Steve Howard, IKEA: “Renewable energy is the future”

21 January 2016

Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA Group

LONDON: “Renewable energy is common sense energy,” states Chief Sustainability Officer of IKEA Group, Steve Howard, talking of the leading retailer’s renewable energy plans in The Climate Group’s latest interview for Climate TV.

One of the founding partners of RE100 – the global campaign led by The Climate Group and CDP showcasing the business case for transitioning to 100% renewable power – IKEA has set a target to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes by 2020.

“At IKEA we’ve gone all-in for renewable energy because really electricity and energy is just a cost, unless you start internalizing it. So, if you generate your own from wind turbines or solar panels on your rooftops, then something that would have been a cost becomes a profit center,” says Steve Howard.

IKEA has realized the opportunities of renewables and is investing heavily. “We’ve actually deployed about €1.5 billion into renewables. We’ve got 23 windfarms, we’ve installed 758,000 solar panels on our stores and distribution centers around the world.

“And we recently announced a further €1 billion for climate action – €600 million was for extra renewables, and €400 million was through the IKEA Foundation to help communities to adapt to climate change and source clean energy themselves,” adds Steve Howard, demonstrating that the company understands the long-term value it can deliver through its investments.

Looking forward, IKEA sees that “renewable energy is the future. We’re going to see abundant, affordable clean energy, but we need to do this at pace and a scale, because we have an urgent need to decarbonize. And in business we can actually drive innovation and investment.”

“So RE100 is a fantastic initiative, because it’s setting ambitious, broad time frames, and stimulating the market for ambitious deployment of renewables,” says Steve Howard, highlighting the important role that corporates can play in bringing about a low carbon future. “I think we can decarbonize the power sector within a very short amount of time, if we really go for it.”

The company has been making quick progress toward its RE100 target – although in some countries more than others. “We’re actually energy independent in the Nordic area, our wind farms and solar installations produce more renewable energy than we consume, and the same will be true in the US in the very short-term,” says the CSO, but this has not been the case for all countries where the business operates. “It’s been more challenging, but we keep looking and we have dialogue with government partners to say ‘how do we get this done?’”

Overcoming challenges, IKEA is continuing to take bold action in the pursuit of achieving their mission to become ‘people and planet positive’, Steve Howard explains. “We don’t want to do that by 2050, we want to do that in the next few years – and we can already see a real progress. Energy is a fantastic opportunity to make progress fast, so we want to get this done before 2020.”

“It’s a great thing not just for the Chief Sustainability Officer but also for the Chief Financial Officer,” he adds, demonstrating the benefits of transitioning to renewables are being seen across the whole company.

Concluding the interview, the CSO talks of the importance of the relationship “between good government policy and business innovation and investment.”

“We will create a fantastic future where we have abundant clean energy and a wonderful circular economy. It’s there for the taking.”

  • Find out more about our RE100 campaign to encourage the world's most influential companies to go 100% renewable

text by Jessy Field, video by Ilario D'Amato

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