IKEA’s Innovative Sustainability Practices

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Clinton Moloney, Managing Director Sustainability Solutions, interviewed Pia Heidenmark Cook, Chief Sustainability Officer at Ingka Group, on what actions IKEA has taken over their 75-year history to become one of today’s most sustainable companies.

Video Transcript

Clinton: I'm here with Pia Heidenmark Cook, Chief Sustainability Officer from Ingka Group, thanks for joining us. How are you finding Climate Week?

Pia: Fantastic. Really, lots of good events a lot of great people and a lot of learnings, and also think quite a lot of movements from last year and to this year, so I think it's progress.

Clinton: What are you seeing?

Pia: A sense of urgency. I feel like we are all collectively starting to talk more about action. Still a lot of pledges and still a lot, in my taste, too much 2040, 2050. We need to fix it, start now. But otherwise really progress, positive feeling.

Clinton: One of the things I'm often asked about is how do I create a movement inside my business. What does it look like to go from, there's something that's led by a CEO or maybe somebody who has been a source of inspiration but, like you say it, really you really don't get anywhere until you've got changes at every job level or you know, or even micro transitions in the way people think about what they're doing. So has this been a cultural shift for IKEA or is it really more of an amplification of your existing culture? How do you think about it?

Pia: Yeah, no it's an amplification, I mean we when we were founded 75 years ago we set out with a vision to create a better everyday life for the many people. And we are about affordable home furnishing, which means that we need to be super cost conscious. Which means that we can't waste resources because you can't have a good price to customers if you're not smart and thrifty in the whole supply chain. So that kind of comes with who we are, is to be careful with resources and that connects a lot with people. And that is kind of the base of sustainability, to be smart about the resources you use. And then we're doing much more now with becoming climate positive in 2030, which really requires us to transform everything. But, I would say the way to do it, this setting ambitious goals that inspires people. I would say setting hundred-percent goals because it makes it very very clear to no matter if you are in China, US, France, you can't not be in. And then setting road maps. So yes, we have a 2030 goal but we also have annual goals we break it down from the corporate goal to country goals as support. So you need to, everyone needs to see it kind of this is how I chip in.

Clinton: Okay, so there's this translation effort to go from the macro-goal and where you're headed. The goals are indisputable they're very clear everybody has to contribute. And then you make it clear for every co-worker what they have to do and how they have to - and what the opportunity is for them - with the transformation.

Pia: And one thing we've done, for example, is that all our country managers that have quite big P&Ls they are now CSOs. So they are country manager and CSO.

Clinton: So what's the magic with that, has that created an unlock for you?

Pia: Yes, because they were very committed before as country managers and purpose led leaders, all of them, because they have chosen to work for IKEA for a reason.

Clinton: Right, they have to be there.

Pia: But, the level of accountability has stepped up in the last half year, where they feel they need to learn more, they need to understand more, they want to drive it more because we are following up a bit more closer. But I think they're getting more curious. And I think the youth movement and everything going on, it's just becoming more sense of urgency that they as leaders really get that this is not for someone else to fix, it's for them to fix.

Clinton: Yeah, the fix is for them. That's interesting. That's very interesting. I think that's part of what I can attest about Climate Week, the language has changed. This is not about our grandkids, in fact, it's you and I who are already experiencing this today and there's more we can do.

What are you working on when it comes to alternative proteins and ways of innovating your product that are good for you but also good for the planet? Tell us about that.

Pia: If we look at, total, our 1.5 Pledge, a lot of our footprint comes in the materials. And we are actually the largest food exporter in Sweden. So food, food ingredients is key and of course meat is a big part. So we started in 2015 by introducing the veggie balls. Which is vegetarian balls, because there's not meat in them, then we started with salmon balls and now we have a veggie hot dog that we launched last year in Climate Week and then now we're looking at alternative protein where we have a chili sin carne and lasagna already in the restaurants. And then next year we will start to gradually introduce the vegan meatball. We call it the "Eatball".

Clinton: Fantastic. So one of the things, just in listening to your story, you're really taking accountability of the supply chains, you're looking upstream, looking at stores, looking at downstream and that is also still a real frontier. There's not that many big companies that are taking full accountability of their supply chain, so is there anything special about IKEA that has let you take that bold of an action when it comes to thinking about science-based targets and 100% all in but also with the supply chain?

Pia: For us, most of our impact sits in Scope 3. So, we, I don't think we would be credible if we set ambitious goals for four or five percent of our footprints.

Clinton: Of course.

Pia: So, and we have a big footprint I mean we have 0.1 percent of all the CO2 on the planet, 26 billion tons every year. So I think with big impact comes responsibility. And we also have an understanding of the footprint and what we can do so I think with knowledge, and I think that for me is one of the charms with IKEA. With knowledge we act.

Clinton: Right.

Pia: And if you don't know it's maybe such not but when you know you need to take action and then it's really about breaking down material innovation, supply chain innovation, product innovation. And also help to meet the customer innovation. So it's really about innovation.

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