IKEA to switch to renewable energy by 2020

Ikea store exterior

IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, has announced that it will shift to renewable energy by 2020 and grow more trees than it uses under its newest sustainability plans.

According to the company’s 'People & Planet Positive’, released today (23 October), the Swedish furniture firm will invest a total of €1.5 billion (£1.2 billion) in solar and wind power by 2015. The company hopes that by 2015, 70 per cent of its energy will come from renewable energy and by 2020 it will produce as much energy as it consumes.

Renewable power will be generated from the wind farms it owns in six European nations and solar panels that will be installed on 120 of its stores, warehouses and factories, the furniture giant says.

The company also claims it will halve its greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 2015, from 2010 levels.

IKEA, which often draws criticism from environmentalists for creating a ‘throw-away mentality’ by mass-producing cheap flat-pack furniture, has also pledged to grow at least as many trees as it uses to make its furniture, and, by 2017, buy 10 million cubic metres of wood (half of what will be needed that year) from sustainable sources certified by groups such as the Forest Stewardship Council.

The other half will come from other sources, but IKEA has urged that it does not take wood from natural tropical forests, such as in the Amazon or the Congo basins.

Other sustainable plans the company has made or will be making, as outlined in ‘People & Planet Positive’ include:

  • Phasing out non-energy efficient products for more efficient equivalents (such as switching entire lighting range to LEDs and selling energy-efficient induction hobs by 2016);
  • Banning PVC in products, lead in mirrors, and reducing the amount of formaldehyde in lacquers and glues;
  • Recycling waste wood into new board for wardrobes or bookshelves and aiming to recycle 30 per cent of the wood used by the industry group by 2020;
  • Seeing that all home furnishing materials, including packaging, will be either made from renewable, recyclable or recycled materials by the end of 2015;
  • Ensuring all palm oil currently used in products such as candles will come from verified sustainable sources or be replaced by more sustainable raw materials by 2020;
  • Enabling customers to reuse or recycle products such as mattresses, sofas, appliances and light bulbs;
  • Sending a minimum of 90 per cent of waste created at stores and operation sites for recycling by 2015;
  • Ensuring that no food is sent for incineration of landfill by 2013.

Huge boost to clean technology

Steven Howard IKEA“We believe that sustainability should not be a luxury good – it should be affordable for everyone”, said Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer of the IKEA Group. “With over 770 million visitors to our stores, we are excited by the opportunity to help our customers fulfil their dreams at home with beautiful products that help them save money on their household bills by reducing energy and water use, as well as reducing waste.

“‘People & Planet Positive’ will also enable us to take our responsibilities in the supply chain further over the coming years by, for example, only using renewable energy to power our buildings.”

Environmentalists have welcomed IKEA’s push to becoming more sustainable, with John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, saying: “‘People & Planet Positive’ puts IKEA at the forefront of leading companies looking at the fundamentals of how to transform their business model in the face of environmental threats ranging from food and energy security issues through to water shortages and loss of biodiversity.

“On renewable energy IKEA’s vision of getting 100 per cent renewable energy in their own operations by 2020 is the kind of ambition that if other companies followed would provide a huge boost to clean technology globally.”

Mark Kenber, head of the UK-based Climate Group think-tank, said IKEA’s plan was a “clear roadmap to low-carbon sustainability" and urged other businesses to follow suit.

Leasing kitchens

Steve Howard, Chief sustainability officer at IKEA also told the Financial Times that the company was keen to ‘close the loop’ on its supply chain where possible, and encourage customers to return products at the end of their life to be reused. Howard also hinted at offering kitchens on a long-term lease, rather than selling appliances outright.

“Some things are best recycled by local authorities. But others, we can help, like kitchens, wardrobes, mattresses. Maybe we could have low-cost leasing of kitchens and see a product offering become a service one. We want a smarter consumption, and maybe people are less attached to ownership”, he said.

Read the ‘People & Planet Positive’ report.