IKEA recognised for its circular way of working

Sunlight breaking through trees in a pine forest.

IKEA recognised for its circular way of working

‘Transforming IKEA into a “circular” business is one of our biggest challenges,’ says Peter van der Poel, who collected an award for IKEA at this year’s Circulars – set up to recognise the work of individuals and organisations towards creating a circular economy. ‘We are only in the beginning. This prize is inspiring and indicates we are on the right track.’ Below are some ways IKEA is going full circle to reduce its environmental impact.

Close up of a pile of logs.

Wood is a primary material for many IKEA products. Reducing the environmental impact means it’s essential to get more products from each tree. Engineered wood, a recent innovation that IKEA developed with Romanian supplier Aviva, is a step in this direction. ‘Engineered wood enables us to produce worktops using 60 percent less wood. It’s a great invention that fits perfectly with our lightweight agenda,’ says Cristina Mihaela Nedelea, business developer at IKEA.

A cotton plant in a field.

The 2017 Sustainable Cotton Ranking Report placed IKEA at number one for the second year. The report, produced by Pesticide Action Network (UK), Solidaridad and WWF, assesses consumer-facing companies with significant cotton use. Since 2015, all cotton used in IKEA products has come from more sustainable sources – more sustainable means growing cotton in a way that uses less water, fertiliser and pesticides, while also increasing profit for farmers. ‘We want to transform the entire cotton industry,’ says Calvin Woolley, supplier development leader of textiles at IKEA. ‘There shouldn’t be any other cotton than cotton created from more sustainable sources.’

‘We truly believe that the journey towards a circular economy requires a daring and innovative mindset, working together with many stakeholders’

IKEA Peter van der Poel, manager Range & Supply and managing director for IKEA of Sweden AB
Containers of recycled wood and recyclable plastic bottles.

‘What we do at IKEA has a big impact on the environment because we work with large quantities. By using recycled materials, we can produce more sustainably,’ says Anna Granath, a product developer at IKEA who leads the team that developed KUNGSBACKA kitchen fronts – the first kitchen fronts in the IKEA range made from both recycled wood and recycled plastic. Each year, billions of PET bottles are used worldwide, some are recycled, most become waste. ‘We found a way to transform used PET bottles into a foil that is laminated on the KUNGSBACKA kitchen fronts… We worked hard not to compromise on quality or price,’ says Marco Bergamo, head of development at Italian supplier 3B, who worked with IKEA on this project.

A portrait of Peter van der Poel.

At the roots of IKEA values and culture is being cost-conscious and doing more with less. For a company that dares to think differently and avoids wasting resources, being circular is both a responsibility and good business. Winning the Accenture Strategy Award for Circular Economy Multinational in January is a sign that IKEA is on the right path as it works to be a circular company in all aspects. ‘This is one of our biggest ambitions for the future,’ says Peter van der Poel. ‘It’s about smarter use of resources and, from the very beginning, designing products so they can be repurposed, repaired, reused, resold or recycled.’