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Integrating circular economy in a retail business model


Service Designer

Service Design
Design Research

2015 / 2016
The challenge

IKEA brand sustainability strategy for 2020 established resource and energy independence as one of its key points. The Swedish retail Group has been testing different models to integrate circular economy for specific products of their catalog. With that in mind, IKEA asked us for a proposal to help them develop a collection and recycling service for pillows, duvets and other home fabrics.

Photo of one of the sharing sessions with IKEA decision makers

Key findings

During the research phase, there was a key finding: integration. If we wanted the circular economy to succeed, IKEA had to take into account three key insights: the “people helping people” sentiment derived from the economic crisis, the current donation and local recycling scheme, and the user mindset about the life cycle of pillows and duvets.  

By observing and understanding the main research learnings, we considered that it was necessary to reframe the challenge of the project:

“Designing the reuse and collection service for home textile”

Based on this challenge, we discovered four key opportunities:

1. How can IKEA be a part of the “donate and reuse” chain?

2. How can IKEA reaffirm its home positioning through the collection service?

3. How do we generate a common benefit?

4. How can IKEA gratify consumers while generating consciousness and responsibility?

The outcome

We defined a new customer’s relationship model with the brand, based on the key lessons from the research: from a functional relationship with products to an emotional relationship with the brand. In addition, we defined an action plan to implement the circular economy strategy divided in two main phases: reuse and collection.

As part of the action plan, we cocreated different initiatives, where the first one implemented  has been one of the most ambitious for the brand; incorporating a re-buying product service.

IKEA San Sebastian, Spain. Presentation of the re-selling service for furniture in 2016

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