In 2018, Ingka Group–the parent company of Ikea–made a bold pledge: By 2025, the company will deliver every item worldwide by electric vehicle. It started with a closer-range target of accomplishing the full switch to EVs in five cities–New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Amsterdam, and Shanghai–by 2020.
As of January 23, it’s already reached that goal in Shanghai. The company announced that in the inner city of Shanghai, all home deliveries are now carried out by electric vehicle. “We wanted to challenge both ourselves and others, and Shanghai is one of the biggest cities in the world,” says Angela Hultberg, who oversees sustainable mobility at Ingka Group. “A city that struggles with air pollution, the very problem we’re trying to address, seemed like a perfect place to start.”
To get to this point, Ikea followed through on its plan to build out local partnerships to source vehicles and enough charging infrastructure to make the shift possible. On the ground in Shanghai, Ikea partners with a locally based warehousing and distribution company, Beiye New Brother Logistics Co., “which has been willing to change along with us,” Hultberg says.
A main part of that change was actually partnering with DST, a Shenzen-based company that leases out electric trucks and vans. DST manages over 16,000 logistics vehicles like trucks, and has thousands of charging stations in major cities like Shanghai. New Brother, Ikea’s logistics partner in China, also has purchased a handful of electric delivery trucks (those are the Ikea-branded vehicles pictured above).
In Shanghai, Hultberg says, access to DST’s shared fleet “allowed us to secure vehicles faster, cutting months off the timeline.” But as Ikea works to reach 100% zero-emission deliveries in other cities like New York that do not yet have a robust EV-sharing network, the company is working directly with transport manufacturers to source zero-emission options. Delivery cars and trucks, of course, will be crucial, but Ikea is also exploring doing some smaller deliveries by electric cargo bicycle or utility tricycle. In this, they’re not alone: Major delivery carriers like UPS and FedEx are also working to shift to low-emissions fleets, and UPS has also begun piloting deliveries by electric bike.
Throughout this process, Ikea is also trying to change customer behavior to encourage low-emissions transport. Part of the company’s expansion strategy will be to site smaller stores in urban cores–rather than locating enormous stores on the fringes–to encourage customers to reach them via transit, walking, or biking. In Shanghai, a new Ikea store, slated to open in 2020, will connect directly with the city’s Metro system. Rather than the 400,000-square-foot boxes now common across the U.S., the new Shanghai store will be relatively smaller: 269,000 square feet.
All of these developments are part of the company’s larger sustainability strategy of reducing the overall carbon footprint of each of its products by 70% by 2030. That will entail removing all single-use plastics from Ikea products and stores by 2020, and by the same year, aiming to use 100% renewable energy across its operations. Removing emissions from transportation, Hultberg says, is a significant step toward reaching those goals; Ikea was one of the first companies to sign onto EV100, a global initiative to get companies to speed the transition toward electric vehicles. The partnership-driven strategy in Shanghai is one the company hopes to replicate elsewhere. “What we did learn, and what can be applied in all markets, is that in order to succeed, we need the right partners, and the courage to challenge our current ways of working,” she adds.