VOL. 131 | NO. 11 | Friday, January 15, 2016
Ikea Brings Sustainability Practices to Memphis
By LANCE WIEDOWER
Sustainability at large businesses sometimes might seem to only focus on buzzwords such as solar panels, carbon footprints and LEED certification.
Ikea’s St. Louis store, the retailer’s most recently opened U.S. location, contains Missouri’s largest rooftop solar array. The company hasn’t finalized solar plans for its Memphis store, which is under construction.
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Those practices are good steps in today’s sustainable world. Sometimes, though, the little things go a long way.
When Ikea opens its 271,000-square-foot Memphis store this fall, it will implement a number of sustainable practices – a move that isn’t exactly new for the Swedish company, which has more than 370 stores worldwide, including 41 in the U.S.
“Everyone fixates on solar panels or carbon footprints,” said Joseph Roth, Ikea Group’s U.S. expansion and property public affairs manager. “Those things are perceived as sexier – but the day-to-day operations, there are ways to reduce consumption and energy costs that don’t require a great investment.”
Ikea’s most recent U.S. location, which opened in St. Louis in September, counts Missouri’s largest rooftop solar array among its sustainable features. Because of construction delays with the Memphis store, some of the final decisions about its sustainable practices have yet to be made – including whether it will have a rooftop array.
Roth said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about a solar installation in Memphis. But even if the store doesn’t include a rooftop solar array, it will have the company’s standard white roof that reflects heat. Other features at Ikea Memphis, Roth added, include restrooms that only have hand dryers and low-flow and motion-sensor fixtures; the recycling of cardboard, glass, paper, plastic, wood and metal; chargeable forklifts; and the use of LED lighting.
Skylights in the store’s warehouse will reduce the amount of lighting and heating necessary. And only low-emission paints will be used.
Worldwide, Ikea has a goal of being energy-independent by 2020. The company has installed more than 700,000 solar panels on buildings and owns about 300 wind turbines, including 104 in the U.S.
Roth said Ikea views sustainability two ways: First is what the company can do as far as investments and operations to be sustainable, and second is how it can empower customers to be sustainable.
“In general, we aim for meeting or exceeding specific Ikea standards worldwide rather than aiming to meet only U.S.-based LEED standards.”
Take light bulbs. Ikea only sells LED bulbs and lighting, pushing out traditional incandescent lighting years ago.
And while a ban on plastic bags hasn’t reached America’s heartland yet, Memphis shoppers are increasingly using their own reusable bags at grocery stores, or at least opting for paper sacks.
Worldwide, Ikea began charging a fee for plastic bags for a nearly yearlong transition period before banning them altogether in 2007. Today, Ikea customers are encouraged to bring in their own reusable bags or buy one from the store for 59 cents.
The idea of local governing bodies passing bans on the use of plastic bags in retail stores has become more popular over the past five years. Nearly 90 California municipalities, nine communities in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and the cities of Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., all have passed bans.
And while a handful of communities in Texas, New Mexico and Iowa have passed plastic bag bans, most cities doing so are on the coasts, where sustainability is more than a catchy word. It’s becoming a way of life. Every movement needs a start.
“Generally, before states and cities were doing these things we were doing them,” Roth said. “If you can do the right thing in a cost-effective manner there is no reason not to. The Swedish culture values and respects the environment, and sustainability is part of our business plan.”
Roth said when people think of Ikea’s ties to Sweden, what often comes to mind is the cosmopolitan city of Stockholm, which is a home of cutting-edge design practices that are seen in Ikea’s products.
But the store’s roots are in rural Sweden, where the residents are industrious, solutions-oriented people, Roth said.
“When you drive through southern Sweden you see huge rock walls because they had to dig up rocks for farming and they just built up these walls,” he said. “That sensibility has really affected Ikea in making a strong emphasis on function in its marriage with design and affordability. You see that in the store design and products.”
Ikea focuses on items that serve a specific function in a home or office. Again, it might not be a catchphrase, but avoiding waste is a part of sustainable practices.
Ikea Memphis will not be LEED-certified, but the company’s construction and operations are consistent with those standards, Roth said. Ikea has gone through the LEED certification process in its five U.S. regions and its new North American office in Conshohocken, Pa.
The company’s five U.S. regions each has a store that is LEED-certified: Brooklyn, N.Y.; West Chester, Ohio; Portland, Ore.; Orlando; and Stoughton, Mass.
“We like to say we build our stores to Ikea standards,” Roth said. “In general, we aim for meeting or exceeding specific Ikea standards worldwide rather than aiming to meet only U.S.-based LEED standards.”