IKEA: Peter Agnefjäll


Peter Agnefjäll was appointed to CEO of IKEA in 2013 and did not look back, but rather forward for the path of the company. As an executive of the company, Agnefjäll helped lead IKEA in its endeavor to power, heat, and cool all of its stores using 100% renewable energy (By 2020) through the use of wind. His stores were some of the first to adopt the strategy and paved the way for future additions around the world. IKEA has traditionally been at the forefront of sustainabe business practices and Agnefjällhas no intentions of changing that plan. The company is committed to reducing their carbon footprint in various ways including the renewable energy use in stores, 100% recyclable furniture by 2020,  sustainable sourcing through organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). The company has histroically been keen on sustainable business but Agnefjäll is just as invested.

Agnefjäll was responsible for pushing the 2020 sustainability plan through with the former CEO, and advocates on a large scale for similar practices in business around the world.He and his Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard were present at a UN climate summit and march in 2014. Agnefjäll was quoted saying, “We want to grow, but within the limits of the planet… It’s not about doing business in a less harmful way, but actually having IKEA become people and planet positive.” I think this is a great example of someone who is personally invested in the vision of the company. He is also quoted, “We spent about 18 months in a really detailed mapping exercise to look through all different routes for bioplastics and recycled plastics… We came up with six different routes we can look to for our plastics supply chain.” He described how sawdust, landfill methane residue and wood residue can all be good sources for sustainable plastic production. Pushing these ideas of one’s own company is great, but I think pushing for more than just that is even better.

Agnefjäll stated at the end of the event, “…we also need strong leadership in order for us and others to accelerate innovation, and that is one of the reasons we are here in New York: to ask for stronger policy.” He does not want to see a benefit for his own company but everyone else around him trying to make a difference just as IKEA is.

I’ve been a shopper of IKEA for a little while now and was pleasantly surprised to find the CEO rooted in the sustainable movement. I think what he has been pushing IKEA to do to reduce its carbon footprint is a direct relation with his own personal values. He does not have to be at IKEA or do any of the things he does. Agnefjäll was originally a shop floor employee in the 1990’s and managed to work his way all the way up to the CEO position. There could have been a multitude of opportunities to leave, but I think he saw what IKEA was committed to and understood he would be able to make the change he wants to see in the business world and beyond through IKEA. He could have scrapped the entire project when he took over as CEO but he didn’t. Right now IKEA is on course for its pledge to be 1005 energy independent by 2020 and a large part can be due to Peter Agnefjäll.

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6 thoughts on “IKEA: Peter Agnefjäll

  1. Ben, I really enjoyed reading your post! In my marketing class last semester, we briefly touched upon Ikea as a company and how it establishes itself as a brand within the marketplace. I know that they place heavy emphasis on customer experience. Not only does the company place a heavy emphasis on sustainability as you mentioned, but I know they are dedicated to sending design experts to peoples homes to listen to their concerns and provide feedback, and the store itself is set up in such a way to allow for positive customer experiences. I think that Peter Agnefjäll’s dedication to growing the company within the limitations of the planet is extremely admirable and is generally not on the agenda (although it should be) in regards to most CEOs of large companies such as IKEA.

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  2. I love how he is conscious of the 3Ps when he says that “We want to grow, but within the limits of the planet… It’s not about doing business in a less harmful way, but actually having IKEA become people and planet positive.” Even though he does not mention Profit per se, it is obvious that as a business person he cares a great deal about it; however, does not prioritize it over the other two. Rather, he makes explicit something that many companies would not agree with: it is possible to be people and planet responsive while still making enough profit to be a very successful business. I believe Ikea, and his CEO, are pace setters when it comes to the future company model. Thanks for your post, it is important to spread examples such as these to inspire us that we can do better.

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    1. “Even though he does not mention Profit per se, it is obvious that as a business person he cares a great deal about it; however, does not prioritize it over the other two. Rather, he makes explicit something that many companies would not agree with: it is possible to be people and planet responsive while still making enough profit to be a very successful business.”

      I would actually say that he’s convinced that profit is a result, an emergent property. of being “people and planet positive.” I hear often times that we sustainability majors have to start talking about what we’re pitching to companies as more innovative, and “just good business,” reduce carbon emissions since it will decease liability and increase brand value and loyalty, switch to renewable energies since the payback is quick and it will drive up sales, etc. You’ll hear statements like, “if they buy into sustainability for selfish, profit-driven reasons, it’s still sustainability,” or something like that. And there’s something to that, to be sure, along will regulations and policies to give a bit of a kick to those who are lagging. But I really think it can be thought of in a different way.

      I was going to say “families” in general, but that varies so I will say – look at my family dynamic. You are born, or adopted, or even just walk in off the street sometimes, and become a part of it. If you were to take the approach of, I am going to do good for these people, this family, because they are bound by these proven studies to reward me for it, then okay, maybe they will, and you will get the food, or money, or whatever you expect and work toward. But, if you go in and say, there is intrinsic value in being good to this group of people, and I will do that, then you make some of those same choices, get some of those same rewards, but now there is this emergent property of spontaneous value that comes out of these relationships (joy, motivation, passion, extra gifts, extra funds, surplus, forgiveness, flexibility). To put it basically, when you go into it for the value of doing good alone, crazy stuff happens. Maybe that was a part of rising from a shop worker to CEO for Agnefjäll (or maybe he was just a really skilled profit maximizer who sees the next big thing, but that alone it not the picture I get of him).

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      1. “I would actually say that he’s convinced that profit is a result, an emergent property. of being ‘people and planet positive.'” I doubt very much whether is true. This is why. As you may know, Ikea has been accused just a couple of months ago – February 2016 – of evading 1 billion euros in taxes. Even though the allegations have not been proven yet, with the current situation respecting panama papers, would you really be surprised?
        http://fortune.com/2016/02/12/ikea-tax-avoidance/

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  3. Cool choice here. I’ve never been to an IKEA but their sustainable practices are something other companies should consider in their stores to be a part of the “green” movement. It also cool that he worked his way up from a floor employee all the way to CEO, thats pretty rare.

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