Steve Howard, IKEA: “Let’s build this new next wave of the industrial revolution”

8 March 2016

Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, Ikea at COP21

LONDON: In an interview with The Climate Group’s Climate TV, Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA, says the global climate change conversation has changed, stating: “We’re talking about opportunity sharing rather than burden sharing, about investment rather than cost.”

“We’ve talked for a long time about long, loud and legal policy making,” says Steve Howard. “If you’re a business you make long-term plans but then you actually change as you go – you adjust – can you go faster? Can you strengthen targets? And evidence from technology shows that actually you can go further and faster.”

The IKEA CSO notes that with advances in renewable technologies, it will be cheaper for companies to choose wind and solar power than coal or gas in most countries by 2030. “Just solar alone in the last five or six years – we’ve seen an 80% reduction in the prices. What’s possible with it is radically different from a few years ago.”

In the video interview, Steve Howard warns that despite plummeting renewables costs, in order for a global energy transition to take place investment must come from every economy. “In developing countries where people have almost no part in creating this problem – they need some financing on the table to help them with the transitions, to help for adaptation and help actually get a clean economy in place.”

“So we need governments to step up to the commitment they made on the US$100 billion. It’s not a lot to ask that will leverage huge amounts of investment from the private sector,” he adds. “With good government policy, we’ll see a wave of business innovation and investment that unlocks the clean revolution that we all want to see.”

IKEA is one of the founding partners of RE100, The Climate Group’s renewable electricity campaign run in partnership with CDP to increase corporate demand for renewables. The furniture retailer has a target to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes by 2020 and has been investing heavily in renewables to ensure it is on track to achieve this.


As well as implementing ambitious targets of its own to decarbonize its operations, the company is also spurred by increasing consumer demand to provide low carbon products. “At IKEA we can see our customers really care about climate change but they want easy, affordable, attractive solutions,” says Steve Howard.

In light of this the Swedish company has “an ambition to have 500 million LEDs sold by the end of 2020 – that’s enough to save all the household electricity in Paris and London every year when those LEDs are installed, and they’ll save energy for a further 20 years.” In September last year, IKEA stopped sales of halogen and compact fluorescent bulbs, becoming the first retailer in the UK to sell only LEDs for lighting, helping its customers save energy and make affordable choices to lower their carbon footprints.

“We’ve also started selling solar panels in Switzerland, the Netherlands and the UK and we’ll roll out some more countries. So we’ve had people come into IKEA looking for towels and actually leaving having ordered solar panels for their roofs. But it’s a great thing for them to do for their wallets, for their homes and for the environment. So they’re really happy they’ve turned their roofs into a power station,” says Steve Howard.


Talking of the climate deal reached at COP21, the CSO explains how this is just the beginning of a global energy transition. “We’ll see Paris as the turning point between the high carbon economy of the first phase of the industrial revolution and the clean economy of the future. We’ll put fossil fuels behind us and the strategic assets of the 21st century will be the things above the ground. It’ll be about the wind, the forests, the water and the sun that shines all around us on the world.”

Closing the interview, Steve Howard touches on the importance of strong government policy in alignment with corporate engagement to “see the business innovation and investment that will unlock a clean revolution that will be great for people everywhere.”

text by Jessy Field, video by Ilario D'Amato

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