Ekaterina Egorova, CEO & CSO at IKEA South East Europe, sat down with Business Review and talked about the circular business model and its importance for the company and explained how IKEA is helping its customers adopt a more sustainable way of life.
By Anda Sebesi
What does IKEA do to provide affordable and sustainable furnishing solutions to its customers?
As a company established nearly 80 years ago, we’ve always strived to remain committed to our vision of creating a better everyday life for people. Today, this is still at the core of everything we do at IKEA, and it goes beyond home furnishing—we want to have a positive impact on people and the planet. Our ambition is to make healthy and sustainable living affordable, and we want to inspire and enable more people to live better lives within the boundaries of our planet. This goal translates into our affordable range of home furnishing solutions, which are produced in a sustainable way through the use of natural and renewable materials. Our products also enable savings for our customers by helping them reduce water and energy consumption, avoid food waste, and enjoy cleaner air at home.
What can you tell us about the circular business practices that IKEA has implemented so far?
One of our biggest ambitions and opportunities is to transform IKEA into a circular business by 2030. Throughout the IKEA value chain, we work to prolong the life of products and materials. Becoming circular is not only the right thing to do, but also a necessity if we want to continue living on this planet. With our buy back and bring back programmes for used furniture, we want to give recovered products a second life and extend their lifecycle. With our second chance service, customers can sell their used IKEA furniture in a safe and streamlined way, year-round. They will receive IKEA credit in return, while someone else will give a new home to the repurposed products. Everyone wins in this exchange, especially the planet.
Transforming IKEA into a circular and climate-positive company also involves deploying the latest technologies. For example, in order to deliver on our goal of being powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, we invested in 1,572 solar panels at IKEA Pallady last year, covering an average of 20 percent of the store’s annual needs.
How is IKEA working towards building a more diverse and inclusive workspace?
As a human-centred and values-driven company, IKEA believes that equality is a human right, regardless of age, ethnicity, race, gender or sexuality. We are committed to creating a workspace where everyone is free to be themselves and be appreciated for who they are. We encourage open conversations with our co-workers, and at certain points, this has also meant that we’ve had to become aware of our unconscious biases towards people who are different from us, and that we’ve been able to take action to minimise those biases. Ultimately, the goal is to create a workplace infrastructure that allows everybody to be treated fairly.
What are the ways in which IKEA supports local entrepreneurs and creates new job opportunities?
We also aim to generate a positive social impact throughout the IKEA value chain with our fair and equal approach in the community where we operate. We stand by disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. Caring for and getting involved in the local community has enabled us to launch a new programme via IKEA Social Entrepreneurship in February this year. The Accelerator Programme for Romania and Poland allows us to create 3-year partnerships with social businesses and boost their impact inside disadvantaged communities. So far, in Romania, we have enrolled 4 social entrepreneurs from different sectors: sustainable agriculture, job inclusion, circular economy, and sustainability. We aim to provide dignified employment and income to five key vulnerable groups, namely low-income women, small local producers, people with disabilities, ethnic communities, and at-risk youth. Our support will continue with a new programme dedicated to Ukrainian refugees.