Can flat pack be closed loop? How IKEA hopes to have its Swedish cinnamon bun and eat it

By Oliver Balch
June 6, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: International

In the not-so-distant past the furniture adorning most British homes was old-fashioned, solid and, given its relatively high cost, more or less permanent. Then IKEA arrived in the 1980s, and suddenly the nation’s living rooms and kitchens were filled with modern-looking furnishings carrying hip foreign names and very low price-tags. It’s a story replicated in IKEA’s 63 markets around the world. The privately held retailer, founded in Sweden, but now headquartered in the Netherlands, has enjoyed meteoric success with its flat-pack, do-it-yourself approach to homeware (and, for a sub-set of its customer base, its iconic meatballs). But its business model also entails a colossal materials footprint, and that is out of synch with today’s eco-conscious consumer market. …But how does a low-cost, high-volume retailer like IKEA undergo a sustainability transformation? Is full circularity really possible for a company of this size and type?

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