We Asked Ikea Why It's Selling Bikes. The Answer Is Sustainability

Australians want to live more sustainably -- and businesses are taking notice.

23/07/2016 9:15 AM AEST | Updated 23/07/2016 12:15 PM AEST
Ikea Australia
Note the basket holder for groceries.

You go to IKEA for cheap furniture, Swedish meatballs and to test a fledgling relationship, but soon, you can also whip into the store to buy a bike.

"We're a home furnishing retailer and here we are selling a bike," IKEA Australia sustainability manager Richard Wilson told The Huffington Post Australia.

"We have to make our business relevant in the future."

As consumers ask for sustainable food, furnishings and products, big businesses are taking notice.

There's a saying that it's hard to be green when you're in the red.

Curtin University food and agribusiness marketing professor Peter J Batt said the likes of Nestle, Kelloggs and Heineken were making dramatic changes within the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative.

"Sustainability is becoming mainstream," Batt told HuffPost Australia.

"Big multinationals are involved in the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative to say to their suppliers 'I'll only take your product if you can show me it's farmed sustainably'."

Batt said this meant changes to farming methods, supply chains and attitudes to ethical issues.

"There's a saying that it's hard to be green when you're in the red," Batt said.

"Increasingly businesses are finding ways to be profitable while maintaining what you'd call a social licence.

"It's about doing the right thing for the next generation, whether it's John West's certified sustainable fishing industry or no-till crops in Australia."

Ikea Australia
IKEA's interpretation of a sustainable home, with herb gardens and visible storage so food isn't hidden and forgotten.

A Pure Profile study of 1000 people found 63 percent of Australians wanted to be more sustainable but half didn't know where to start. The study also showed 39 percent found sustainability "completely overwhelming".

University of Technology Sydney Associate Professor Paul Burke told HuffPost Australia the consumer wasn't necessarily across the finer points of sustainability.

"There has definitely been a growing interest in the sustainability of products in terms of minimising harm to the environment in manufacture, shipping and disposing of the however there's still a strong disconnect between what consumers say they value and what they actually choose when shopping," Burke said.

For those wanting to make their home more sustainable, Wilson said the best advice was to start small. Like on your mixer tap.

"Most families have a mixer tap in their kitchen or bathroom and generally, you'll flip it up when it's half cold half warm," Wilson said.

IKEA Australia
Food that is visible is less likely to be forgotten and wasted.
"That means the water starts to heat up, but probably doesn't even feel warm by the time you're done. The pipes that have warmed up then cool back down.

"Just by having a cold-start tap saves energy."

Then there's LED lights that use 85 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, or storing your food in a way so that you can see it, and are more likely to keep tabs on when it's approaching its used-by date.

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