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Business Work Placement- IKEA

You can probably imagine my excitement at getting a work placement with the environmental team at my local IKEA store. Not only are they the biggest furniture company in the world, but they are also Swedish, and therefore more environmentally conscious than other retailers. A bit of a generalisation perhaps, but according to the Environmental Performance Index produced by Yale and Columbia universities in the US, Sweden as a nation was ranked 4th in 2010, 3rd in 2008 and 2nd in 2006 for their environmental policies.

IKEA

IKEA themselves are no slouchers either when it comes to the environment. Since their highly publicised formaldehyde scandals in the 80s and 90s, IKEA have put in a huge amount of effort to avoid being caught up in similar dramas again. Their so-called ‘Never Ending List’ summarises their continuing achievements in this area, while also highlighting the ‘live’ nature of the work that they’re doing. It’s not simply just a list of goals and accomplishments, but more of a blueprint showing where they are now and where they hope to be in the future.

Despite all of this, you will rarely find IKEA on any sort of ‘green’ company list. The likes of IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and Google are only too aware of the marketing power unleashed by a high position on these global leagues and their PR teams seem to do a lot of work to ensure they stay in the top ten. IKEA, however, suffer from the disease of modesty, common to many Scandinavians: This is something we should be doing, so why would we brag about it?

It was with all of this in mind that I started my placement at the beginning of the week. I was somewhat surprised therefore, to find that the sole member of the environmental team, in Northern Ireland’s only IKEA branch, was a retired financial adviser who admits himself that his interest in sustainability is something of a hobby. This was not the IKEA I was expecting. His passion for the subject, however, is unquestionable. He recently conducted his 300th school tour of the business, showing off the impressive recycling facilities, waterless urinals and rainwater harvesting system on the rooftop, trying to generate an enthusiasm for sustainability amongst the next generation of consumers.

My project over the next eight weeks is to look at the carbon footprint of customers traveling to and from the store and try to reduce it. The vast majority of people visiting the store do so by car, so my job is to make alternative forms of transport more feasible. A daunting task for one person, but I already have a few ideas forming, and from the start I can see that this is going to be a worthwhile project for my final placement. Hopefully I can finish it on a high.

Freddie Harris is currently studying for a MSc in Leadership for Sustainable Development at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His undergrad is in Tropical Environmental Science. Freddie writes about his current experiences as a sustainability student, giving others an insight into what is perhaps one of the most interdisciplinary subjects out there. He hopes to remain optimistic about the future!

Posted on: July 12, 2011, 9:00 am Category: The Life of an Environmental Studies Student Tagged with: ,

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