At the technology event Websummit in Lisbon the companies can’t stop talking about their mission to contribute towards change. On Tuesday I am attending ‘What does it mean to live a better life within the limits of one planet?’ by Pia Heidenmar Cook, IKEA’s Chief Sustainabilty Officer. She talked about IKEA’s goals for 20/30 (now 20/20 is not far away, many companies quickly change one number in their goal setting documents, hoping to go unnoticed). Goals focusing on people & planet, healthy and sustainable living, circular and climate and social issues.

I notice I find it hard to believe what she is saying. I recognise the words that I have read and written myself too many times before. Promises made too often without any real proof to show for it. So I don’t hear the promises, I don’t see pure intentions.

I only hear what they are not saying. And see what they are not doing. And what in my opinion should be done.

Pia proudly mentioned the vegetarian options in the restaurants. But why do they continue selling their famous meatballs? I looked it up and found IKEA sells around 1 billion meatballs globally every year. Pia did not mention how many cows and pigs it takes to produce these meatballs. No slides on the environmental and social impact of this cheap and unhealthy food production. How can they be serious about environmental issues when they contribute to the problem at this scale?

The general opinion may be that a company should take baby steps, so customers can get used to change slowly. That is all very nice if we would have time, but we all know time is up. A more sustainably society asks for radical change, so if you want to be part of change, and want to inspire your audience to change, you must make radical changes yourself first.

It is not as if I’m asking McDonalds to stop selling burgers. IKEA sells furniture. According to IKEA restaurant creator Sören Hullberg the IKEA sells food, because customers make better purchase decisions on a full stomach. If that is genuine, and let’s assume it is, it will not harm anyone to get rid of meat and fish on the menu because there will still enough stomach filling alternatives.

People will not stop going to IKEA if the company would go vegetarian, simply because there is not enough alternative out there. I heard somebody say earlier that day ‘sometimes it takes famous people to normalize behaviour’. Well, I think we need big corporates to normalize behaviour.Going (at least) vegetarian is a huge opportunity for IKEA to use their influence for positive change. Letting go of their beloved meatballs is the proof IKEA needs to prove their claim of ‘going all in.’ It is a great narrative to build a campaign around with guaranteed media exposure. I only see winners.

If IKEA truly cares about inspiring people to live better lives within the limits of the planet, they will have to lead by example and let their meatballs go. Not before 20/30. Today.

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