Communities Can Be Prosperous
Mercedes Gutiérrez Álvarez
Head of Social Impact and Community Engagement, IKEA Retail (Ingka Group)
“Better homes create better lives, but too many people are experiencing poverty and social exclusion in our communities,” Mercedes says. She has been leading the IKEA Retail agenda for how the company supports and connects with the communities around its stores. “Today we are present in 392 local neighbourhoods in 32 countries. By 2030 we are committed to creating a positive impact for everyone across the value chain and beyond. This includes our co-workers, workers of our suppliers and business partners and the local neighbourhoods where we are present. We can create circles of prosperity with communities. When those neighbourhoods thrive, we thrive too.”
After years of, in Mercedes’ words, “doing many great things, but with a short-term impact”, IKEA, through its new IKEA x Neighbourhoods initiative, is prioritising three movements through to the year 2030 to support the most vulnerable communities: increasing access to better homes, opening pathways to decent work, and enabling as many people as possible to participate.
Engaging in decent job creation in at-risk communities is an objective that has the ability to rewrite the future scenario for many individuals. As Mercedes says, “We have supported 802 refugees and asylum seekers to improve their employability and language skills; 60% of them got a job at IKEA after the training phase. We have also developed a ‘micro-hub’ concept as part of our last-mile value chain in cooperation with social entrepreneurs. Our first pilot project in Paris is with a local enterprise, Carton Plein, that helps people experiencing homelessness and social exclusion to integrate back into society with coaching, training, and employment, while offering a great service to our customers who can collect their IKEA products closer to their homes.”