Kiang Aitao, Ceramist, Doi Tung DP, Thailand

THE BUSINESS OF THE FUTURE?
IT’S FAIR AND INCLUSIVE.

Since 2012, IKEA has been collaborating with social businesses – pioneers with the ambition to create business that is ethical in all dimensions. This is the story of business done differently, which aims to create 95,000 jobs that positively impact 500,000 lives. And that’s just the beginning.

IKEA social entrepreneurship is a program that started with the vision of honouring unique skills and competences and gives them a global platform to stand on – resulting in better lives for those who need it most. This has been accomplished by partnering with enterprises that produce products and services that in turn empower people who struggle to provide for themselves and their loved ones. The result is financial independence and life-changing opportunities for families and communities; with improved health care, education and gender empowerment.

IKEA has high standards for all suppliers through something called IWAY. IWAY sets social and environmental requirements for all IKEA suppliers; making sure that people are well treated, resources are protected, and workspaces are healthy and safe. A social business meets these standards, but chooses to go beyond IWAY to reach people furthest from the job market.

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Growing ambitiously


The partnerships between IKEA and social businesses have grown steadily since the start in 2012, initially employing a modest 100 artisans and selling only in selected markets. Today the IKEA social entrepreneurship program creates work for more than 30,000 people, with products available globally. The ambition? To reach 95,000 jobs in the coming years, which will be achieved by scaling up existing business partners while adding new partners that can scale quicker and employ even more people, faster.


A huge part of these jobs will come from partnering with social businesses in the healthy and organic food sector, such as snacks, coffee and tea. By purchasing the final product directly from these social businesses – instead of having it refined and packaged in Europe – will keep funds closer to the source. This way, the profit remains within the countries that need it most, in turn generating even more jobs.

THERE’s MORE WORK AHEAD


“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I know that we can do much more,” says Vaishali Misra, a main force behind IKEA social entrepreneurship. Eight years ago, she was one of the people who initially set up the initiative. As the business leader for IKEA social entrepreneurship, she’s responsible for steering the direction, framework and selecting the partnership sponsors – working with the social impact offer throughout the IKEA organisation. Here she looks back on the journey, sharing her hopes for what this can mean for IKEA and retail in the future.

Vaishali Misra, Business Leader for IKEA Social Entrepreneurship Range & Supply

UNIQUE COLLECTIONS AND PRODUCTS,
EXCLUSIVELY FOR EVERYONE.

The result of IKEA partnering with social businesses has always been a selection of affordable limited edition collections and products. These collections and products are key in keeping the IKEA offer exciting and unique. And with global products available throughout the year, items from a social business are always accessible at IKEA.

The first limited edition collection ever made by IKEA and social businesses was BEDRIVA, back in 2013. The collections and products have developed a lot over time, yet are more important than ever.

COLLECTIONS & PRODUCTS


2021

2020

2019

See full timeline

LOKALT is coming soon


LOKALT, means ‘Local’ in Swedish, and is the latest collection co-created with social businesses. For this project IKEA tried something new: to collaborate with local designers and social businesses in India, Jordan and Thailand. Together with fashion designer Tania Haddad from Amman, the design duo Ploypan Theerachai and Decha Archjananun based in Bangkok, and the IKEA in-house designer Akanksha Deo based in Delhi, the collection LOKALT was given life – local stories, told by local designers, and made by local artisans.

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THE IKEA SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR
BUSINESS MODEL


By combining local expertise and craft skills from social businesses with competences in design, product development and logistics from IKEA, unique products and services come to life.

Skilled co-worker at Social Entrepreneur

Social Entrepreneur

IKEA Designer

IKEA

Akanksha Deo, IKEA designer with Dhinya and Teeja,
artisans at Rangsutra social business

It’s not business as usual.
But it’s business for sure.

The key to a successful partnership is that the benefits are mutual. The same goes for IKEA social entrepreneurship, where the enterprises and IKEA gain valuable know-how from each other; resulting in unique and covetable collections, products and services.

IKEA and the social businesses have shaped their working relationship on knowledge sharing, a mutual exchange of competences and inspiration. The social businesses ensure a diverse and unique product offer, meanwhile, IKEA uses its network to supply the enterprises with affordable, high-quality raw material, extending their infrastructure to the social enterprises. IKEA knows what consumers want and how to produce efficiently, resulting in unique and affordable products available to customers across the world.

THE POWER OF SCALE


A global platform maximises steady work and reach

CREATING INDEPENDENCE TAKES TIME


One of the main goals of this initiative is to make the partners more employable, and therefore more independent. By transforming learnings into other aspects of their business, one can also diversify and grow. Vaishali explains, “If the vulnerable and marginalised gain access to education and practise, they have all the passion in the world to prove themselves and become self-sufficient. This has always been important to us, as we do not want these business partners to become too dependent on IKEA. Instead, we want to create prerequisites to reach out to other customers and expand.”

BEYOND LIMITED EDITION COLLECTIONS


Much of the collaboration between IKEA and social businesses have resulted in limited edition collections, which sell in all markets globally. While these collections have been instrumental for giving the initiative a face and continuously vitalise the IKEA range, the business is actually much larger.


“The limited edition collections have been essential for many reasons. But by integrating the unique products that these enterprises produce throughout the total IKEA range, we can increase volume and offers better preconditions for our partners to earn a stable income. This is the model for how we build a more sustainable business in the end – with products that are beautiful, impactful and commercial,” explains Vaishali.

Examples of IKEA Social business partners


Global partners, producing products for IKEA globally

Local partners, providing services or upcycled products for local markets

Social entrepreneurs, strengthened through direct support

ACCELERATING THROUGH SUPPORT


Since 2019, IKEA has also been supporting social enterprises worldwide through accelerator programs that are not directly related to the IKEA business. The ambition has been to expand ways of supporting social enterprises to scale up their impact through grants, loans, IKEA co-worker mentorship, business development and more; testing, piloting and finding new ways of creating lasting change. During FY20, 36 social enterprises were supported through our accelerator programmes or directly, with 77 IKEA co-workers acting as advisors and coaches. This resulted in 1.65 million people impacted through access to jobs, incomes, tools and services.


One of the social entrepreneurs is Fernando Assad from Brazil. Through his organisation, Programa Vivenda, he provides affordable house renovation to mitigate the unsafe housing situation in Brazil’s favelas. Where there are about 40 million people in Brazil living in 11 million inadequate houses which pose health risks.

Watch how his participation in our Dela accelerator programme led him to re-think his scaling strategy to support more families in Brazil here.

Fernando Assad, Founder, Programa Vivenda

The ambition is set: IKEA will create 95,000 jobs in the next coming years, expanding through both existing and new partners and by focusing much more on organic and healthy food. Beyond this, IKEA has a vision that could change the very core of their supply-chain, with fairness and equality integrated throughout the entire IKEA business.


“My hope is that the entire IKEA supply chain becomes more inclusive; delivering to our economic, environmental and social agenda,” says Vaishali. “We’re soon joining hands with some highly established social businesses, and we will learn so much from them. Just imagine if all of our suppliers over time could work this way – becoming social businesses – by economic empowerment taking responsibility for the vulnerable and marginalized. This would impact the total IKEA business, not just bits and pieces. Then we could also inspire other retailers to do the same. That’s what I call impact!”