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Creating positive impact through community inclusion

Currently, IKEA is present in over 50 markets around the world and with our global reach, we also acknowledge our responsibilities, both in how we do business and our impact globally and locally.

IKEA has the ambition to be fully circular by 2030 but is also committed to making a positive impact on people and society as a whole, creating a fair and equal world for all. We recognise that many people living in the regions we are present in, don't always have equal opportunities and can find themselves excluded. We want to change that and create a world where everyone is able to participate. An inclusive world that honours people unique skills and competencies.

Inclusion through equality

Through IKEA Social Entrepreneurship we partner with social businesses and entrepreneurs that tackle societal challenges. Challenges such as supporting families gain access to livable housing or supporting in setting up a services hub to coach homeless people back into society.

Our partnerships support the social entrepreneurs to scale their work and impact, either through our development programmes with IKEA co-workers learning and working directly with the social entrepreneurs or by doing business with them. These partnerships allow us to support those working with local communities and contribute to an inclusive local economy, an important step to a fair and equal society, as stated in our sustainability agenda.

To create a more inclusive world, equal chances must be created for vulnerable communities. Through equality, people are granted the same opportunities and rights are respected. We all have the right to fair income, employment, education and health care but in practice, not all are granted. Even acquiring affordable and livable housing seems a luxury to many vulnerable individuals.

This problem is addressed by social enterprises we collaborate with. ÉCHALE for example offers affordable housing to people living in poverty in Mexico or helps them to renovate the ones they have to a decent and safe standard.  


We believe that the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right and that decent housing lays the foundation for marginalized communities to thrive. Involving communities in the home-building process not only yields decent and dignified housing. It imparts, skills, self-esteem and – most importantly – a sense of community ownership. Francesco Piazzesi, CEO

To increase their impact, ÉCHALE support from government institutions, international funds, and other organizations to build affordable homes under €8,500, making housing accessible to groups with limited income. Francesco’s goal is to eventually help communities build 10,000 homes a year. The Dela III programme supports with strategizing the scale-up of their operations, exploring new business models where former community leaders can lead home construction projects within a certain geographic region.
Echale volunteers

ÉCHALE CEO Francesco Piazzesi working with home owners on renovating their homes.

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Social inclusion's influence on societies

When unchallenged, inequality leads to exclusion and potentially to poverty, an outcome where socially excluded groups are economically disadvantaged. According to the Worldbank, the number of people worldwide facing extreme poverty is over 700 million, a number rising for the first time in 20 years. As a response to this rise in poverty, 75 countries run economic inclusion programmes in the hope of reaching approximately 20 million poor and vulnerable households and benefitting nearly 92 million individuals. 1
Reports from around the world demonstrate that social inclusion and peoples living standards are intrinsically linked. 2 Social inclusion can improve self-esteem, job prospects and support better mental and physical health; contributing to a healthy population adds to overall economic welfare. It can also avoid the costs incurred when people are excluded – from jobs, businesses and accessing social services.  

Impact through collaboration

IKEA Social Entrepreneurship partnerships focus on aiding vulnerable groups and through our development programmes, we share IKEA co-worker knowledge to support social enterprises overcome scale-up challenges. In the process, we learn from them how IKEA can become a more sustainable and inclusive business and furthermore, understand the importance of the vulnerable groups we’re trying to reach. Groups such as people with disabilities, women and migrants and refugees through a combination of skills training, coaching, finance, and access to market support. 
According to the UN Refugee Agency, at least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees, who are excluded from employment, education, access to services and social interaction.

A social enterprise in the Dela III accelerator programme, SPEAK, realised that language proficiency helps migrants and refugees assimilate and provided a digital platform to facilitate informal language learning. Through the platform SPEAK connected this group to city locals and enabled cultural and linguistic exchange. Now, 94% of their participants across Europe feel less isolated and are able to better understand the language they were learning.  

SPEAK event

SPEAK event where migrants and refugees meet with locals to engage in cultural exchange.

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In order to gain a better understanding of how SPEAK is helping participants access employment opportunities and social services such as health care, CEO Hugo Meino Aguiar is developing an impact measurement process that will automatically engage new participants to provide pre and post-intervention data. With this, Hugo intends to improve and maximize impact. 

Responding to local communities' needs

In order to make an even bigger social impact, a new part of IKEA Social Entrepreneurship's strategy includes partnering with large-scale scalable social businesses. These collaborations allow partners to manage large production volumes and involve local communities. With Saitex for example, we are able to co-create a range of sustainable products, in the process creating jobs for persons with disabilities in Vietnam.


In Vietnam, people with different abilities are hidden and not heard. Our society still has no solution to the employment and inclusion of the differently-abled people that make up 15% of the world’s population. IKEA is huge, but it’s a humane and value-driven organisation. If this collaboration succeeds, then we have created a future formula for success that potentially could be replicated in other factories. Imagine what a huge, massive dent we together would create on this matter.
Sanjeev Bahl, founder and CEO of Saitex 

Another example can be found in Russia where Artel Blazhennikh operates, a social entrepreneur producing handmade products from wood waste and providing jobs for people with physical and mental disabilities.

Within the partnership, it is the ambition to establish relations with Russia’s government in order to challenge legislation to improve the conditions for people with disabilities. When successful, the social impact will be great and serve as an inspiring example of inclusion and systematic change for other to follow.

Artel blazhennikH working
Artel Blazhennikh work environment
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Accelerating the movement

While most policies are focused on driving economic growth through regulation or market reforms that encourage innovation and labour market adaptability, strengthening social interactions can also be extremely important; it takes people to make a positive change. 
By supporting entrepreneurs and sharing stories about their positive impact on excluded groups in society, we want to show other companies, organisations and key decision-makers the importance of social inclusion. The result is financial independence and opportunities for vulnerable families and communities to better their livelihoods and enable them to fully participate in economic, social, and cultural life. 
At IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, we will continue to capture and share our approach and learnings so that others can take inspiration.