Social Innovation & Yunus Social Business

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that the world is changing more than we could ever imagine. We are facing new and increasing environmental and social challenges, alongside business hurdles. However, at IKEA we say that with challenges also come opportunities. 


IKEA aims to have a positive impact on people and the planet through everything we do. And here we want to go beyond the business and do more.

Social Innovation
With our partner Yunus Social Business (YSB) we began a social innovation process involving key business stakeholders across IKEA. In this, we asked ourselves, what are the main societal and business challenges that we are facing but can solve together? We wanted to think big, but to achieve that you have to start small. 

Working with Ingka Group (the largest IKEA franchisee), we identified Paris as the location to co-create and test a solution with local YSB partner MakeSense. This solution had to meet the global retail direction needs of IKEA (providing sustainable services to customers) and which addressed some of the pressing social challenges of Paris:

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Social and Environmental

- Inequalities and exclusion relating to unemployment and lack of proper integration (for example, people with refugee status and those who find themselves without a home looking for work).

- An increasing threat of air pollution in the city and outskirts of Paris.

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Business

- An increasing service demand related to delivering customer’s IKEA purchases to their homes (last-mile delivery) using 100% zero-emission vehicles, combined with circular, return, and repair services.

- How to work with social entrepreneurs and social businesses as part of the services ecosystem.

The step to success

The solution?

People who are vulnerable, for example, people with refugee backgrounds, experiencing homelessness or the long-term unemployed are often excluded from job markets, lack confidence or don’t have the skills to navigate Government job-placement schemes. Yet, we know they have a lot to offer and can actively contribute to the neighborhoods they live in. 

What if we could provide IKEA customers a sustainable and inclusive way to have their IKEA purchases delivered to their homes and if this service could also become a place for IKEA customers to sell or repair their IKEA products? With IKEA France, a services ‘micro-hub’ was tested in central Paris with the social enterprise Carton Plein who hire, train and coach people experiencing homelessness back into society. Carton Plein refurbish and resell waste cardboard collected using electrical bike collection rounds. They train up and provide a space for the employees who receive support in finding their way back into the job market, who also get to earn an income from collecting the waste cardboard.  

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Early indications are extremely positive. The micro-hub employees appreciate the training and work opportunities, especially the interaction with customers.  They say that the initiative has boosted their confidence and the hub customers indicate that the employees offer excellent customer service and go the extra mile for their needs.

The micro-hub will now also be tested as a pick up point for IKEA customer’s purchases and during 2021 IKEA France will try out a customer delivery service using e-bikes from the hub

 
What’s next?
 
This solution looks to address a societal challenge and a business challenge. They are solutions that have several layers, with opportunities to build on additional services over time.  The idea is to combine the up-skilling and support for people who are struggling to find work, with a sustainable customer fulfillment solution that can be replicated across different sectors and geographies.  
 
Across IKEA, local markets are already building partnerships with social entrepreneurs and businesses providing much-needed services to IKEA customers such as sewing, product take-back, donations, recycling, and repairs. However, this is just the start. The tip of the iceberg. 


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The social innovation process can be applied to many more areas where there is a social and a business challenge, not only at IKEA, but across other business sectors and societies. 
 
At IKEA Social Entrepreneurship we will capture and share our approach and learnings so that others can take inspiration and also look to have a positive impact on people and on society.