Recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 18, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why IKEA Canada Limited Partnership was selected as one of Canada's Greenest Employers (2018):
- IKEA Canada's parent company established a 2020 sustainability strategy called "People & Planet Positive" to chart the course for the next decade -- among the strategy's goal are a zero waste to landfill goal and a commitment to producing as much renewable energy as it consumes by 2020, already reaching 71 percent of its total energy consumed worldwide today (up from 53 percent in 2015)
- IKEA Canada has 3,790 solar panels atop three of its Toronto-area stores as part of the Province of Ontario's Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program (with more planned for Ottawa and Burlington) -- collectively, the existing system can generate enough clean electricity to power approximately 100 homes -- the retailer's 46 megawatt wind farm in Pincher Creek, Alberta became fully operational in 2014 and the company has recently followed-up with the purchase of an 88 megawatt wind farm in Drumheller, Alberta, which together can produce four-times the energy consumed by IKEA Canada across the country
IKEA Canada has sustainability embedded in its DNA
Odd coincidence: when Brendan Seale studied in Sweden for his master's degree in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability, his class did a case study of IKEA and its approach to sustainability. At the time, Seale was simply a student, and when he returned to Canada, he took a job with an environmental NGO. It was only later - five years ago now - that he wound up joining IKEA Canada as, yes, Head of Sustainability.
So did what he learned in school about IKEA impress him? "It did - even at that time I saw that IKEA was a leader in the space," Seale says. "But I became even more impressed when I joined. I saw how the company really does live its purpose, its values and its culture."
A key part of the company's values, since its founding in Sweden by the late Ingvar Kamprad in 1943, is sustainability, as well as improving customers' lives and finding innovative solutions. There are three pillars to the company's approach, says Seale, and employees, known as co-workers, are critical to all.
First, the product range for customers "inspires and enables them to save water, to save energy, to reduce waste in their homes, and to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible," he says. The retail sales force is briefed on how to spread these messages, he notes. The stores also offer such services as taking back used batteries and light bulbs.
Second is IKEA's own footprint, in which co-workers help the company reduce energy and water use and prevent waste. This can even include finding ways to reuse goods damaged in transit.
Third is "how we influence society around us," says Seale, including communities, neighbours and partners. "Anyone who interacts with the IKEA brand should have a positive outcome from it," he says. This also encompasses IKEA's significant involvement in charities and fund-raising by co-workers, including global partners like UNICEF, Save the Children and WWF, as well as local charities such as Breakfast Club of Canada and Tree Canada.
Seale notes that IKEA, famous for using about one per cent of the world's entire lumber supply each year, is on track to obtain all of its wood from sustainable sources - FSC certified or recycled - by 2020. Its annual catalogue is already certified as sustainably sourced by the FSC, or Forest Stewardship Council.
To IKEA Canada President Marsha Smith, "sustainability is embedded in so many of our practices that I describe it as being in our DNA. It has always been there in some way, and it is always evolving. But we still have so much to do."
She notes that IKEA Canada now generates renewable energy equivalent to four times the energy it uses, thanks to major wind farms it owns in Wintering Hills, Alta. and Pincher Creek, Alta. "It's equivalent to the electricity consumed by about 40,000 average Canadian households, which is fantastic," she says. "We see this as a good investment for our business, and it moves us closer to our global ambition, which is to produce as much renewable energy as we consume across all our operations by 2020."
IKEA Canada has also been able to divert 85 per cent of its waste from landfills. "That's a testament to our co-workers and how engaged they are," says Smith.
One of the fun ways of maintaining that engagement is IKEA Canada's Sustainable Living Challenge mobile app, in which teams of co-workers gain points for doing sustainable things, from taking transit to work to using rechargeable batteries or LED lights, and win IKEA products as prizes.
Co-workers can also apply to be iWitness Ambassadors and travel to such places as Indonesia or Malawi to see some of the charity projects funded through the IKEA Foundation, then blog about it. "It's really spreading the message about how we can make a big difference through our business operations," says Smith.
All of this, says Smith, re-emphasizes how IKEA puts the highest priority in recruitment on whether candidates share the company's values. "The belief we have is, if you have the right values, we can probably teach you the job," she says. "We show that retail can be a great place to have a career."