Retail in Asia

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Interview with IKEA India: localizing the sustainability strategy


In partnership with eTail Asia 2021, Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Peter Betzel, CEO & Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA India.

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RiA: How is IKEA approaching the Indian market?

Peter: IKEA remains invested and committed to India and stands by its vision to create a better everyday life for the many people.

Our ambition is to reach 100 million people in India by 2022 with beautiful home furnishing products that are accessible, affordable and sustainable. We will establish a strong omnichannel presence in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi/NCR and are also exploring other opportunities in India.

Our Omnichannel approach will be a combination of big IKEA stores, smaller city center stores, and online platform as a selling channel.

We are today online in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad. The Navi Mumbai store opened on 18th Dec 2020 and two smaller format stores will also open in Mumbai city during 2021. At the same time, new markets are being evaluated for expansion opportunities.

RiA: What are the activities in place to boost brand awareness?

Peter: We have a holistic approach when it comes to building our brand awareness and position, especially in a new market like India. We are listening to the society and customers to understand the needs and become even more relevant. We are connecting with our stakeholders, like minded companies and our partners to collaborate on important topics and issues.

Along with all the marketing and communication activities that we do, IKEA stores are our biggest communication channel and meeting point with our many customers – to create inspiration and touch and feel our products and solutions. During the crisis, the online business started to play an even more important role. IKEA India introduced Click & Collect contactless and safe shopping so that customers could continue shopping their favoriate home furnishing products even during the lockdowns. We also introduced online consultations/planning services for kitchen, office furniture, wardrobe etc. we have clear communication in all channels to customers as many are depending on online product descriptions, customer testimonials, quality standards, usability, etc. to make a purchase decision. 

Source: IKEA India

As many potential customers are first time digital users, IKEA wants to support them in their online journey and our website plays a key role. There are IKEA buying guides that customers can download and use. We will soon introduce the IKEA buying App in all our operational markets.

Health and safety of customers and co-workers will continue to remain IKEA’s priority as COVID still continues to evolve and we will continue to build our digital capabilities even more.

Other than all the mediums, our coworkers are our biggest brand ambassadors and one of our efforts is to enable them to represent IKEA in a good way – this also contributes to our positioning in a big way.

RiA: What are the main pillars of IKEA’s sustainability strategy for this market?

Peter: IKEA is a 75+ year old Swedish home furnishing company with the vision – to create a better everyday life for the many people. It is in our DNA to be a good business wherever we go.

Sustainability contributes to growth and commercial success while also taking care of people and planet, our only home.

We will continue to work with the following three pillars: 

  • Healthy & sustainable living- We would like to Inspire and enable 1 billion people to live a better life within the limits of the planet. With our democratic design range, we will implement energy saving, water saving, waste management through our many customers and co-workers. Small savings and big impact.
  • Circular & climate positive- Strive for zero waste, contribute to the IKEA ambition to be circular and climate positive by 2030, and advocate for positive change in society. By latest 2030, all our products will be made from renewable, recycled sources. We will engage with our customers and enable products for reuse. We will maximise the impact through IWAY, our code of conduct in the supply chain right from sustainable raw materials till the end of product cycle. 
  • Fair & inclusive – Improve the well-being of millions of people by becoming a truly inclusive and people-centred company and employer. In India we have a non-negotiable ambition to have 50% gender equality across our organisation and we are close to that today.  Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are our forever foundation. 
Source: IKEA India

As part of our sustainability strategy, we want to create trust among co-workers, customers and stakeholders. It means going beyond profit and positively impacting our co-workers, communities, customers, society and our planet. It means acting meaningfully, being compassionate and caring, humble and honest. We are making HF products and solutions sustainable and affordable for the many people through our democratic design principles and our ways of working and values. We are also helping our customers reduce this impact through climate-friendly products, services and programs. For example, since 2015, the whole IKEA lighting range is based on LED, 100% of cotton in IKEA products comes from more sustainable sources.

And it is still challenging times with COVID. We will continue to support our co-workers and customers. We will continue to support vulnerable communities in whatever ways we can.

RiA: What are some of the activities proposed and what is the response?

Peter: Working with sustainability is an integral part of the IKEA business and a core value. We believe that each coworker, our suppliers and partners should be inspired to do more for people and the planet based on our purpose to create a better everyday life at home for the many people.

Our aim is to have IKEA operations entirely to renewable energy by 2025. All our buildings will be certified green buildings. Navi Mumbai store is a zero-discharge facility and is LEED certified. 50% cardboard plastics in our operations are recycled into the supply chain. We have delivered 30000 parcels to our customers in 100% sustainable packaging and fillers and we have done 13% deliveries to customers done through electric vehicles. The goal is to reach 100% by 2025. We will work with communities around our stores to create sustainable and affordable solutions for waste and water problems. We will continue to develop sustainable and affordable products and solutions in our range to enable the many people to live more sustainably.

Recently IKEA introduced the Better living App by which customers can take on different challenges to live more sustainably in their everyday lives. India had the highest number of downloads compared to any other IKEA country globally in the first season. Through consumer participation, so far in India, in the second season, the challenge helped save 457 thousands kg of (CO2) carbon footprint, equivalent to burning 44,000 liters of diesel. The app also helped to conserve 8 million liters of water, equivalent to the drinking water requirement of 11.14 lakh people in India. The challenge helped waste segregation of 7 thousands kg, equivalent to average daily waste generated in 8750 households of Indian Metro cities.

Source: IKEA India

RiA: Is the market responsive towards the topic?

Peter: Yes, our coworkers and customers are engaging with us in many dimensions especially around sustainable living. People are eager to contribute and companies can enable this even further by integrating sustainability into their business models. The IBLA app is a good example.

RiA: What will you be sharing at eTail Asia?

Peter: I will be sharing how being sustainable is integral to IKEA’s vision and long-term growth. Sustainability contributes to growth and commercial success while also taking care of people and planet, our only home. We believe its good business to be a good business – that healthy and sustainable living can be affordable, attractive and accessible for many people. As one of the biggest brands in the world, we have a unique opportunity to lead change through our operations and existing ecosystem. But we cannot do this alone.– have an important role to play, and an opportunity to turn the challenges into solutions, as we build back better.

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RiA: What are you expecting in terms of takeaways and why is eTail a must not miss event?

Peter: Our goal is to inspire action and spark change in the areas of sustainability so that we can build back better and create the future we all want to be part of. Connecting with likeminded organizations and individuals in purpose driven fora such as eTAIL is one of the ways IKEA will contribute to bring urgent attention towards the topic of Sustainability and how it is our collective responsibility to make things better for our people and planet – you, me, governments, corporates, cities, businesses big and small, civil society and the society.

Register for eTail Asia here