Speaker Interview: Caroline McGarvey, Sustainability Manager, Category Area Comfort, IKEA of Sweden

headshotAhead of the show we caught up with Caroline McGarvey, Sustainability Manager for Category Area Comfort at IKEA. We are eagerly anticipating her participation in two sessions taking place on 12 September: “Implementing the EU’s Circular Economy Package: What to Expect from the EU and National Governments in the Coming Years” and “Putting Circular Economy Legislation into Action”. These sessions are part of the sustainability track of the programme and we are very excited to hear what Caroline has to say on the circular economy and its implementation.

Can you please tell us about your role at IKEA and how foam relates to your job?

I have worked for IKEA for 19 years in supply chain, working on materials and production development with our suppliers and teams around the world.

Today I am working within the sustainability matrix of IKEA, leading the direction we take within the categories of upholstery frames, mattresses, filled products and office chairs, which together form a Category Area called ‘Comfort’.

Sustainability covers everything from production, environment, material development and sustainable sourcing.

Within our business in IKEA, Category Area Comfort is responsible for leading and developing the foam agenda for IKEA. We are working on the production for foam today within our direct supply chain, new future developments within our sister companies, and long-term developments in material and innovation both internally and externally.


What exciting sustainable initiatives is IKEA currently undertaking?

Many initiatives are happening within IKEA to meet our ambitious commitments to use only 100% renewable or recycled materials by 2030.

Together with our core value of being people and planet positive, we want sustainable solutions to be available to the many, regardless of the size of their wallets!

In foam, we are together with partners looking into producing good-quality foam using renewable content, and to ensure that these raw material sources come with a sustainable sourcing approach.

Another exciting initiative is connected to circular foam, which we now are jumping into! This is the subject of our keynote presentation.


An an end user in the foam supply chain, what do you see as the biggest challenge in implementing the circular economy?

One challenge connected to circularity is today’s limitations in having 100% recycled content in foam while keeping form, function and quality.

To make foam a relevant material in the future, our ambition is to secure 100% recycled and/or renewable content. We need to develop new solutions that enable low-cost solutions. We believe that everyone should have access to more sustainable products – meaning we do not believe in it having a higher price tag for customers to be sustainable.

Furthermore, we see a challenge in changing people’s habits, to send your mattress to recycling, and enabling a capacity to disassemble the products after use. It is not always very convenient for customers to return old mattresses, and maybe there is a need for more awareness of the possibilities in creating a circular economy from post-consumer mattresses or upholstered products.


How has public opinion affected the implementation of the circular economy?

At IKEA we want to take responsibility for the products we produce, and economise with the resources to do it. This has been a part of the core IKEA values going back to our roots in the rocky landscape of Småland in southern Sweden, where people had to make the most out of the scarce resources at their disposal. This approach continues to influence us as we develop our range, our distribution methods and our sales solutions.

We experience every day that our customers increasingly recognise and appreciate those IKEA core values.

Being circular and using sustainable materials is therefore both a responsibility and a good business opportunity. It enables us to reach many people, within the limits of one planet.


What are you most looking forward to learning more about at Foam Expo Europe 2019?

We believe a movement to sustainable and circular foam is possible, but it requires a daring and innovative mindset, taking the lead and working together with many stakeholders.

I am looking forward to sharing the journey we have been on, hoping to inspire other retailers and producers, and connecting with people in the industry who could be the starting point of new exciting collaborations!

Caroline will be speaking in two sessions taking place on 12 September: “Implementing the EU’s Circular Economy Package: What to Expect from the EU and National Governments in the Coming Years” at 9.30am and “Putting Circular Economy Legislation into Action" at 10.25.