How Ikea is boosting sustainable and healthy living

Rachel Arthur and Joanna Yarrow

Rachel Arthur and Joanna Yarrow

“We’ve been set up as a business to understand how people live and to provide solutions that help them live better,” says Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainable and healthy living at Ikea, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Since its inception 75 years ago, the Swedish flatpack retailer has been known for affordable – and arguably, disposable – furniture that is a staple in young people’s homes. But after identifying a shift in how we consume and live our lives, Ikea is on a much bigger mission, which is to think of what products and services it can provide that support consumers to live more sustainably, and more healthily, everyday, Yarrow explains.

Speaking to Rachel Arthur, she says that sustainability has always been at the core of Ikea, but one of the biggest mistakes it has made is not to have engaged with consumers on their sustainable journey up until now.

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But times have shifted, and with mainstream consumers now maturing from supporting a single cause, such as saving water, to attempting to become more sustainable in every aspect of their lives, Ikea is aiming to follow suit. To achieve its sustainable strategy, the company’s approach is threefold: look at its use of energy and resources (by 2020, it will be generating at least as much energy as it is consuming in their operations); look at people and it supply chain; and lastly, how to improve its customers’ lives overarchingly.

The company is due to release its new strategy in June, which will focus on its consumers and how to create affordability, accessibility and sustainability for all. Customers of the Greenwich, London store due to open in 2019 will be able to trial some of the company’s upcoming features, which include upcycling stations, solar panels, green walls and rain water harvesting, among other components.

During the conversation, Yarrow also talks about her background as the child of eco-warriors in England, how brands can no longer afford to just greenwash, and her belief that no one brand will ever be able to achieve sustainability alone, making collaboration key.

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