Co-designing social entrepreneurship

How working with social enterprises inspires better business

With global crises unfolding and the devastating impacts on livelihoods, collaboration between all sectors of society is needed more than ever. Families from vulnerable groups are feeling the combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, the war in Ukraine and food and energy shortages.

According to the World Bank, for the first time in 25 years, extreme poverty rates are rising again. Only the joint efforts of governments, non-profit organisations, businesses and individuals can turn the tide. New ways of collaborating will bring new solutions.

Collaboration is key

Crafting alliances between corporates and social enterprises can create a better future for people and planet. 

IKEA is committed to a fair and inclusive future with the ambition to be circular and climate positive by 2030, and to enable the many people to live a better everyday life within the boundaries of the planet. We know we don’t have all the answers and can't achieve these goals alone. So, at IKEA Social Entrepreneurship we support social entrepreneurs offering innovative approaches to complex crises and aim to share the lessons we learn together.  

Over the past few years, we’ve demonstrated that partnerships are a potent way to innovate business models and increase positive social impact. By working hand in hand, both global businesses and local enterprises benefit.  

Co-workers teaming up with social entrepreneurs 

IKEA co-workers from all over the world join our partner programmes as coaches and mentors, supporting social entrepreneurs to tackle challenges. Teaming up with change agents adds value in many ways. As our colleagues put their knowledge and experience to work, they also contribute to our understanding of doing business better.  

In Indonesia, the accelerator programme IKEA Social Entrepreneurship launched at the beginning of 2022, together with our local partner Instellar and IKEA Indonesia, provides valuable insights. “This partnership directly supports the IKEA sustainability agenda,” explained Denny Risyad, project leader, New Business Supply at IKEA Purchasing & Logistics Southeast Asia.  

“Several social entrepreneurs in the programme have unique business proposals that we can learn from. For instance, offering sustainable alternatives to wood and plastics and providing refill and reuse services that are easily accessible for low-income households.” 

And while IKEA co-workers together with our local partner support them to scale, these enterprises can become part of new sustainable supply chains and strengthen the circular economy in our region.” 

Incorporating social enterprises in value chains 

Integrating social entrepreneurs’ products and services into corporate value chains opens the door to opportunities for both parties. Producing greater volumes, creating more jobs and better incomes, and upscaling value chain partnerships, directly contribute to improving the livelihoods for a great number of people in marginalised communities of women, migrants and refugees. 

“We know that many social enterprises share our IKEA values, even if they don't have them written down in a code of conduct. That is a great starting point for a collaboration,” said Walter Duhalde, Legal and Sustainability Manager at IKEA Chile. The first IKEA store in the country, which is also the first in South America, was opened last year. When looking for new service providers, IKEA Chile turned to social enterprises that are participating in the regional IKEA Social Entrepreneurship accelerator programme, created with NESsT and partnered with two social enterprises in Santiago for cleaning and hiring services at the store.

Corporate-ready entrepreneurs 

“We have high quality and sustainability standards as a business, higher than some other retailers in the country. This can make working with social enterprises a challenge—for them and for us at IKEA,” Walter added. “But we trust them and set intermediate goals, knowing that we are on this journey together. 

Many social enterprises are ready to do business with corporates. The research IKEA Social Entrepreneurship produced with our partner Acumen proves this. 150 social enterprises around the world were surveyed and gave insights on how businesses can use their procurement spending to source from social enterprises while creating a positive social and environmental impact.  

Offering unique experiences to our customers  

Doing business with social enterprises also provides unique products, often carefully handmade, to our customers. We’re committed to building and expanding our social business relationships and have added new partners such as food producers Gora Coffee in Ethiopia and Aneka Choklat in Indonesia.  

The new MÄVINN collection, now available in stores around the world, shows how we develop appealing products with our social business partners. Designed to reflect the style of other IKEA products, they add an extra feel-good and do-good dimension.  

“We have managed to grow our business in such a way that we can launch global collections. That is really exciting,” shared Lena Sörmon, Business Leader at IKEA Social Entrepreneurship. “It proves that our local partners, often small and scaling businesses, have reached the production capacity we need to go global. And we have succeeded in creating enough interest in our retail countries, where the collections are well received.”   
MÄVINN cushion covers
MÄVINN cushion covers in overrun denim, manufactured by Saitex, and in woven fabric with handstitched features from Rangsutra 

Aligning customer needs with local skills 

The MÄVINN products are made in collaboration with seven different trusted social businesses across Asia with which we’ve worked before.  

Working with social enterprises asks for a special approach. “Developing an interesting collection that creates an emotional connection with the IKEA customers is always top of mind, but we also adjust to the skills of the local partners,” Lena explained. “While we collaborate with each enterprise to make products that suit their production capacity, we train them to learn new things.” 

Inviting other corporates 

It’s our vision that more corporates and more social enterprises partner up to create a world that is fairer and more equal. In our experience, there are many ways that collaborations can come together.  

Sometimes this requires extra efforts and finding out-of-the-box solutions, but it’s worth going the extra mile. At IKEA we have not found all the answers yet, and we invite other corporations to work together with social enterprises and share their learnings. By demonstrating leadership and openness to change our own organisations, we can successfully collaborate with these local innovators and build on each other’s strengths to solve the challenges we face today.