November 22, 2023 | By Anurima Das

Al-Futtaim IKEA, envisions creating a better everyday life for the people connected to them. While doing so, they take a comprehensive approach that focuses on climate change, nature, and people. They’re always committed to making a difference at every step in their operations and promoting a more sustainable lifestyle for customers. From marketing efforts, communication across all stores, and event activations including initiatives like the Sustainability Container and Maker’s space, which took place during Dubai Design Week the brand is constantly working out ways to amp up its commitment to sustainability.

In conversation with Pooja Dhingra, Regional Sustainability Manager, Al-Futtaim IKEA in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Egypt to understand more about the brand’s plans and how they are eyeing the concept of sustainability to craft a better future.

How are sustainability principles working for you in driving customer-centricity?

We now have five Sustainable Living shops in our stores which aim to influence and enable people to live a sustainable life at home, offering customers products, solutions, and services that support them to make easy changes in their everyday lives at an affordable price.

Spare parts for products are also readily available at no cost both in-store and online through our website (www.ikea.com/ae). This enables our customers to prolong the lifespan of their IKEA products without incurring additional charges, making sustainable living affordable, accessible, and easy for many people.

Al-Futtaim IKEA has also collaborated with various sustainability-focused organizations, such as the Year of Sustainability team contributing to raising circularity awareness, MOCCAAE on the awareness and reduction of food waste, and EN-WWF on raising awareness on climate change.

What are the major sustainability plans undertaken and what’s in the pipeline?

At Al-Futtaim IKEA, our sustainability strategy encompasses three pillars: healthy & sustainable living, climate and circular positive, and fair & equal in the IKEA value chain.

Healthy & sustainable living:

Our goal is to inspire and enable more than 70 million people to live a better everyday life within the boundaries of the planet by 2025. To do that, we offer interior design services promoting sustainable living. At our store, we sell the new SOLHETTA LED bulbs that are 35% more energy-efficient, and affordable. Our customers are looking for more plant-based food options, so we’re striving to give them more choices by adding options that are delicious, nutritious, and responsibly produced across our Swedish market, restaurants, and bistros.

Climate and circular positive:

In the pursuit of climate and circular positivity, Al-Futtaim IKEA UAE achieves 25% of its electricity needs through solar energy, implements energy efficiency initiatives, and utilises LED lights across all stores in the UAE. The large format stores in the UAE also implement food waste management solutions with circular practices such as converting food and coffee waste into compost and used oil into biofuel. Water-saving taps and the use of condensate water from air conditioning units contribute to our water conservation efforts. The stores segregate waste, with 65% currently being recycled and a goal of reaching 100% by 2030. Additionally, the first electric truck for store replenishments in Abu Dhabi will be launched in 2024, and the implementation of EV charging stations is underway across all UAE stores. Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reports are in the pipeline to further enhance transparency and accountability.

Fair & Equal: Providing and supporting decent and meaningful work

Emphasising fairness and equality, IKEA supports meaningful work throughout its value chain with the IWAY, a mandatory supplier code of conduct. IWAY is the IKEA way of responsibly sourcing products, services, materials, and components. It sets clear expectations and ways of working for environmental, social, and working conditions as well as animal welfare. IWAY addresses issues such as child labour, forced labour, responsible recruitment, wages, working hours, and competence development of workers. We strive for positive societal and environmental impact through our long-term relationships and collaborative approaches with our suppliers. At Al-Futtaim IKEA, dialogue and collaboration are always at the heart of our approach, and when challenges arise, we work through them together with our suppliers.

In terms of ROI and tech implementation, how is the process working for you all? Especially when you have to account for sustainable processes.

At Al-Futtaim IKEA, we’ve been making significant strides. In FY21, we successfully transitioned all IKEA-operated factories, packaging, and distribution units worldwide to 100% renewable electricity. The strategic use of energy dashboards and upgrades to our building management systems has significantly reduced our overall energy consumption. Moreover, in 2021, a noteworthy 55.8% of the materials we sourced were renewable, and 17.3% were recycled. These accomplishments underscore our commitment to sustainability, showcasing the tangible results of our dedication to innovation and responsible practices for a better future for us and the many people.

Sustainability is a big pillar today for all industries, how does this work for your industry?

Sustainability stands as a cornerstone in home furnishing industry, and we at Al-Futtaim IKEA are actively advancing our commitment to sourcing only renewable or recycled materials by 2030. Our goal is to exclusively utilise renewable or recycled materials and offer innovative solutions for customers to extend the lifespan of products and materials.

We phased out all single-use plastic products globally from our home furnishing range in January 2020, with a commitment to using only renewable and recycled materials in our plastic products by 2030.

Wood is important for IKEA’s products. Emphasising the importance of sustainable raw materials, we have established a partnership with Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®), to ensure responsible forest management and preserve the world’s forests.

All cotton in IKEA products is derived from more sustainable sources, either recycled or grown with reduced water and pesticide usage, thus good for the farmers, good for the planet and good for you.

Bamboo, being renewable, recyclable, and durable, is a preferred material for many well-used products at IKEA – also proven to be advantageous. Using bamboo allows us to create products with thinner structural elements, reducing material usage, saving natural resources, and lowering transport costs. Research shows that bamboo can help control erosion, filter CO₂ out of the air, and produce oxygen with its high growth rate.

Our commitment extends to minimising the IKEA greenhouse gas footprint, with a significant focus on raw materials and the lifecycle of products within the homes of our customers.

How do you foresee the future of the brand shaping up with sustainability-focused initiatives?

We’re committed to being open about our efforts to help the environment and reduce our climate footprint. Our yearly climate and sustainability reports show exactly what we’re doing to reduce our impact. Following the Paris Agreement, where we promise to limit global temperature rise, we’ve set clear goals to guide our actions. In all our stores, we have sustainability ambassadors to make sure we’re acting responsibly at every level of our operations. This way, we’re working towards a future where our brand is known for being responsible and helping make the world a better place for people and the planet.

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