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“We see that across the 30 markets that we operate, so it’s not just a Swedish thing or a British thing,” she says.The company has already started testing interest in a subscription-like model for furniture in a few locations.
That addresses both a sourcing problem and an environmental one.
The company knew that it needed to change to meet its 2030 goal of becoming “climate positive,” or reducing more greenhouse gas emissions than it emits.
“We do not see that we as a company can move with this situation going forward if we don’t address the resource scarcity topic, meaning that we need to be super smart about the materials that we use,” says Cook.
By taking back its own products, Ikea can help extend a product’s life and then reclaim the materials, helping limit its reliance on raw materials for the new items it makes.
Stores already take back mattresses, recycling the parts into products like roofing materials and animal bedding.
Products that are returned also go back on display in a section of each store.“We’re exploring to see how can we reach the biggest volume,” she says.Ikea is the biggest furniture retailer in the world–a title that the company has managed to hold on to, amazingly, without a serious digital presence.Raw materials, by far, are the largest part of that footprint, so reusing or recycling materials can have a dramatic impact.Customers, too, have become more conscious of the environmental footprint of consumption and are interested in new models in a way that they were not even a few years ago.But if the company takes back products years after selling them, it may require a new system of warehousing and facilities for repair and recycling.Cook says that it’s too early to say exactly how the system will change, but that’s what it’s learning in the new tests.In short, Ikea is acting more like a tech company than a furniture maker.“For the majority of people in the world, Ikea isn’t accessible.In Switzerland, it’s finding that small businesses are interested in the idea, and Ikea is now moving forward with more tests.In the Netherlands, it’s testing a package that rents university students a set of basic furniture, and studying everything from pricing to how to extend the life of the products when the students no longer need it and Ikea takes it back.