Not least, the European Parliament elections in May 2019 showed that an increasingly large number of people are interested in climate and environmental protection. Many gave their vote to parties that stand for innovation and sustainability. Sustainability has been seen as a megatrend in the furniture industry for years, and companies that pledge themselves to it meet with success and acquire loyal customers over the long term. We have already reported on the success of ecological furniture and also summarised the certifications with which furniture manufacturers and dealers check and document their environmentally-friendly activity.
The SDGs of the UN are also becoming increasingly popular, and many companies support the ambitious agenda adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2015 in New York with the aims of reducing poverty and hunger, improving health, enabling equality, protecting the planet and much more.
17 goals for a (good) future
In contrast with previous objectives of the UN, the SDGs are no longer oriented only to developing and newly industrialised countries, but instead also call upon the industrial countries to make a contribution to achieving the goals. In the process, the UN emphasises the role of non-governmental actors from the economy, science and civil society and defines numerous goals and sub-goals for companies.
The five leading themes of people, earth, prosperity, peace and partnerships provide the framework for the 17 global goals and their 169 sub-goals. "The combating of hunger, absolute poverty, the promotion of health and education will be provided space in an equilibrium with economic and ecological goals", is how Julia Scheerer from the Bertelsmann Stiftung explains the special significance of the SDGs. She is convinced that the goals provide companies with the opportunity to "pragmatically design the co-responsibility ascribed to them and materiality along their own supply chain." (You will find all 17 SDGs explained briefly and clearly on the pages of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development)
SDGs as orientation aids for a sustainable furniture industry
Seventy five of the companies participating in the UN Global Compact initiative in 2017 reinforced their intention to make a contribution to the SDGs, including IKEA. These companies want to use the SDGs as orientation for their sustainability strategies and to report on them. In order to support them in this, institutions such as the Global Reporting Initiative, the initiative of the UN Global Compact and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development have developed the SDG-Kompass. It explains how the SDGs specifically impact companies and provides tools for anchoring sustainability in business strategies. The current sustainability report from IKEA shows how SDGs can be integrated into daily business.
The SDGs at IKEA
In its sustainability report for the business year 2018, IKEA writes the following: "We orient ourselves to them (the SDGs) when we develop our business, set new goals and work together with our partners." In practice this means that IKEA has developed standards on the themes of human rights and environmental protection, further developed these together with its stakeholders and checked to ascertain that these are being observed.
One example: IKEA commissions service enterprises for all transports, which in turn often cooperate with sub-contractors. In order to nonetheless ascertain that the drivers profit from good and fair work conditions, IKEA carried out nearly 250 unannounced, voluntary and anonymous interviews in 2018 to gather feedback on work conditions directly from the drivers and restricted the awarding of sub-contracts in order to achieve more transparency. In its sustainability report, IKEA assigns all of these measures to the first SDG, the UN goal of "No poverty".
With regard to the seventh goal of the SDGs, "Affordable and clean energy", the company describes its programme for the transition to renewable energy sources and indicates that 74 percent of energy consumption for operations already originates from renewable sources and that an increase to 100 percent is being strived for "in that we are investing in systems for renewable energies on location, including photovoltaics modules, heat pumps, biomass boilers or combined heat and power units." In the coming report, the company will then report on the extent to which it has achieved these benchmarks.
The significance of the sustainability reports for SDGs
Reporting on the implementation of the SDGs in one's own company is more than simply image cultivation and advertising for environmentally conscious customers, although this can be a very useful side effect. When companies include the SDGs in their strategies, their efforts can not only be measured in concrete terms and their progress be made visible to everyone. There is much more involved than this: they are a catalyst for action, innovation and real transformation, and also contribute to ensuring the health of the Earth and its inhabitants. Especially companies from the furniture industry exercise an important influence, because their business impacts all areas of life and the environment. Protecting and maintaining this over the long term makes sense not only for idealistic, but also for economic reasons.