Last week, Steve Howard, head of sustainability for IKEA, said something you might not expect to hear from a man who holds an executive position with the world’s leading retailer of couches, coffee tables and cushions in the shape of keyboard-playing hedgehogs: it’s all downhill from here.
Speaking on a five-person panel at a sustainable business conference hosted by The Guardian, Howard explains:
“If we look on a global basis, in the West we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff … peak home furnishings.”
Peak home furnishings, eh?
Glancing around my immediate surroundings, I can spot no less than 10 items purchased at IKEA over the past several years. Floor mirror. Woven storage baskets. Chunky black picture frames. LED work lamp that gives me a headache but that I keep on using anyways.
Good god — have I, as a Western consumer, reached my limit in the procurement of cheap yet stylish home goods of Scandinavian origin? Am I living in the midst of what Howard calls “peak curtains” and don’t even know it? (By the way, Lloyd played off that term in his post over on TreeHugger.)
Perhaps I am.
But as far as Howard is concerned, “peak curtains” doesn’t necessarily mean I, or anyone else, should stop acquiring IKEA products. Although it may seem like it, Howard didn't exactly shoot himself in the foot. And he certainly isn’t undermining his employer's ambitious goal of doubling sales to 50 billion euros by 2020. Rather, he’s suggesting that we continue to consume … but consume more responsibly.
We will be increasingly building a circular Ikea where you can repair and recycle products. If you look on a global basis, most people are still poor and most people actually haven’t got to sufficiency yet. There is a global growth opportunity ... but it’s a distribution issue.
To IKEA’s credit, the emoji-embracing Swedish retailer has long push a more sustainability brand of consumerism in its stores.
Sure, one-offs like throw pillows stuffed with shredded IKEA catalogs are more or less do-goody green PR stunts. But other less fleeting campaigns, like doing away with the sale of incandescent and CFL lightbulbs in favor of more efficient LEDs have a wider reaching impact. And the nap-friendly "life improvement" emporium hasn’t offered single-use plastic shopping bags since who knows when. (Okay, U.S. stores went reusable-or-nothing in October 2008.)
Behind the scenes, IKEA aims to, among other commendable things, produce as much renewable energy as it consumes by 2020 — sizable investments in U.S. wind farms in 2014 certainly helped push the retailer toward that goal of energy independence. In June of last year, IKEA announced a total pledge of 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) toward warding off climate change through various renewable energy schemes (aforementioned wind farm investments included) while also supporting vulnerable communities impacted by a gradually warming planet. In other words, IKEA’s got it in the big blue bag.
So fear not … IKEA still wants your money. They’re just going about it in a different way. I would, however, start to worry if the phrase “peak meatball” starts to get tossed around.
Via [The Guardian], [Quartz]