Two months ago, I was invited to become part of an exciting experiment in sustainable home living courtesy of a collaboration between Ikea, the world’s largest furniture retailer and Hubbub, the inventive communications agency who are transforming the way we think about fashion, food, homes and sport.
The project is known as Live Lagom
Lagom comes from the Swedish phrase “Lagom är bäst” (the right amount is best), which Ikea believe is the secret to sustainable living. Not denying yourself what you love, while not taking from the planet more than you need.
Makes perfect sense to me.
Lagom is at the heart of Ikea, coming direct from Inguar Kamprad, who, in 1943, founded the company and from the beginning has been concerned about wasting resources.
Fast forward 60 years and the growth has been immense. More than 690 million people visited an Ikea store in 2012; the company sold €27 billion worth of low-priced sofas, lamps, bookshelves and other goods (including €1.3 billion just in food) from more than 1,000 suppliers.
Steve Howard, the chief sustainability officer, is charged with making that supply chain, the company’s stores and its products, live more lightly upon the earth.
Here is the TED Talk Steve gave in 2013 where he outlines the numerous and specific ways IKEA are going all in to ensure sustainability at the heart of all they do and as a business that they lead the change.
Steve is a passionate advocate for the climate, having been involved in prior roles for NGOs and organisations. Working at the heart of the home furnishings giant, he has seen what an amazing opportunity Ikea has to demonstrate specifically how business can have a positive impact. As he states in his talk “Measure what you care about and lead the change.”
Which brings me to this innovative experiment which I have been invited to enjoy.
Ikea are a business committed to helping their customers live better and they’ve identified that consumers want things to be easy, attractive and affordable when it comes to sustainable living. What Ikea are clever enough to realise is that they don’t have all the answers so they are asking their employees and customers to get immersed in the ultimate sustainable challenge.
Last year Ikea gave 250 their employees £500 each to invest in sustainable living, and then asked them to tell them how they got on throughout the year. As a result the company learnt valuable lessons from their own staff on the practicalities of living sustainably.
However, never one to rest on their laurels and keen to push things on, Ikea have taken things a step further and this year they are inviting selected customers to invest in sustainable living and then feedback how they get on over the next few months.
And so I now happily get to accept their challenge.
Attending a workshop at the Lakeside Thurrock store to find out about the range of products available to us, we were warmly welcomed by knowledgable and enthusiastic staff who took the opportunity of sharing interesting facts and tips on different ways of living as well as ways to reduce water and energy usage.
Discussing these topics came second nature to them all, and I felt that the way in which they openly chatted about the options made it seem totally possible that you can make real and lasting changes in the way you live, but without huge effort on your part.
There was also a honest and insightful presentation by an IKEA employee who had taken the challenge last year just at the time that she had experienced a major life change and had to downsize to a single person flat. This is sustainable living in real life situations and this personal example made it abundantly clear is that there is always something you can do to make a positive impact, whatever your situation.
So what is feasible and what are the barriers? Well, that’s what IKEA want to find out. They realise they are still learning but they do have a strong belief that Living LAGOM goes a long way towards a happier, more sustainable life at home.
As I now start to think about the products I am going to choose, I’m reminded of the experience I had when I test drove the Nissan Leaf and how much experiencing the car for myself impacted how I see electric cars.
I get the feeling that this experience with Ikea is also going to open my eyes but this time within my home – and maybe businesses like Nissan Leaf and Ikea have hit an important chord here.
If you want to engage people in living sustainably give us the chance to experience the new; let us feel for ourselves how these products benefit our life and then maybe this will lead to greater numbers of advocates who speak for a more sustainable way of living.