As leaders meet on climate, Ikea looks to wind power

Posted: April 12, 2014

As business leaders and members of a congressional task force on climate change met in Washington on Thursday to discuss how they were adapting, the Ikea Group trumped them by announcing a new renewable-energy project, its biggest worldwide.

Rob Olson, chief financial officer and acting president of Ikea's U.S. division, based in Conshohocken, said the company was investing in a wind farm in Hoopeston, Ill., south of Chicago.

It is the company's first wind farm, to be completed in 2015. The 49-turbine, 98-megawatt project is expected to generate enough energy to power 34,000 U.S. households.

The wind farm's energy will go into the grid. Officials expect the power made will equal 18 percent of the electricity used by Ikea worldwide.

"We are committed to renewable energy and to running our business in a way that minimized our carbon emissions, not only because of the environmental impact, but also because it makes good financial sense," Olson told the committee.

Ikea also has installed 550,000 solar panels on stores in 11 countries.

Many of the leaders told the task force they began their sustainability initiatives because customers demanded it. Then they realized it was making them money. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) said lawmakers are "tantalizingly close" to instituting a carbon fee.

"The problem I have is that the face of the corporate community in our world, in Washington, is totally at odds" with the message business leaders conveyed Thursday, he said. "The lobbying power that is brought to bear . . . is very heavily into denial."

He wanted to know why other leaders hadn't spoken out more loudly.

Letitia Webster, a sustainability director for North Carolina-based VF Corp., which makes outdoor products and apparel, said: "We've been heads-down, getting it done."

They've been cutting their carbon footprint, she said. They've been taking care of their supply chain, seeing the fluctuations in the price of cotton that come with "very unpredictable weather patterns."

Kevin Rabinovich, sustainability director at Mars Inc., a food, drinks, and pet-care company based in Virginia, said his company had set a goal of 100 percent emissions reductions by 2040.

Looking to its supply chain, the company has sequenced the genome of cocoa and put it into the public domain. Rabinovich called it "an incredibly powerful tool" to help researchers develop versions that are higher-yielding or weather resistant.

Sprint, the communications firm, has begun "hardening" its sites to withstand weather variability, said Amy Hargroves, sustainability director.

Colin Dyer of the Illinois-based commercial real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle, said spaces that are built with sustainability in mind command higher prices and are vacant less often than others.



Households that could be powered by the energy generated.





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