OSLO (Reuters) - IKEA, the world’s biggest furniture retailer, plans to spend 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) on renewable energy and steps to help poor nations cope with climate change, the latest example of firms upstaging governments in efforts to slow warming.
Chief Executive Peter Agnefjall said the measures would “absolutely not” push up prices at the Swedish group’s stores. The investments will be “good for customers, good for the climate and good for IKEA too,” he told Reuters.
He said the plan was motivated by a desire to tackle climate change, rather than to court favourable publicity. “Getting that message out to the customers is secondary,” he said.
An internal review last year showed only 41 percent of its customers see IKEA as a company that “takes social and environmental responsibility”, below its goal of 70 percent by 2015.
IKEA, which had sales of 30 billion euros last year, wants to generate all the energy used in its shops and factories from clean sources by 2020.
To that end, it will invest 600 million euros on wind and solar power installations, adding to 1.5 billion invested since 2009. It has already signed up to own and operate 314 wind turbines and has 700,000 solar panels on its roofs.
The IKEA Foundation, the charitable arm of the family-owned group, would invest 400 million euros by 2020 in supporting families and communities in nations vulnerable to impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts and desertification.
Senior officials from almost 200 nations are meeting in the German city of Bonn this week to prepare for a summit in Paris in late 2015 at which governments aim to agree a deal to slow global warming.
The Alliance of Small Island States, which fears the impact of rising sea levels, welcomed IKEA’s planned investments.
“I am heartened to see corporate leadership in this area,” said Amjad Abdulla of the Maldives, chief negotiator for the alliance in Bonn.
There are signs that companies are taking a more active approach, keen to show their awareness of consumer concerns.
Last month, top European companies urged governments to commit to slashing greenhouse gas emissions.
This week, six European oil and gas companies — BG Group, BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total — added their voice to calls for a pricing system for carbon emissions. The firms have often been accused of inaction.
Mindful of environmental concerns, IKEA says it plans to get more of its wood and cotton from sustainable sources.
It says it will ensure it grows as many trees as it fells by 2020. The top national suppliers of pine and other wood used in its familiar self-assembly furniture were Poland, Lithuania, Sweden, Germany and Russia last year.
Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Pravin Char and Keith Weir