Greg Priest, Social Impact and Human Rights Manager, Inter IKEA Group.

Creating opportunities for decent and meaningful work

The nature of work is changing as a result of globalisation, disruptive technologies, migration and rising inequality. Inclusive growth and decent work is part of our sustainability and people strategies, so we talked with Greg Priest, Social Impact and Human Rights Manager, Inter IKEA Group, to find out what this means.

The IKEA business has been working with “decent and meaningful work” for decades. Why is that?

"The easiest explanation is our vision “to create a better everyday life for the many people.” This not only refers to the products and services we provide, but also to the impact we have on people’s lives through employment opportunities."

What does “decent and meaningful work” mean?

"It is a concept introduced by the International Labour Organisation. It includes: a healthy and safe workplace, freedom from discrimination and freedom of association. It refers to job security, predictable working hours, financial stability and training.

We also include the idea of “meaningful work” In other words, feeling like you can contribute and add value to your company, as well as find meaning and personal development in your own life through work."

A woman working on an assembly line at an IKEA supplier wearing a yellow t-shirt and yellow head phones.

How do you measure this ambition?

"There are many factors that make it complex to come up with one overall measurement. What is critical is that we analyze the factors that can influence positive impact in individual initiatives and monitor them. Evaluating success needs to include the people affected. We are working on frameworks for measurement, as well as engaging externally with others."

Can you give some concrete examples?

"There are many, but a couple of specific areas of focus come to mind.

One is responsible wage practices. We want to ensure that every IKEA co-worker and every worker at IKEA suppliers has access to decent employment with a fair income. We began several years ago to work with the fair wage approach which focuses on a holistic approach to wage structures development.

We wanted to gain understanding of how this might work and the realities in different environments. We conducted pilots in retail markets, in supply countries, as well as at our own IKEA Industry Group. Findings have created insight and learning into the complexity of wages and benefits and our Responsible Wage Practices project will take this and further develop a framework for a common approach across our business.

Another area is transportation and our supply chain, which is partly outside of our direct operations, but where we can still have an impact. Truck drivers who transport IKEA products are employed by independent service providers. Through IWAY, our code of conduct for suppliers, we put strict demands on our transport service providers with respect to wages, benefits and working conditions. Our transport team conducts interviews to understand working conditions directly from drivers. As we are only one stakeholder, we also know it is important to engage others: We discuss key questions in the EU transportation industry – alongside stakeholders from companies, the transportation industry, the EU political spectrum, unions and NGOs."

We want to ensure that every worker at IKEA suppliers has access to decent employment with a fair income.

Greg Priest, Social Impact and Human Rights Manager, Inter IKEA Group.

What is the best way to ensure compliance?

”I would describe it as ownership and commitment rather than compliance. It is this shared value that we want to foster in our own co-workers and in our business relationships. It’s also valuable to align and be inspired by initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Both of these have created global movements that drive action towards common goals.”

Is it important to involve others?

”It’s very important to build an open and inclusive way of working. We don’t have all of the answers, and partner organisations have specific experiences and skill sets and can bring insights and challenge us and can bring better solutions. It’s also good that we get involved in initiatives and share our knowledge and experience with others.”

Two hands working with clay as part of the creation of IKEA ANNANSTANS collection in Thailand.
In the making of the ANNANSTANS collection in Thailand
Two girls in a factory holding a clay mould. One is wearing a light green surgical mask.

No worker should pay for a job and recruitment costs should be borne by the employer.

Greg Priest, Social Impact and Human Rights Manager, Inter IKEA Group.

What are some new challenges?

”One of the questions asked is, “What is employment today?” If it’s mobile or temporary, how can we ensure “decent” work? There are also vulnerable groups where securing opportunities for employment and a better life can be even more of a challenge.

The recruitment of migrant workers is one example. People often look to other areas of the world for jobs that provide a chance for a better life for them and their families. Unfortunately, this can mean that they are made to pay high costs during the process, many of which are unnecessary and hidden. Eliminating this globally will require a collective effort. We are a member of the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment and we support the Employer Pays Principle, which states that no worker should pay for a job and that recruitment costs should be borne by the employer.

In many parts of the world, children under the age of 18 but above the legal working age don’t have the ability to continue their education and may seek work to help provide income for themselves and their families. They may find it difficult to find decent job opportunities. To change this, we’re working together with suppliers in South East Asia and the Centre for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility. The aim is to empower young workers to develop skills and knowledge, and to access long-term work.”

You seem positive about finding solutions, even if you don’t know what they might be?

”That’s actually critical: to approach any new challenge with curiosity and determination, and to be willing to step into unknown areas. This is not new to us. The most important thing is to start the journey.”

A woman working in a factory smiling with black long hair wearing a big chunky silver necklace.