Updated: Jun 26, 2021
With the speed and low prices of online shopping, buying furniture has never been simpler. It rarely causes the consumer to wonder: where did this furniture come from and where will it end up when I no longer need it?
“Fast furniture” feeds off a ‘use and discard’ mindset; when a piece of furniture becomes damaged, broken, or simply deemed out-of-style, it’s often discarded. The result: furniture in U.S. landfills increased from a total of 7.6 million tons to 9.69 million tons in just 10 years. The second largest portion of urban waste, furniture not only supplies landfills, but also significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. As with numerous consumer issues, some urge consumers to change their habits: buy furniture less frequently and more sustainably. However, eco-friendly furniture’s large price tag doesn’t make this solution universal or sustainable. Some argue that true, systemic change begins with retail giants, and Ikea is stepping up to the challenge.
Founded 80 years ago, Ikea has transformed how people buy furniture, making stylish pieces accessible to everyone. However, their revenue of $35.4 billion in 2020 doesn’t come without environmental consequences. The company produced 24.9 million tons of CO2 in 2019, contributing 0.1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions alone. Recognizing their environmental impact, Ikea is choosing to prioritize sustainability on a large scale, hoping to become climate positive by 2030.
This plan will push for sustainability throughout Ikea’s furniture production, materials, distribution, and recycling, without losing product quality and aesthetic. By prioritizing sustainability in the company’s future, Ikea created goals appropriate for its size and resources. Not only will its products be recyclable and reusable, but consumers will be able to practice sustainability themselves by using stores’ “circular hubs” where they can shop for secondhand items and fix broken products. Beyond furniture materials and use, Ikea’s operations will run entirely on renewable energy from retail stores to suppliers.
These goals are far-reaching on Ikea’s large scale, but they act as an example for companies of any size; once sustainability is valued, it can be incorporated into the foundation of a company, with goals unique to every organization. For some companies, these objectives may include creating a sustainable supply chain, using clean energy, reducing water usage, or off-setting carbon emissions through tree-planting projects. Ikea shows that every company can use its unique production, materials, distribution, and consumer strategies to implement sustainable goals and create a more green future.