Article: How IKEA encourages sustainability in the workplace


How IKEA encourages sustainability in the workplace

While other big-box retailers promote sustainability through product offerings, IKEA takes it a step further through its culture.
How IKEA encourages sustainability in the workplace

Climate change. Unsustainable consumption. Inequality. IKEA's bid to become a more responsible business is taking shape through initiatives on healthy and sustainable living, circularity, and equality.

By 2030, the company aims to source only renewable and recyclable materials and to switch to the use of electric vehicles for its delivery service. Today, IKEA says, "more than 60% of IKEA products are based on renewable materials and more than 10% contain recycled materials".

While other big-box retailers also promote sustainability to their customers through product offerings, IKEA takes it a step further by enabling its own workforce to live out the same values of sustainability in their everyday life. How does IKEA encourage team members to embrace sustainability and translate it into action?

Value statements are 'not just words written on the wall'

Weng Manalaysay, Country Manager - HR at IKEA in the Philippines, shared the company's values alignment and employee engagement strategy.

"Caring for people and planet is one of our values. They're not just words written on the wall," Weng shared. "From the very start, in our new hire orientation, we make our co-workers understand the sustainability agenda."

The concept of healthy and sustainable living may seem abstract for some but, for the team at IKEA, the shift to a more conscious way of life has started with small but meaningful actions that have made a big difference.

READ MORE | How HR can add value to ESG initiatives

One example of caring for team members is giving them the option of a healthier diet while at work. In fact, IKEA's famous Swedish meatballs now have a meatless variety. "If you go to our co-worker restaurant, there's always a healthy food option. It's a reminder of how to make healthy choices," Weng said.

"Then we also have the concept of lagom, which is Swedish for 'not too much, not too little' but just right. When we get food, we get only what we know we can finish. We do this to prevent food waste. We even have a board in the restaurant that shows [the amount of] food waste," she said.


The word 'lagom' is Swedish for 'not too much, not too little – just right,' which captures the essence of conscious consumption.


When people understand the impact of conscious consumption, they become "conscious about not wasting food". Simple, practical steps like these have, in time, become ingrained in IKEA's work culture, such that team members are steadily making health-conscious and eco-conscious choices in their own lives.

Employees who adopt healthy routines such as exercise are rewarded for their efforts. The number of hours engaged in fitness activities are incentivised with cash, which is then donated to an employee's chosen charity.

IKEA also partners with foundations to instil a culture of volunteerism and civic duty in staff. Days are allocated for employees to take part in activities that they believe advance social and environmental good. 

From hiring to training

The IKEA workforce is no small team. And so, cultivating these habits among team members isn't just a change in the mindset and behaviour of one. Together, it becomes a social movement of its own.

One of the pains of a growing business, however, is the challenge of communicating the culture across the organisation as it adds more people to the team.

"It really starts out in the hiring process. We make sure that the questions that are asked in the interviews filter out people who don't have those values. In our training programmes, our values are actually embedded there," Weng said.

READ MORE | Why business leaders should act on climate

"We make sure that people are not just assessed on their competencies, such as what you can and cannot do, but also in the way you actually perform, how you really work."

A crucial element of life at IKEA, for example, is the sense of togetherness. Weng explained this in terms of collegiality and team spirit: "You might have met your targets, but if you made a lot of enemies along the way, that's not being 'together' with your team."

Weng also believes it's important to know that your people are engaged. Apart from values alignment, IKEA listens to employee feedback.

"We have a voice survey where we ask our people how their experience is in the company," Weng said. This gauges the level of employee engagement and the effectiveness of their values in instilling positive change at work and beyond. 

Overall, from Weng's perspective as a people leader, fostering a values-driven culture at IKEA entails embedding those values in every step of the employee journey.

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Topics: Business, Culture, #ESG

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