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Mon, 3 August 2020

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Now is the right time for bold and ambitious climate leadership

Now is the right time for bold and ambitious climate leadership

In 2019, IKEA opened their most sustainable store to date at IKEA Greenwich, London | Credit: IKEA

Peter Jelkeby, Country Retail Manager and Chief Sustainability Officer | IKEA

7 min read Member content

While the Covid-19 pandemic represents the biggest immediate threat to our way of life today, it is crucial that we don't lose sight of the existential threat of the climate emergency.

At IKEA, we are inspired by a simple vision: to create a better everyday life for the many people.

But in a world of growing inequality, climate emergency and resource scarcity, it’s evident that a better life can only mean one that respects the limits of the planet.

While the Covid-19 pandemic represents the biggest immediate threat to our way of life today, it is crucial that we don't lose sight of the existential threat of the climate emergency.

Climate change is no longer a distant threat, but a visible reality.

It’s one of the biggest challenges that humanity faces and it’s affecting the lives of millions of people around the world. Meanwhile, with the global population expected to reach nearly 8.5 billion by 2030, we’re putting an even greater pressure on the planet’s resources.

IKEA has long been committed to addressing climate change, but we are also aware of the role we play in the mass consumption equation: the total IKEA climate footprint is an estimated 0.1% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG).

As a global retailer, we have a unique opportunity to lead the way by being a good example for positive change in society, taking meaningful actions that, through our scale, have a tangible impact. 

We have always believed that waste is a resource, but are now taking this further to become a fully circular business.

In our 2018 People and Planet Positive strategy, IKEA set out an ambition to become a fully circular and climate positive business by 2030, built on clean, renewable energy and resources, and reducing more greenhouse gas emissions than we emit.

In order to have a significant impact, we need to bring our customers on this journey with us, so we have set the global ambition of inspiring and enabling more than one billion people to live a better everyday life within the limits of the planet.  

In the UK, we have been able to effectively demonstrate how addressing the climate crisis can align with continued growth and prosperity through a combination of actions and ambitious initiatives.

As a company, we have always believed that waste is a resource, but are now taking this further to become a fully circular business.

By 2030, all IKEA products will be made from renewable, recyclable and/or recycled materials; and they will be designed to be re-used, refurbished, re-manufactured or recycled, following circular design principles. Last year, we eradicated single-use plastics in our total product range, including straws.

2019 was also the year we opened our most sustainable store to date at IKEA Greenwich, London. Having been built to the highest environmental standards, the store achieved a Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) ‘Outstanding’ rating – making it one of only two retail units accredited at this level globally. 

IKEA Greenwich is also a hub and meeting point for the local community and is home to IKEA’s first ‘Learning Lab’, a dedicated space where we hold sustainable-living workshops and where customers can learn how to prolong the lives of their products by upcycling and repairing them.

This is a concept which we’re hoping to be able to scale-up, to become an integral part of all IKEA stores.

We need help from the government to strengthen the direction by putting the right infrastructure, incentives and targets in place.

So far, we have already increased the number of furniture and textile items taken back to the stores, with our recovery teams helping give products a second life.

We are committed to developing more retail concepts and meeting places that help customers, communities and local businesses lessen their impact on the environment. 

However, we need help from the government to strengthen the direction by putting the right infrastructure, incentives and targets in place.

This includes taking the lead in waste management, because the current fragmented landscape dependent on hundreds of local authorities does not allow businesses to take any substantial actions.

Overall, we expect 2020 to be a pivotal year for the implementation of a nation-wide resources and waste strategy.

At IKEA, we strive towards 100% renewable energy for electricity, heating and cooling, and high energy efficiency in all IKEA operations. 

In 2019-20, Ingka Group, which includes IKEA Retail (UK), generated renewable energy equivalent to 93.4% of the energy used in our operations, up from 81% last year.[4] Our recent investments in wind and solar power put us on track to exceed our 2020 target to generate more renewable energy than the energy we consume.

More action is also needed to drive energy efficiency in commercial buildings and accelerate the up-take of low-carbon heat technologies.

We also want to see greater ambition around the adoption of electric vehicles (EV) and phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles, which must be part of plans to improve air quality in our towns and cities. Again, the lead should come from government to enable and incentivise the roll-out of a workable EV infrastructure.

Becoming more accessible to people, particularly those in cities, is a key part of our retail strategy in the years ahead and commitments around 100% emission-free last mile deliveries are central to those plans. 

Without doubt, more action is also needed to drive energy efficiency in commercial buildings and accelerate the up-take of low-carbon heat technologies.

Currently, businesses are simply not being encouraged to invest in energy efficiency, due to a lack of incentives, support and information.

Equally, we need the Government to revisit how we engage homeowners and domestic generators with new and innovative ways to leverage and access historically low costs for renewable energy, and to lead the way on developing battery storage technology to support this.

As a multinational business, we rely on free and fair trade.

The global trading environment has changed substantially over recent years, with protectionism and economic nationalism dominating the trade policy debate. IKEA believes that the WTO is the ideal platform for simplifying and harmonising complex rules of origin, and encouraging e-commerce, but it is also the best way to avoid a confusing set of overlapping bilateral agreements. 

Retail and wholesale are inherently dependent on free global trade flows for goods and services, but also for securing high environmental standards. We recognise that the UK’s future trading relationships will either support or significantly detract from the UK’s climate positive ambitions and so urge the UK not to lose sight of these in the negotiations to come. 

When the UK hosts COP26 next summer, it’s likely the world will be a very different place

For the UK, the 2020s is the decade in which we will need to deliver clear leadership by setting a great example.

Many elements are in place already, but for IKEA to achieve our goals, we urge the Government to set a detailed and ambitious plan for how it aims to hit the net zero target by 2050, and working backwards from that date, how it will support businesses in their efforts to become fully sustainable – in a scenario where being sustainable is not at odds with being profitable. 

When the UK hosts COP26 next summer, it’s likely the world will be a very different place. When recovering from the aftermath of this global pandemic, we could go back to business ‘as usual’, or worse still, we could see states and industries ramping up regressive policies and production that generates even more CO2 and inflicts greater damage on our environment and people.

As nations and communities start to recover from the Covid-19 crisis, it will be more important than ever for consumers, businesses and governments to enact and implement ambitious climate positive policies, and ensure that the positive environmental and social impacts we have seen in recent weeks form the foundations for a better and kinder future.

We need to move beyond the idea that big businesses can only do harm to the planet and enable business to be a force for good. All of us have an important part to play. This is why at IKEA, we are determined to show that it is good for business to be a good business. 

While we are fortunate to be in a position that enables us to start investing today, we need the government to incentivise the whole retail industry to do the same - especially at a time when Business Rates, changing consumer habits, and political and economic uncertainty are forcing companies to tighten the belt.

Now is the right time to galvanise bold and ambitious climate leadership and build a movement for positive change. 
 

Read the most recent article written by Peter Jelkeby, Country Retail Manager and Chief Sustainability Officer - A Green Recovery is the only way forward for the retail sector

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