There is wide recognition that we are at a critical juncture for the future of our planet and that addressing climate change requires urgent action from everyone – from governments and businesses to communities and individuals. As a global organization that touches the home lives of close to one billion people, IKEA is taking a leadership role in not only making its operations more sustainable but also offering customers solutions for reducing their environmental footprint.
CEO and chief sustainability officer at IKEA Canada
“We’re taking our responsibility to lead and respond to climate change very seriously. We want to inspire others and galvanize action,” says Michael Ward, who holds the titles of both CEO and chief sustainability officer at IKEA Canada. “Everything we do has to contribute towards sustainability and social responsibility. The next decade is crucial, and the urgency of tackling climate change has inspired us to accelerate efforts and meet the ambitious goals of becoming fully circular and climate positive in total operations by 2030.”
From furniture to food, production to home delivery, energy to investments, IKEA Canada has embarked on a radical transformation to become a “people and planet positive business,” explains Melissa Barbosa, sustainability manager at IKEA Canada. “In order to be fully sustainable as a business, we need to look at our entire operation to see where the gaps lie, where we can find efficiencies, where we can collaborate for change and how we can support customers.”
sustainability manager at IKEA Canada
Supporting the move towards a circular economy
Advancing the circular economy is a crucial step for learning to live within the means of one planet, she says. As a founding member and active proponent of the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition – a collaborative initiative across sectors to advance and secure Canada’s transition to a circular economy – IKEA Canada aims to make its operation fully circular by 2030.
In order to meet this goal, the organization is stepping up measures that support circularity, including using only renewable, recycled or recyclable materials, eliminating waste and introducing services that help customers extend the life of their products, says Barbosa. An example is IKEA Canada’s sell-back program, where customers can apply to sell their gently used IKEA products back for a credit, with the products being resold in-store or donated to non-profit organizations.
In addition, IKEA Canada sold its last plastic straw in 2019 and fully phased out single-use plastics from its home furnishing range, she notes. “We also offer a number of recycling programs, including a partnership with Habitat for Humanity that enables our customers to donate their pre-owned kitchens for a tax credit.”
Sustainable solutions for everyone and every day
IKEA Canada’s sustainability efforts reach far beyond its own operations, explains Ward. “Up to 90 per cent of people want to live more sustainable lives, but many think this means giving up certain aspects of their lifestyle or paying more. We can help with these challenges. We want to advance the conversation to let people know that [shifting to sustainable options] can be affordable and something everyone can participate in, every day.”
In circumstances when many people are spending more time at home and working from home, IKEA Canada can help them “navigate those changes in affordable and sustainable ways,” he says. And how will customers know about options that are good for the environment? A “green thread” at stores and a sustainable product guide point out sustainable choices.
“We’ve always paid attention to affordability, accessibility and sustainability,” says Barbosa. “But we are now really focusing on the drivers for accelerating a shift that allows Canadians to live healthier and more sustainable lives at home while saving not only money but also energy, water and waste.”
Waste reduction and energy transition
Canadians produce more waste per capita than any other country in the world, with 58 per cent of all food produced in Canada – approximately 35.5 million tonnes – being lost or wasted annually, according to a report by Second Harvest. In addition to accessing a number of food storage and waste sorting solutions, IKEA customers will be inspired to know that food waste has been reduced by 31 per cent at in-store restaurants in Canada.
To support the transition away from fossil fuels, all Canadian IKEA locations offer electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. By 2025, home deliveries across Canada will be made by EV or other zero-emission transportation. As a result of investments in renewable energy sources, including solar panels on more than half of IKEA Canada stores and ownership of two wind farms in Alberta, the organization generates renewable energy equivalent to four times its total consumption nationally.
Sustainability ‘makes good business sense’
Customers, stakeholders and team members are increasingly choosing to engage with organizations that are aligned with their values, says Ward. “And by taking action in the communities where we operate and by helping people consider sustainability in their homes, we are building trust with the people we interact with.”
Embedding sustainability into the business makes good business sense, states Barbosa. “People don’t just want better value for their products, they also demand that businesses pay attention to community vitality and environmental protection.”
Concern about climate change is growing in Canada and across the globe, even at a time when the coronavirus pandemic commands much public attention, she believes. “COVID-19 did shine a spotlight on how interconnected we are as a global community. Just like the pandemic, the climate crisis impacts people and businesses everywhere, so that drives home the responsibility to make changes together.”
Ward agrees, “We can’t do it alone. It requires efforts from all of us, and our call to action goes out to all our co-workers, customers and community partners. With all of us working together, even on seemingly small changes, our collective impact can be massive.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.