Jesper Brodin and Pia Heidenmark Cook
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Rosa Howard: IKEA has over 500 locations worldwide and is committed to being climate positive by 2030. That involves everything from the raw materials to the end of a product's life. Because of the company's scale ...

Jesper Brodin: The carbon footprint of IKEA is about 0.1 percent of the global emission of carbon.

RH: ... that's a lot of carbon. And that was Jesper Brodin, CEO of Ingka Group, which operates IKEA Retail. And this is Pia Heidenmark Cook, their head of sustainability.

Pia Heidenmark Cook: We know that we need to change, and we are really looking forward to the opportunities that we can, by transforming our business into a new kind of business where we look at our entire value chain in new ways, where we look at how we meet with customers in a new way and how we engage with coworkers. We will look at price and low price, because our vision is to be for the many people, it needs to be affordable. But it's also about form, function, sustainability and quality.

RH: How does IKEA balance sustainability and persuading buyers to consume things during the climate crisis?

PHC: It really means looking at the entirety of our business. We committed to only use renewable and recycled materials by 2030. We have, for example, already all our cotton in the products, like this sofa, to be sustainable cotton. We are well on our way to have all of our wood being from sustainable sources by 2020. And it's also looking at: How do we design the products so that they can be repurposed, reused, recycled, etc? So it's really looking at: How do we build circular design metrics into our products? But then also, how do we engage and reach out to customers, so, looking at new service models like furniture as a service, starting now testing with business-to-business.

RH: In 2019, IKEA's business grew by 6.5 percent. But the company decreased its global carbon footprint by 4.3 percent, beginning to decouple growth and emissions.

JB: That step for us was — it gave a lot of confidence and optimism, to be honest, showing that it's possible to grow and at the same time, move in the right direction when it comes to carbon.

RH: Yes, fine, but how can you make that shift durable and expand that decoupling?

JB: There are some myths that we need to rid ourselves from. The consumption myth is one. That sustainability should come at a premium is a very dangerous myth, that purpose and profit couldn't go hand in hand — it's the opposite.

RH: Why should people trust you?

JB: Trust is maybe the most important thing to get into the system and into the conversation. I think to start with, you have to look at intentions. And scrutinize is, of course, one part of the equation here. But when you look at the reasons why it's important for us to move in this topic, it makes business sense, from the point that coworkers and customers will expect us to be — and already today expect us to be — a leader. And thereby, it would be dangerous for your brand if you wouldn't take the lead in your segment. But last, I think, which is most intriguing for me, is that sustainability is the new low cost, it is the new model of the world. It's not in contrast to doing good business, but the opposite.

RH: What response are you getting from coworkers and from partners?

PHC: Super positive response from our coworkers, and sustainability, in our internal survey I share, is actually the number two reason why people choose to work for IKEA and stay at IKEA. And the number one reason is all the lovely colleagues that we have.

RH: The climate crisis is also a crisis of justice and fairness. How is IKEA thinking about that?

PHC: We definitely see that climate change is a human rights issue, and we know that those with thin wallets or even no wallets are the most impacted by climate change. So what we do is, both through the IKEA Foundation, which is our philanthropic arm, we're working through various climate activities in developing countries and have put aside about 150 million euro in the last two years. Then, in Ingka, where we have shopping centers and stores and fulfillment centers, we're working with refugees and looking at how can we create skills for employment programs, where we do skills training and language training.

RH: Companies generally think quarter by quarter. Climate is a long-term challenge that needs immediate action. How do you square that?

JB: We are actually foundation-owned, so we have less of the quarterly pressure. And our founder was amazing in thinking and planning long-term. And I actually recall one of the last meetings I had with him a few years ago, before he passed away. We asked him how we should think and plan, and he said, "You should think long-term." And when we asked him, "How long-term?" he said, "Yeah, well, 200 years." So I think that is possibly a bit too long, we don't have that time, but 10 years is a good horizon for all of us.