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Shared value – Can a flat pack roof and LED lights lead to brighter lives?

16 July 2014 at 10:04 am
Lina Caneva
In this case study, Sustainability Manager at IKEA Australia, Richard Wilson, unpacks how a humble light bulb and flatpacked shelter deliver shared value to a range of beneficiaries.

Lina Caneva | 16 July 2014 at 10:04 am


Shared value – Can a flat pack roof and LED lights lead to brighter lives?
16 July 2014 at 10:04 am


In this case study, Sustainability Manager at IKEA Australia, Richard Wilson, unpacks how a humble light bulb and flatpacked shelter deliver shared value to a range of beneficiaries. Richard Wilson

A shared value strategy seeks to answer the following question:

What do you or your organisation have to offer in the way of value you can share with others to solve your issues?

Working at IKEA, you soon get accustomed to the many references to the flat pack, our meatballs and of course the humble Allen key. In some respects it is the mainstay of the IKEA concept.

The flat pack concept happened purely by chance. The year was 1956 and one of IKEA’s furniture designers was struggling to find the right angle to fit ‘Lövet’ – a three legged side table into the back of his car. In the end he hit upon the idea of removing the legs, albeit by saw, so I’m not so sure the tables’ functionality survived the journey, but the flat pack generation was born.

The flat pack reduces space, cost, potential damages and is easier to transport. To leverage this benefit and create a shared value strategy, we ask: How can this advantage lead to a broader role in society? How can you strive to be a good neighbour?

A global focus for our business is the needs and development of children, families and the homeless. Every year millions of children and their families are forced to flee their homes because of conflict or natural disaster. Working together with partner UNHCR, we applied our flat pack expertise to the problem and our designers developed a solution in the form of a robust flat pack shelter for refugees.

Time is something those living in refugee camps typically have in abundance – the average camp could be in existence for 12 years. Upon arrival, refugees are usually provided with a canvas tent, which in harsh conditions only lasts for six months. The IKEA flat pack shelter is made from a lightweight yet sturdy polymer, requires no specialised tools, not even an Allen key. It can be built in four hours, has thermal insulation, a solar panel, a built in light and a USB outlet. It can be easily taken down, moved,rebuilt and even made into something more permanent over time.

Fifty of these flat pack shelters are currently being trialled in Ethiopia, with our designers applying program learnings to finalise and produce large volumes of low cost robust flat pack shelters that can be shipped anywhere in the world. This isn’t a commercial venture, but one that taps into IKEA expertise, resource and time to help our global partner UNHCR address the basic need for shelter around the world.

We have also managed to generate momentum through the principle that the customer does their bit, we do ours, and together we save money.

Another problem that our business is tackling head-on is the lack of lighting in many refugee camps. Lack of light can have a devastating effect on safety, education and prospects. Without light, the day stops at sundown and even simple things like using the toilet, collecting water or returning to the shelter can be dangerous.

On a store level, IKEA launched the inaugural ‘Brighter Lives for Refugees’ campaign this year. The premise is simple, for every LEDARE LED light globe sold in our stores the IKEA Foundation donates 1 Euro (about $1.50 AUD) to UNHCR.

The campaign raised ?7.7 million enabling UNHCR to bring sustainable lighting and energy to over 350,000 children and families living in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Chad, Bangladesh and Jordan by providing solar street lighting, solar lanterns and giving primary school access to children in refugee camps.

Our east coast stores welcomed volunteers from UNHCR, all of them ex-refugees themselves who talked candidly to both our co-workers and customers to help them understand the power of light.

Not only did this campaign help raise the profile of the plight of those forced into refugee camps, it also allowed us to increase awareness on the benefits of LED lights in the home – they are 85 per cent more efficient than traditional globes, contain no mercury and last up to 20 years.

But the key outtake? For the 7.7 million IKEA customers who bought LED globes, by the time they need to replace that LED globe again, today’s refugees will have benefited – they will no longer be living in the same camps, their children will have had an education and all in all they will be looking forward to a brighter future.

About the Author:  Richard Wilson is a sustainability and environmental management professional currently working within the retail sector at IKEA Australia.  Previously Wilson had eight years Local Government industry experience managing the 3-Council Ecological Footprint Program, between Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra Councils. Wilson is interested in developing strategies and implementing large-scale programs that help organisations and communities adopt sustainable living practices.


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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