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Ikea’s Ambitious Plan To Make Its Cheap Furniture Last Forever

The Ikea store in Queens, New York, which opened on Jan. 14, marked a decided departure for the iconic home furnishings brand. Located in the Rego Park Shopping Center, the 11,500-square-foot open layout ― a new, smaller format for Ikea ― is divided into core areas of the home, offering small-space solutions tailored to city living. Rooms are thoughtfully merchandised with easily portable accessories like lamps and throw pillows that customers can take with them on the bus or subway, both of which are a block away — a key factor in choosing the store’s location, given that more than half of city residents use public transportation. Digital stations allow shoppers to self-pay and arrange furniture delivery for bigger pieces for a flat fee of $49. The company is working to make all last-mile deliveries in New York City by electric vehicle, according to Jennifer Keesson, country sustainability manager for Ikea U.S. — a test run on the way to making the last mile of its more than 2 million annual home deliveries nationwide zero emissions by 2025. The Swedish powerhouse set out 80 years ago “to create a better everyday life for the many people” — as its motto goes — by putting sleek, stylish home furnishings within the budgets of the masses, and became a $35.4 billion (2020 revenues) market force in the process. And just as the brand is widely credited with democratizing design, it’s now moving to make sustainable living the norm rather than the exception, with a sprawling strategy that’s wildly ambitious in scope. Ikea’s overarching goal is to become “climate positive” by 2030 — reducing more greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) than its entire value chain emits. It plans to do this while still growing its business by designing new products, moving into new markets and building dozens, perhaps hundreds, of new stores in that time. The company is charging ahead with plans to open 50 more stores (of various sizes and formats) in 2021 alone. Expanding its retail footprint on a warming planet may seem to fly directly in the face of Ikea’s plan to reduce its colossal climate footprint. In the last year, moves to decrease energy use across the business, from manufacturing to what it serves in its restaurants, have reduced its climate footprint per product sold by 7%, the company estimates. Meeting its 2030 target while selling ever more will mean cutting the average climate footprint per product by 70%. Given that Ikea emitted the equivalent of 24.9 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2019 — accounting for 0.1% of the world’s GHG emissions that year — it’s a Herculean undertaking that encompasses virtually every element of its business, from the materials it sources through product manufacturing and transport. Emissions reductions will also come from efforts to pull carbon out of the atmosphere (without the use of carbon offsets) and influence supplier and customer behavior.
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