The big, blue, reusable shopping bag is a nearly iconic symbol of greenness, but far beyond its long-standing policy of not using throw-away plastic bags, IKEA has also committed to aggressive measures to make itself as green as possible. Its strategy includes 100% reliance on sustainable, clean energy sources by 2020. IKEA also plans to provide affordable means for its consumers who are also interested in living greener lifestyles.
When IKEA looked into the future, it saw itself with a huge carbon footprint. It saw it was tied to energy sources with prices and availability that could neither be controlled nor accurately budgeted. So it tightened up.
IKEA warehouses became energy efficient by replacing HVAC units with newer, less wasteful ones. It also recycled construction materials, and made a major commitment to the LED light bulb by becoming the first major retailer to quit selling incandescent light bulbs. LED bulbs are now the bulb of choice because LEDs have a three-time greater life expectancy than even compact fluorescent bulbs. IKEA sells the LEDs at a moderate price because it feels sustainability should be financially in reach of everyone and that going green should not carry a premium.
Beyond the warehouse measures, IKEA also committed to protecting the wood forests from which it got supply. It now grows more trees than it uses. And IKEA has been educating its wood suppliers on sustainability and helping them maintain their forests. IKEA tries to manufacture more laminated wood furniture now than solid wood. While the look is the same, the price and carbon footprint are much lower.
To reach its goal of being more sustainable, IKEA has begun transitioning its stores to renewable energy sources. As the second largest private commercial solar owner in the United States, IKEA says that it will potentially have excess energy to sell to its consumers by 2020. Although becoming an energy supplier was not the reason for seeking energy self-reliance, IKEA sees the potential excess as an added bonus.
IKEA firmly believes the only companies that will survive the next 30 years are those that embrace resource sustainability. It is taking a firm stance and in doing so is creating new business opportunities for itself. This year customers in the U.K. can purchase solar cell panels in IKEA U.K. stores. If that market test is successful then U.S. customers will be next in line.