IKEA Evaluates its Consumers' Carbon Impact
Acknowledging the connection between fuel prices, transport carbon emissions, and customer and product transit, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and IKEA began analyzing the following questions:
- How much emissions benefit do various alternative retail and customer/product transport models provide IKEA?
- How can the IKEA/WWF collaborative promote and support sustainable transport of people and products?
By addressing these questions, IKEA/WWF hoped to gain valuable insight and ultimately be much more adept at handling future economic and energy price volatility. The article below describes this effort, deemed the Sustainable Transport of People (S.T.o.P.) Project, and was published in the IKEA/WWF Newsletter in March 2010:
Gaining Speed on Sustainable Transport of People Project, Step 2 - 11 March 2010
IKEA aims to be a trendsetting retailer in the area of Sustainable Transport of People (SToP) by reducing the carbon footprint of customers traveling to stores and getting products back to their home. Through the SToP project, WWF is working with IKEA to explore options that will have a trendsetting impact on the retail industry and customer behavior so that the carbon reductions are not only realized by IKEA, but throughout our communities. In SToP Step 1, WWF and IKEA explored opportunities for sustainable transport through pilot projects in the UK, US, and China. While the project was initiated in the UK in 2007, in the past year our efforts were focused on the US and China due to their very different profiles in terms of mass transit use and other transport factors. In China, we selected two stores to study: Shanghai, a centrally located large city store, and Shenzhen, which is located outside the city center. We worked with Tongji University to investigate the carbon footprint of customer transportation for those Chinese stores. While mass transit usage was found to be very high, data was lacking on the efficiency of home delivery to gain a complete picture of the transport emissions and reduction opportunities. In China, where car ownership is still relatively low but rising quickly (to the tune of 1000 new cars added to Chinese streets everyday), IKEA's accessibility by public transport and efficient home delivery can reduce the need for and carbon emissions of private vehicles. In the US, we worked with Boulder-based consulting firm Point380 to develop a specialized Transportation Carbon Emissions Model (tCEM) to estimate the impact of various strategies for reducing transport carbon at four pilot stores in the US (Portland, South Philadelphia, Stoughton near Boston, MA, and Round Rock near Austin, Texas). The project spanned several months and demanded a significant amount of cooperation on data collection, interpretation, and evaluation. The process involved primary research, secondary analysis and scenario modeling. The US project culminated in a two-day charrette (which is a highly creative and interactive workshop) held at the IKEA South Philadelphia location. This event brought together stakeholders from all aspects of the collaborative, most notably IKEA and WWF worldwide. The charrette fostered brainstorming and novel thinking in an effort to identify innovative solutions for sustainable transport of people. The tCEM evaluated ideas generated in this forum in “real-time.” A few of the key outcomes of this project and charrette include:
- The use of mass transit coupled with efficient home delivery can achieve sizable emissions reductions
- Technology and efficiency gains in large trucking can have a large impact on transport emissions
- Enabling customer “smart shopping” decisions can lead to substantial emissions savings (i.e. online design guides, up-front home delivery information, route and mode choice guidance)
- Lower carbon transportation solutions were identified for the four pilot stores in the US, which are currently being implemented
- Potential strategies and next steps for Step 2 of the project were developed
In SToP Step 2, we are taking the learnings from Step 1 to develop a global strategy for Sustainable Transport of People and a communications and engagement strategy to magnify theses efforts. In Step2, we will expand tCEM with data from IKEA stores around the world and develop other tools to help define, communicate, and eventually implement the SToP strategy worldwide. In March 2010, we brought the Step 2 project team together, including project leaders Stefano Brown from IKEA, Sheri Willoughby from WWF, and external experts Jason Denner and Ty Colman from Point380, and a transport planning expert from University of California Berkeley, Mikhail Chester. Over the course of three days in Helsingborg, Sweden, the team met key internal stakeholders at IKEA who gave input on how we can support them in achieving carbon reductions for people transport. In addition to transport modeling and strategy development, we are also looking for good opportunities to engage other retailers on this issue (two possibilities are hosting a sustainable customer transport panel at the Retail Industry Leaders Association and/or the Business for Social Responsibility conferences next fall). The timeline for SToP Step 2 is just one year, so we have a lot to accomplish in the next few months to finish this project by October 2010!
Since the publishing of this article, the project has reached the following milestones:
- The expansion of the Transportation Carbon Emission Model (tCEM) to include all stores within the IKEA Group - more than 300 stores worldwide
- Implementation of the SToP toolkit – a resource for stores to use in the creation and implementation of sustainable transit programs
- The development of a store-level model to inform local environmental programs and tracking