Forget Flat-Pack Furniture, IKEA Is Building a Sustainable City

IKEA is moving out of your home and into your neighbourhood with a sustainable city planning project. 

Swedish flat-pack furniture giant IKEA will develop new living, community, and retail ideas together with residents and local businesses in the Swedish city of Helsingborg. The results will be revealed at the H22 City Expo to take place in summer 2022. 

Helsingborg was recently named as one of Europe’s most innovative cities by the European Commission. Following on from the H55 and H99 — which took place respectively in 1955 and 1999 — the H22 Expo showcases forward-thinking ideas in the field of housing, architecture, and urban design and planning.

With its international headquarters in the city, it made sense for IKEA to partner up. From affordable homes to health and wellbeing, the multi-national corporation aims to show how big businesses can actively contribute to developing greener communities and neighbourhoods. The projects take place at three locations, each exploring a specific challenge to modern, urban living.

The first project is Drottninghög where, together with local residents, IKEA will establish a kitchen garden, a kitchen, and a market. The garden’s organic produce will be cooked in the kitchen and sold in the market, thus creating a short farm-to-fork chain, as well as encouraging local inclusion, employment, and entrepreneurship.

Secondly, Fredriksdalsskogen will see the creation of a “city forest.” Architecture students from around the world will co-create solutions for alternative, sustainable temporary housing. The focus will be on inclusivity, self-reliance, and connecting the city with nature.

The third project will take place in Oceanhamnen, which houses abandoned industrial premises and Helsingborg’s harbour. Here, IKEA’s own designers will brainstorm to create plans for how the homes of the future will function.

The 9 Most Sustainable Cities in the World
Photo by Coleen Rivas on Unsplash

Green Cities

H22 Chief Creative Officer, Marcus Engman, will lead the collaboration. “We firmly believe that home is more than four walls, it’s also our neighbourhoods and communities,” he said in a statement. “Over the next three years we will use the full potential of the IKEA business model and embrace radically different thinking. By 2022, we want to present real solutions for sustainable cities that are affordable and practical for people, planet and society.”

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), two-thirds of the world’s population will live in an urban area by 2050. In order to make these cities habitable, its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Cities cite sustainable transport systems, access to public spaces, sustainable buildings, and resource efficiency as essential for a “green” city. These SDGs form the backbone of what H22 is trying to achieve.

To help publicise the event and share its findings, IKEA is producing “The Oracle” podcast, featuring Helsingborg industry leaders and residents. “Together we will explore innovative solutions as we co-create the sustainable city of the future. We know that IKEA has many exciting ideas in regards to this,” city mayor Peter Danielsson explains. “Through our collaboration with IKEA, Helsingborg is looking to find solutions to challenges we share with so many other cities around the world.”

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Flat-Pack Futures

Launched in 1943, the Swedish business has grown to become the world’s biggest furniture company. Over 655 million people flocked to its stores last year, of which it currently owns over 300 in 26 countries. IKEA’s sustainable business model has taken some huge leaps forward in recent years.

Famed for its meatballs, IKEA now sells a plant-based alternative, with 4% of the climate footprint of the meat version. A budget of 200 million Euros has been set aside for reforestation projects. In 2020, IKEA met its goal of using nearly 98% either FSC-certified or recycled wood. Now, IKEA’s Forest Agenda deems that at least one-third of the IKEA wood range is made from recycled timber by 2030. However, strategic partnerships, like the one with Helsingborg city, are vital to achieving this. “We don’t sit on all the solutions ourselves,” stresses Ulf Johansson, global wood supply and forestry manager. “We need partnership, for governments to build infrastructure and cater for that.”

Find out more about the world’s most sustainable cities here. 

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