IKEA’s Innovative Sustainability Practices

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ENGIE Impact sat down with Pia Heidenmark Cook, Chief Sustainability Officer at Ingka Group, at Climate Week 2019 to discuss the actions IKEA has taken over its 75-year history to become one of today’s most sustainable companies.

Transcript has been edited for clarity

ENGIE Impact: We are here with Pia Heidenmark Cook, Chief Sustainability Officer from Ingka Group, thanks for joining us. How are you finding Climate Week?

Pia: Fantastic. Lots of good events, great people and great learnings. There is also quite a lot of movements from last year to this year, it's great progress.

ENGIE Impact: 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 that are too far out for my taste. We need to fix it, starting now.

ENGIE Impact: One of the things we are often asked is how to create movement inside a business. What does it look like to go from something that's led by a CEO or somebody who has been a source of inspiration to change at every job level, including micro transitions in the way people think about what they're doing. 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: It's an amplification. When we were founded 75 years ago we set out with a vision to create a better everyday life for people. We are about affordable home furnishing, which means that we can't waste resources. You can't have a good price to customers if you're not smart and thrifty in the whole supply chain. That comes with who we are, be careful with resources and that resonates with a lot of people. That is the base of sustainability, to be smart about the resources you use. We're doing much more now with becoming climate positive in 2030, which requires us to transform everything. I would say the way to do it is by setting ambitious goals that inspire people and then setting roadmaps. 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. Everyone needs to understand how they fit in.

ENGIE Impact: Okay, so there's this translation effort to go from the macro-goal to where you're headed. The goals are indisputable, they're very clear that everybody has to contribute. 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: 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 a country manager and CSO.

ENGIE Impact: What's the magic with that?

Pia: They were very committed before as country managers and purpose led leaders because they have chosen to work for IKEA.

ENGIE Impact: Right, they have to be there.

Pia: The level of accountability has stepped up in the last year. They feel they need to learn and understand more. They want to drive it more because we are following up a bit more. It's becoming more of a sense of urgency that they as leaders understand that this is not for someone else to fix, it's for them to fix.

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

What are you working on when it comes to 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 our 1.5 Pledge, a lot of our footprint comes from materials. We are the largest food exporter in Sweden. So food and ingredients are key and of course, meat is a big part. We started in 2015 by introducing the veggie balls, which are vegetarian. Then we started with salmon balls and now we have a veggie hot dog that we launched last year during Climate Week. Now we're looking at alternative protein where we have a chili sin carne and lasagna in the restaurants. Next year we will start to gradually introduce the vegan meatball. We call it the "Eatball".

ENGIE Impact: Fantastic. One of the things that you're really taking accountability for is the supply chain. You're looking upstream, looking at stores, and looking downstream, that is still a real frontier. There are not that many big companies taking full accountability of their supply chain. Is there anything special about IKEA that has let you take that bold action when it comes to thinking about science-based targets and the supply chain?

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

ENGIE Impact: Of course.

Pia: We have a big footprint. We have 0.1 percent of all the CO2 on the planet, 26 billion tons every year, with big impact comes responsibility. We have an understanding of the footprint and what we can do. For me, one of the charms of IKEA is that with knowledge, we act.

ENGIE Impact: Right.

Pia: It's really about breaking down material innovation, supply chain innovation, product innovation and also helping to meet the customer innovation. It boils down to innovation.

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