Steve Howard leads the sustainability effort at Ikea, helping the low-price-furniture giant to bring sustainable products to millions of people.

Why you should listen

More than 690 million people visited an Ikea store in 2012; the company sold €27 billion worth of low-priced sofas, lamps, bookshelves and other goods (including €1.3 billion just in food) from more than 1,000 suppliers. Steve Howard, the chief sustainability officer, is charged with making that supply chain, and the company's 298 stores and almost 3,000 products, live more lightly upon the earth.
 
Coming to Ikea from the nonprofit consultancy Climate Group, Howard has embraced the challenge of working with a single big company, and the improvements he's made so far include helping farmers grow more-sustainable cotton around the world, remaking classic products to use fewer parts, and investing €1.5 billion through 2015 in renewable energy sources, notably wind and solar. (Like the rollout in the UK of Ikea solar panel systems for the home.) And if you've been to an Ikea lately, you probably already know this, through signs and explainers posted all over the store. Telling the story of sustainability is key, Howard believes, as companies like his become agents of transformative change. As he says: "I don't think we've fully realized the extent to which sustainability is going to shape society and the business landscape over the next couple of decades."

What others say

“Ikea isn't starting from ground zero – for years the company has been working through sustainable business models – yet this new strategy represents a huge scaling up of its ethical business practices.” — Annie Kelly, Guardian Professional

Steve Howard’s TED talk

Steve Howard on the TED Blog

Culture

8 hilarious IKEA memes, videos and homage websites

October 21, 2013

After 25 years working in sustainability, Steve Howard made a surprising move: he went to work for IKEA. In today’s talk, he explains why by giving a sense of just how far IKEA is going to make sure it has a positive environmental impact. “Sustainability’s gone from a ‘nice-to-do’ to a ‘must-do,’” says Howard in […]

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Live from TEDGlobal 2013

Ikea’s sustainable instinct: Steve Howard at TEDGlobal 2013

June 11, 2013

Steve Howard has spent his life working toward sustainability. So on the TEDGlobal 2013 stage, he explains why he wanted to work for, of all places, Ikea. Howard, who now holds the delightful title of Chief Sustainability Officer at the Scandinavian furniture behemoth, says that the company is dedicated to sustainability because of three numbers: 3. […]

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Live from TEDGlobal 2013

Moments of Truth: The speakers in Session 1 at TEDGlobal 2013

June 11, 2013

There’s a distinct sense of anticipation in the air here in Edinburgh, Scotland, as the lights are about to dim and we’re about to embark on the rollercoaster ride that is a TEDGlobal conference. The first session of the week, “Moments of Truth” tackles several difficult issues, including economic austerity, environmentalism, feminism and terrorism. Here […]

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