacting to and preparing against corruption in the context of internationalization and allows to also briefly touching upon the issue of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Case (A) describes a challenge IKEA was facing, while trying to enter Russia in 2000. The company was preparing to open its first flagship store on the outskirts of Moscow, only the first of several planned projects. After substantial investments in infrastructure and logistics, IKEA focused on marketing, but quickly faced a sudden complication. Its major ad campaign in the Moscow Metro with the slogan “[e]very 10th European was made in one of our beds” was labeled “tasteless”. IKEA had to stop the campaign because it “couldn’t prove” the claim. Soon Lennart Dahlgren, the first general manager of IKEA in Russia must have realized that the unsuccessful ad campaign was going to be the least of his problems: A few weeks before the planned opening, the local utility company decided not to provide their services for the store if IKEA did not pay a bribe. What should IKEA and Lennart Dahlgren do? Was there any alternative to playing the game the Russian way, and paying?
The subsequent cases (B), (C), and (D) describe IKEA’s creative response to the challenges described in case (A), and then report about new challenges with alleged corruption within IKEA and in the legal environment, and finally raise the question whether IKEA can be considered to have a social responsibility to fight corruption on a societal level in order to build the platform for its own operation in Russia.
This case series can be used to discuss business ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in general, but focusses mostly on ethical issues around corruption, governance and compliance, cross-cultural differences and some of the ethical challenges in the context of internationalization of companies.
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