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Social Entrepreneurs

IKEA Social Entrepreneurs – Co-creating change

Social entrepreneurs are in the business of making everyday life better in their communities. They use business as a way to tackle social and environmental challenges, such as reducing poverty and empowering women. 

A film about Social Entrepreneurs.

Started in 2012, IKEA now has several ongoing partnerships with social entrepreneurs, employing local artisans in vulnerable communities around the world. The social enterprises we partner with are mainly self-help groups and women-owned cooperatives. Making a decent livelihood helps them gain respect and create a better future for their families.

Together, we co-create unique products, using traditional handicraft methods and materials – limited edition collections available at IKEA stores in selected countries.

TILLTALANDE – designed to create jobs

On June 20th 2018, World Refugee Day honours the courage, strength and resilience of the over 65 million people who have been forced to flee their homes from war or persecution.

Tahani Al Khatib, an artisan from Palestine collaborated with IKEA and Jordan River Foundation in creating the collection TILLTALANDE.

Tahani Al Khatib, an artisan from Palestine working for IKEA and Jordan River Foundation.

As a response to the refugee crisis, IKEA decided to try to make a difference the way we know best – by doing business and creating jobs. And that is exactly what TILLTALANDE does. It is a collection of precious, handcrafted textiles, designed to create integration through jobs. By employing Jordanian locals alongside refugee woman we also support the integration between the two groups of women artisans.

Made in collaboration with Jordan River Foundation, it’s an initiative sprung from the urgent need to get people into work and into society. Today more than 100 artisans are part of the initiative, a number that will double during 2019 and that is expected to reach 400 by the end of 2020.

IKEA - Co-creating change in Jordan

TILLTALANDE launches on June 20th in Sweden (Stockholm store) and the US (Brooklyn store).


Good ethics is good business

We want to create opportunities for refugees to rebuild their lives – internationally, but also locally. Open Arms in Austin, Texas started as a small, local initiative that only worked with one IKEA store. The ambition was to empower refugee women through fair-wage employment, consisting of turning leftover IKEA fabric into new products.

Today, Open Arms has become a successful enterprise, going from 2,000 products per year, to 20,000. The programme in Austin has become a model for IKEA. Nearly 20 stores are now working with upcycled collections, and more than 100 stores carry larger, international collections co-created with social entrepreneurs. They are all driven by the same ethical values and objectives – to make it possible for refugee women to stand on their own, to integrate and provide for themselves and their families.

Open Arms is a social entrepreneur in Texas that offers refugee women employment. Thang Zuali turns leftover IKEA fabric into new products.

Thang Zuali is one of six Burmese refugees that fled the unrest of Burma (aka Myanmar) for a new life in the United States. “Before, we barely had money to buy clothes,” says Thang, “now we can buy things and live like normal people.”

Yalla Trappan is a social initiative providing sewing service in the IKEA Malmö store, Sweden. Neire Kerimovska and Karin Wingren talk about a cushion cover.

Yalla Trappan is a local initiative providing sewing service in the IKEA Malmö store, Sweden. Neire Kerimovska and Karin Wingren, Customer Relations manager, are talking about cushion covers ordered by a customer.

“It’s not a charity. By working with local social entrepreneurs, we are contributing to new livelihoods while offering our customers unique handicrafts. It’s business for good, for everyone.”

Vaishali Misra, Business Leader for social entrepreneur initiatives at IKEA of Sweden.

PÅTÅR special edition

PÅTÅR special edition is a single-origin high-quality 100% Arabica coffee from the White Nile region in Uganda and a result of our cooperation with thousands of small-scale farmers.

Introducing a single-origin high-quality 100% Arabica coffee from Uganda

Uganda is the biggest coffee exporting country in Africa, yet the average size of a coffee farm is less than 0,25 hectare – just a quarter the size of a football field. It’s not easy to run a profitable farm with such small resources. To help support economic independence of farmers, as well as more sustainable farming practices, IKEA has teamed up with a regional coffee project. As a result, we’re now introducing our first ever single-origin coffee to the IKEA Swedish Food Market: 100% Arabica beans from the White Nile region. A special coffee with a unique taste, created in cooperation with thousands of small-scale farmers.

A Ugandan woman, broadly smiling, who is involved in the White Nile project.

At IKEA, we’re always looking for social entrepreneurs or business models that share our vision. The White Nile project is one such initiative and one where we see an opportunity to a long term partnership contributing to a positive development. The project started out almost 20 years ago, in an attempt to promote the cultivation of high quality Arabica coffee in a region known as the producer of less favoured beans. By supporting the initiative, IKEA contributes to the economic empowerment of farmers and their families. We’re happy to be the first global retailer to make single-origin coffee from the White Nile region broadly available.

Ugandan farmers get advice and education as part of the White Nile project.

We believe in the importance of inclusion of women and youth to support sustainable livelihoods. The White Nile project encourages more of an equal share of responsibilities in both farmers’ businesses and family households as well as shared access to resources to increase women’s independence. But it’s also about seeing the everyday life challenges, for example, that access to water directly at the coffee processing site minimizes the need for long walks to fetch it elsewhere. Through addressing these and many more issues, coffee farming in the White Nile region will hopefully be an attractive business for generations to come.

Freshly picked coffee cherries in the palm of a hand.

PÅTÅR special edition is a high-quality fresh and fruity medium roast with subtle hints of vanilla and caramel.

The start of a long-lasting partnership

By making a long-term commitment to the White Nile farmers growing Arabica beans, we’re entering a partnership where everyone’s a winner. The special PÅTÅR coffee isn’t a charity project – it’s a business opportunity. Together with our supplier and through our IKEA stores, the farmers get to sell their product and we gain a high-quality, tasty coffee.

However, since there isn’t yet enough Arabica coming from the White Nile region to allow sales in all IKEA stores worldwide, this special edition is sold in a number of selected countries only. As the coffee crop grows, we hope to increase that number.

An image of a person walking on a path in the Ugandan countryside.

Your coffee break makes a difference

Just like all other members of the PÅTÅR family, the Ugandan special edition is UTZ certified and organic according to EU standards. In short, that means higher yields, better incomes and better living conditions for farmers, as well as protection of the environment and natural resources such as water, soil and air.

As a customer, you can check the origin of your coffee, and learn more about the plantations where the beans were grown, via the online tracer, utz.org/IKEA

Learn more about our sustainably sourced coffee
See the whole PÅTÅR range

Building partnerships with social entrepreneurs

Representatives from IKEA meeting local artisans.

We want to build lasting relationships with our partners and support their development, that’s why we work together to share knowledge about design, production, environmental management, export and more. Through us, the social entrepreneurs can access a global marketplace, giving them a strong foundation for self-sufficiency and independence.

Since all the products are handcrafted – or originate from small-scale farming – and the enterprises have access to limited resources, the production is also limited. That’s why we can offer the collections to selected countries only. Through our collaboration with social entrepreneurs, we want to support positive economic and social development across the world – long-term sustainable change in a way that charity by itself can’t.

A map showing the countries where IKEA are working with social entrepreneurs.

We are currently working with social entrepreneurs in India, Thailand, Uganda, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Croatia, Romania, Jordan, USA and Canada. We are actively looking for new partners around the world.

“They learn the skills and acquire the resources to bring about a lasting change in their lives. And they’re not dependent on charity.”

Sumita Ghose, Founder and Managing Director, Rangsutra

These women inspire us. Hear the story of one social entrepreneur and one artisan in India.