Associate feature: IKEA goes full circle as it leads the way on sustainability
For IKEA, building back from COVID doesn’t just mean restarting the system; it means resetting it. As the furniture giant contemplates the role it has to play in working towards a greener future, it’s undergoing a radical evolution as part of its ambition to become climate-positive by 2030.
The aim is to go from a traditional linear model to a fully circular one, in which products’ life cycles are extended, resources are reused and little to no waste is produced along the way. Taking the next major step on this journey, the company has just announced the launch of Circular Hubs in stores across Scotland and the UK. By transforming the Bargain Corner or (“As-is”) areas into innovative spaces dedicated to extending the life of their products, it hopes to both inspire and enable its customers to live more sustainably.
The Bargain Corner items aren’t going anywhere; in fact, true to IKEA’s pledge of “creating a better everyday life for the many people”, each Circular Hub will sell an even wider range of recovered and second-hand products. And Scotland’s IKEA stores, based at Edinburgh and Glasgow – as well as the Order and Collection Point in Aberdeen – have led the way in both piloting and rolling out the Circular Hub as a concept, with IKEA co-workers working closely with customers, both new and existing, across Scotland who value sustainability and actively look to brands who prioritise circular business models. By repacking products recovered through customer returns or room set displays that would otherwise go to waste, IKEA can prolong the life of its products and provide customers with items at a reduced price. Meanwhile, customers can also browse returned, ex-display or slightly damaged products being sold at a discount online through the company’s recently launched Gumtree collaboration, which makes giving IKEA’s products a second chance even easier and more accessible.
The business will source these secondhand items through a number of circular initiatives, including the new “Buy back” service, which launched in-store on 5 May and invites customers to sell IKEA products they no longer need back to the company, incentivising them to participate in the company’s circular model.
The Hubs will also feature dedicated Learn & Share areas, where IKEA co-workers will interact with visitors to exchange knowledge about living in a more sustainable way. This could include teaching customers how to repair and update old furniture in order to empower them to extend the life of the items they already own, or facilitating peer-to-peer activities to encourage knowledge-sharing about sustainability.
IKEA’s track record points towards a more sustainable model being a viable one. In FY20, 39 million of its 62 million potential waste products were saved through repackaging and reselling via initiatives like the Bargain Corner and in 2019, IKEA recorded its first ever fall in absolute climate footprint, which amounted to a reduction of 4.3%. In the same period, its sales grew by 6.5%, proving it is possible for companies to shrink their climate footprints while growing their business.
Sustainability is key for IKEA partly because like so many businesses, its fortunes are intrinsically linked to the health of the planet; it acknowledges that changes in global temperatures will ultimately increase costs and reduce revenues. And with an estimated 0.1% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions generated by IKEA’s own direct and indirect climate footprint, it has huge scope to deliver a significant impact on global emissions.
For this reason IKEA has prioritised playing leading roles in movements such as the Race to Zero and the British Retail Consortium’s Climate Roadmap, through which it shared its learnings with other retailers. It’s also calling on the UK and Scottish governments to develop clearer policy pathways and to work collaboratively with businesses to build the infrastructure they need to adapt and encourage innovation.
Ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November, IKEA is also urging all governments, in Scotland, the UK and across the world to implement ambitious actions that will limit global warming to 1.5 degrees in line with the Paris Agreement and protect the one home we share from the worst effects of the climate crisis. This includes delivering the measures necessary to enable a circular economy to minimise waste, extend the life and value of products, and regenerate the natural environment. While IKEA will be a vocal and visible presence at the climate summit, in the meantime, it will continue to press on with its own sustainability journey and to act as an inspiration to others, confident in its belief that being kinder to the planet isn’t just an act of corporate social responsibility; it’s also good business sense.
This article was sponsored by IKEA.