IKEA, the Swedish home furnishing company which has been sourcing from India for more than 30 years, is gearing to open its first store in Hyderabad. Susanne Pulverer, Market Manager for Delhi NCR & Lead - Sustainability for IKEA in India, spoke to BusinessLine on how the company is building a sustainable model of operations. Excerpts:
What are the areas of sustainability IKEA is focussing on in India?
We are working on three areas of sustainable growth — energy- and water-efficient stores, diversity, and inclusion. We use a lot of wood sourced legally from forest departments and farmers.
We have also reached out to thousands of farmers for sustainable products. We have partnered with WWF and are working on minimising the wood we need.
What about consumers?
We offer ways to do your waste in a better way, can save energy with LED bulbs, we can have more water saving initiatives, which has a big impact at home. In our food range, when we open our Hyderabad store mid-year, we will offer jams, spreads and carbonated beverages with lower sugar, less fat, no deep fired offerings. No red meat but more vegetarian options.
IKEA is is known for non-vegetarian offerings like meat balls. How have you localised for India?
We are inventing more and more vegetarian options, from meatballs to veggie balls. We will have meatballs that are also made of chicken. Our chefs are at work, designing and experimenting a number of veggie offerings.
Was food a major concern when you got the licence?
You’re right. We felt it wasn’t IKEA without having food.
Other than food, what is the company working on?
Building...more sustainable stores across the world.
The lighting we have opted for the rooftop. We look at minimising water use, re-using water for the garden or toilets. Last year, 91 per cent of our global waste was recycled and energy recovered.
We had a programme in restaurants to minimise food waste per kilogram. In Hyderabad, we will make sure there is as little food waste as possible. When there is food waste we compost it and we have a programme together with farmers who are growing food organically.
Will Hyderabad be test store for your future focus on sustainability in India?
Yes. What we introduce in Hyderabad will be standardised and introduced as we open stores in Mumbai, followed by Bengaluru.
Is there a plan to bring your vendors on the sustainability platform as well?
Another of our sustainability initiatives is how we treat our partners — we believe in long-term partnerships with our suppliers and service providers for furnishing, food, transport, waste management.
Also, we encourage social entrepreneurs in India and offer them commercial opportunities, especially for women in rural areas.
You mentioned inclusion, what is that you will be working on?
When we recruit, we go for gender equality. Right now the share of women is 47 per cent in India, with a headcount of 350. Once we open the store, we will have around 800 employees. We also have a transport policy so we really aim at 50-50 men and women on all levels. Globally, we are at 54 per cent of women.
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