A company that built its brand primarily on hawking disposable, inexpensive furniture might seem an unlikely choice to spearhead a corporate climate revolution. Nonetheless, Ikea continues to show that it's serious about implementing a surprisingly ambitious climate agenda. The Swedish retail giant recently rolled out the first of eight full-scale solar carports scheduled to be built at locations across the United States, but that's only part of the master plan. From adopting more sustainable business practices to investing heavily in renewable energy technologies, Ikea looks poised to become a model for eco-friendly corporate development.
In November 2019, the Inter Ikea Group announced that it would be investing $220 million in a variety of new initiatives. In particular, the money would go to increasing the company's reliance on green energy, supporting reforestation and encouraging more responsible forest management around the globe. The stated goal was at once essential and borderline quixotic: to continue growing the company while making Ikea climate-positive by 2030.
The concept of becoming a climate-positive company - one that eliminates or offsets more total carbon emissions than it generates - has become quite popular in recent years. Major companies around the globe have pledged to reach this milestone in the coming decades, but few have been more aggressive in taking tangible steps toward achieving it than Ikea. In fact, the furniture retailer has laid out a detailed roadmap to achieving its lofty pledge.
Part of Ikea's forward-looking approach involves making its products and business practices more sustainable. This includes several pilot programs aimed at reducing waste and overconsumption by encouraging customers to repair broken furniture with spare parts and sell back products they no longer want. The company has also become a strong advocate for responsible forest management and environmental stewardship.
Ultimately, the success of Ikea's climate-positive crusade will hinge on its ability to transition toward 100% renewable energy in every facet of its business. The rollout of solar carports is only one step in that transition, but the early returns are encouraging. After the company introduced its first carport in Baltimore, the amount of energy the store had to purchase from the grid dropped by 84%. Seven other carports are scheduled for completion in 2021, joining a variety of rooftop solar arrays that already sit atop around 90% of Ikea's current U.S. locations.
Indeed, the company has already passed one of its key green energy goals ahead of schedule. Thanks to $2.7 billion in renewable energy investments over the last decade, Ikea now generates more total clean energy than it consumes across all of its warehouses, offices and retail stores. In all, its expansive green energy portfolio includes nearly a million on-site solar panels, more than 500 wind turbines and substantial shares in a pair of large-scale American solar plants.
To be sure, there's still a long road ahead if Ikea is to realize its stated objective of going completely climate-positive in the next decade. More than just installing solar panels and switching to electric vehicles, it will take more fundamental changes in the way the company approaches nearly every aspect of its business. Still, it's a promising start for the unlikeliest of environmental evangelists.