CEO Jesper Brodin brought a wind of change to the Ikea group. The Swedish furniture behemoth is currently undergoing a historic digital transformation, a sustainability revolution and a major shift towards openness and cooperation.
Co-creating the future
The first results and especially the tone set were on display until 3 July in the Swedish city of Helsingborg, where Ikea organised the first H22 City Expo. For a month, the spotlight was on living together, in every sense of the word. How can people live better, not just in their homes but in the city and the wider community?
No one can do everything alone, Brodin, who has been heading the blue and yellow giant for five years now, told RetailDetail. So you have to collaborate with absolutely everyone, from competitors to consumers. From refugees to AI developers.
The Anthropocene is going to accelerate in the coming years. Do you not fear a huge shortage of raw materials? What are your solutions?
J.B.: “The availability of raw materials is very dynamic and depends on many factors, so the situation changes rapidly. We are collaborating with our partners to secure the availability of raw materials and minimize disruptions in production.
Also, 60% of the materials IKEA uses are renewable and 10% are recycled. The ambition is to reach a combined total of 100% by 2030. We already use a lot of renewable wood-based materials, and we are increasing the number of recycled materials such as recycled plastic in our products. Our aim is to avoid unnecessary material consumption, with a focus on making more from less, by building lightweight constructions. We have already phased out all single-use plastic products from our home furnishing range globally.”
When can we expect the first truly circular IKEA products? Will it ever be possible?
J.B.: “Let me start by talking about the Godmorgon boxes, which are 100% circular according to our circular product design criteria. It’s just one example, but IKEA is committed to becoming a circular business by 2030.
As materials are the biggest contributor to the IKEA climate footprint, with extraction of raw material representing more than 40%, using renewable or recycled materials is an important element. Our material agenda is speeding up as we find new sources and develop new materials. By 2030, we aim to use only responsibly sourced renewable or recycled materials in our product range.
As always, nobody can do everything alone, which is why we need to develop long term relationships with our customers, connect where it adds value, and co-create the future together. To do this, we are testing and developing new business models and concepts. We want to enable customers to prolong the life of their Ikea products through convenient solutions that inspire them to acquire, care for, and pass them on in circular ways.
Key steps are:
- Designing circular products;
- Using renewable or recycled materials;
- Testing more circular services;
- Joining forces with others and leading by example.”
Will Ikea become a platform, partnering with other brands and companies?
J.B.: “IKEA is a curious company. Opening up to new ideas and siding with different people in collaborations is a way to learn, develop and make things better for the everyday life at home and to create a better everyday life for the many people. When we collaborate, it always starts with a topic, something we are curious about, a challenge or a problem we want to solve. That is always the starting point. Then, we look at who we could explore this together with. We expect these collaborations to be a journey of new learnings, sharing knowledge, exploring together and that we in the end produce something new and useful which responds to people’s needs.
Examples of collaborations are both within our IKEA range, like the collection launch with Swedish House Mafia, but also, more conceptual and societal collaborations like the Atelier100 initiative with H&M and Living Lab. We continue to look forward to initiatives that contribute to our vision and also invest in projects and companies that can add value, both for the many people and to our roadmap to become Climate and People positive by 2030. Good examples are our investments in wind and solar farms, as well as in AI-company Geomagical and service platform TaskRabbit.”
Gamification, metaverse and other digital trends, are you betting on those today?
J.B.: “We are constantly looking for new ways to bring our decades of knowledge about life at home to the customer in new and innovative ways. Ingka Group, which runs Ikea Retail in thirty-two countries, is currently undergoing the biggest digital transformation in our almost 80-year history. The aim is to become convenient, affordable, and sustainable for the many people.
We are constantly evolving and exploring new ways to meet the needs and dreams of people. Our curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit mean we test and try across our business, including digital solutions. We will keep on working and will share more when ready.”
How does Ikea manage to anticipate the trends? What is the trend watching & innovation machine behind it? What can other retailers learn from this?
J.B.: “As world leaders in Life at Home we are obliged to get constant feedback from our clients to serve the many people and we do it in several diverse ways. For instance, we develop the world’s biggest report on Life at Home. Or at H22 City Expo, we presented the exhibition ‘Home Stories’ where we travelled all over the world to collect people´s stories about their homes. Sixty of these stories are on display for visitors to see.
Also, at H22 City Expo, we had the Living Lab, a collaboration between Ikea and Obos (one of the biggest housing companies in Norway) where we are researching the future forms of housing, C40 Cities (exploring new models of decarbonized urban development with multidisciplinary teams of architects, developers, investors, and creative businesses in different cities in the world) or Space10 (exploring the ideal city of 2040).
We are more than ever sharing our best practices and knowledge and even doing calls to action with the retail sector and others for instance, making available, yearly, and publicly, our Life at Home Report. At the World Economic Forum, we just made available our Skills for Employment Toolbox that allows companies to integrate refugees as co-workers in their company and more than five hundred companies are adopting it.”
Where do you see the retail world and Ikea in 20 years?
J.B.: “We see the retail world in 20 years being 100% circular, climate, and people positive with the customers getting an organic omnichannel experience. It will be a retail ecosystem fully integrated with other sectors and society, taking more care of this One Home, One Planet and creating a better everyday life for the many people.”
Ikea has been working with refugees for some time and now wants to use this experience to help other companies as well. Ikea Belgium will share its best practices at the Human Resources & People Congress by RetailDetail. Click here for more information and tickets.
Find out more about the future models and new business visions of Ikea and other leading retail players in the brand new book The Future of Shopping: Re-set Re-made Re-tail by Pauline Neerman and Jorg Snoeck.