what's swedish for "moral relativism"?

For those reading this who are a) not living in Atlantic Canada or b) living under a rock in Atlantic Canada, IKEA announced last Friday that it will be opening a full size store here in Halifax.

Yep, this pro-local, pro-ethical, pro-sustainability woman is writing in support of IKEA. The pragmatist in me just can’t help herself. While Twitter absolutely exploded with glowing enthusiasm by those seduced by either prospects of economic boon or accessibility to well-designed low-priced furniture, the naysayers in the room are some very smart people. And I’m politely asking them to stop.

It is too often too easy to disparage a newcomer without considering the quality of the company you already keep. No person and no business (of any size) is perfect, but some do a much better job than others. When our focus is drawn to something or someone new, there are those who can immediately identify the flaws hiding behind the “shiny”. Yes, recognize the imperfections, but please recognize the imperfections in context. Compare flaws to flaws, apples to apples, or in this case, meatballs to meatballs?

As buyers and community members possessing the knowledge that none of our choices are without their drawbacks, we are left to evaluate which choices are better than others. Steak versus mussels versus lentils? Made in Nova Scotia versus Canada versus China? Fair trade? Organic? Local? How many of us have a handcrafted dining table sustainably harvested from a local forest? Admittedly, not me even though I really, really want one.

It’s a moot point now, but I was happy Target came to Halifax. Why? Because I think Walmart is very, very bad. We have lots of Walmarts firmly entrenched in our regional economy. In my opinion, Walmart is one of the worst places consumers can spend their hard-earned dollar. And this is where we need to be sure that we are comparing apples to apples…Target should have been diverting market share from Walmart, not local independent retailers like so many protested when they announced their intended arrival. In the world of big retailers, Target is definitely one of the better players. When they were here, I did not divert money I would have spent with local independents to Target. But I did feel better buying my storage tubs and children's socks.

Now IKEA is coming. Moral relativism must prevail. No, it’s not perfect, but let’s be reasonable. Where are people already buying products with a similar look or at a similar price point? How does IKEA compare to a corporation like say, The Brick? That is the conversation we should be having. Else, we’re still simply poo-pooing all over the newest come-from-away.

Yes, there are independent retailers who will be adversely affected. IKEA will not come with the high-wage jobs the province really needs. But when it comes to its policies on renewable energy, child labour, waste reduction and meaningful efforts towards establishing and maintaining an ethical supply chain, I’ll roll out a rather stylish welcome mat.

Laurie DolhanComment