The world’s largest furniture company is determined to go off-grid, and it’s developing an affordable solar energy program to convince you to do the same. Timed for the UN Climate Action Summit in New York next week, IKEA’s holding company Ingka Group revealed that it has invested €2.5 billion ($2.76 billion) in solar and wind energy systems over the last decade to power its global operations. The Leiden-based unit, which controls 367 of IKEA’s 423 retail outlets, already has a stake in two solar parks in the US, a wind farm in Romania, 534 wind turbines in 14 countries, and nearly a million solar panel units on stores, distribution centers, and administrative buildings.
The company’s significant investment makes IKEA the rare (they claim to be the only) global consumer brand to own and operate its own renewable energy infrastructure In comparison, Google, which touted having made the “largest renewable energy purchase in history” this week, purchases energy from independent solar farms across the US, Latin America, and Europe. Ingka reports that its green energy infrastructure already generating more electricity than its stores consume. The company expects that its entire supply chain will become climate positive by 2030.
Weaning off fossil fuels isn’t just about a social good initiative, says Pia Heidenmark Cook, Ingka Group’s chief sustainability officer. As a resource-intensive operation, mitigating its significant carbon footprint is essential to its longevity as a global enterprise. “We have to do this because we’re here for the long term,” she explained to Quartz.
“It’s actually smart business and what the business model of the future will look like, echoed Ingka Group CEO Jesper Brodin. “Everything around fossil fuels and daft use of resources will be expensive,” he said to Reuters.
Heidenmark Cook, who joined IKEA in 2008, adds that the company’s range of sustainability programs has proven to attract and motivate employees.
Affordable home solar service
Apart from generating energy for its own purposes, IKEA is working on a scheme to make solar energy attractive and affordable to customers around the world. “We want to empower millions of customers to produce and use renewable energy,” Heidenmark Cook said. Our home solar service is today available in seven countries, and we continue investing heavily to develop our home energy service offering, with the aim to make it available across all our 30 markets by 2025.”
IKEA piloted the Home Solar Service in Italy, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK, and Heidenmark Cook admits that selling solar panels hasn’t been without hiccups. In February, IKEA had to stop carrying solar panels in its UK stores because of an increase in government tariffs, as the Guardian reported. In Germany, a consumer watchdog group accused IKEA of misleading customers about who they’re buying the service from. The issue was that IKEA advertised the panels, but customers were shuffled to its partner Solarcentury Microgen without being sufficient informed.
Despite the administrative troubles, Heidenmark Cook says that IKEA is intent on making green energy an accessible commodity. Its most recent sustainability strategy (pdf) outlines its ambition to “inspire and enable more than 1 billion people to live a better everyday life within the limits of the planet.”