IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, has become one of the latest companies to prove that consumers’ opinions on corporate behavior matter.
In June, IKEA announced its intentions to devote 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) toward fighting climate change.
As part of the initiative, IKEA wants to power all of its shops and factories on renewable energy by 2020. As part of that goal, the Swedish retail giant says it will spend €600 million on solar and wind power installations. That number is in addition to the €1.5 billion the company has spent on renewable energy since 2009.
As Adele Peters at Co.Exist points out, these numbers are nothing to scoff at.
“To put these sums in scale, these figures are higher than what some entire European nations have pledged to the UN Green Climate Fund,” Peters wrote. “Germany, one of the biggest donors, pledged €750m.”
The company also plans to devote €400 million toward supporting poor countries adapt to the threats of climate change, including floods, droughts, and desertification.
The announcement comes on the heels of an internal review last year, which showed that only 41 percent of IKEA’s customers see the chain as a company that is willing to take on both social and environmental responsibility. IKEA had hoped to have that number at 70 percent by this year.
In other words, as heartening as IKEA’s announcement may be, the motive behind it is even more encouraging. While Chief Executive Peter Agnefjall says that, “Getting that message out to the customers is secondary,” the company clearly decided to undertake this climate initiative with consumer approval in mind. IKEA understands that many customers care not only about the sturdiness and affordability of their Swedish-made coffee tables, but also about the ethics of the company that made them.
Without customers to purchase their products, companies can’t exist. We, as consumers, have the power to hold companies to a higher standard. Many companies now operate under the assumption that in order to avoid bad publicity, they simply have to “do no harm.” Companies like IKEA are beginning to understand that they cannot simply avoid doing harm; they must actively do good.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have given each and every consumer the power to address companies in a public forum—and some major companies are taking note. Some companies, like JetBlue and Nike, are even known for their swift responses to customers’ gripes on Twitter.
Reacting to bad corporate behavior is valuable, and it has shown to be effective in the past. But it’s also important to ensure that companies like IKEA know that consumers notice and appreciate when companies try to be responsible members of the community.
While we can’t force other companies to follow IKEA’s lead on corporate-social responsibility simply by taking to social media, it’s certainly a start. Posting a quick “thank you” on a company’s Facebook page, or tweeting encouragement on Twitter take only a few seconds, but companies will notice. Who knows? Maybe if you make it witty enough, you’ll even get a retweet.
Canton Winer is a recent graduate of Fordham University and is currently based out of West Palm Beach, Florida. He has worked as a Collegiate Correspondent for USA TODAY and is the former Managing Editor of The Fordham Ram. Check out his digital portfolio, or follow him on Twitter: @CantonWiner.