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To go climate-positive, Ikea needs to fix its furniture glue

Feb. 15, 2023 Updated Wed., Feb. 15, 2023 at 7:11 p.m.

Bedroom furniture is displayed in the showroom of an Ikea store in Mexico City in April 2021.  (Jeoffrey Guillemard/Bloomberg)
Bedroom furniture is displayed in the showroom of an Ikea store in Mexico City in April 2021. (Jeoffrey Guillemard/Bloomberg)
By Rafaela Lindeberg </p><p>and Lars Paulsson Bloomberg

Ikea’s path to achieving its 2030 climate goals is paved with the usual tactics, including boosting renewable energy use and reducing the climate footprint of its materials.

But tucked among those challenges is a rather unexpected carbon culprit: the glue that holds some of the flat-pack furniture giant’s most popular products together.

The adhesive Ikea uses to make its beds, sofas and everything in between currently makes up 5% of the company’s total carbon footprint, according to its 2022 Sustainability Report, published Wednesday.

“Moving toward glues from renewable sources is a key enabler to achieving our overall climate goal,” Ikea said in the report.

But “a big challenge with bio-based glues remains that not all are compatible with our current conventional glue and application technology.”

That means factories will have to switch to bio-based glues and also update their machinery and technology accordingly, Ikea said.

The company that brought the Billy book case to the world has an ambitious target to become climate-positive by the end of this decade – in other words, reducing more emissions than it emits.

Since 2016, Ikea has reduced its emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents by 12%, including by 5% last year, according to its report.

In addition to using bio-based glues, Ikea notes that it will need to address emissions across its supply chain and operations, from manufacturing to transport, as well as the footprint of its roughly 460 stores.

The company also plans to increase the share of renewable energy in its supply chain, and is targeting 100% renewable energy in its production by the end of the decade (last year, production ran on 50% renewables).

Ikea’s energy initiative includes helping suppliers with power-purchase agreements and discounted loans to finance solar panels and boilers at factories.

The program was launched in 2021, and first focused on supporting suppliers in China, India and Poland, where the use of coal in power generation is among the highest.

It will now expand to countries including Germany, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Turkey and Vietnam.

“One of the biggest drivers behind our reduced emissions has been the movement toward more renewable energy,” said Andreas Rangel Ahrens, head of climate at Inter Ikea Group, the brand’s global franchiser.

In 2018, Ikea laid out ambitions to use only renewable and recycled materials in its products by 2030.

But the company is still struggling to reduce the climate footprint from materials, emissions from which are estimated to have increased by 11% in the past six years. Rangel Ahrens attributed the gain to an increase in produced volumes.

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