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15 June 2021

IKEA assembling global push to integrate refugees


Before arriving in France, Dady was studying in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when armed conflicts forced him to flee. In the spring of 2020, he participated in a new initiative at IKEA France called Skills for Employment. Today, he works as a goods flow co-worker at the IKEA store in Reims in northeastern France. He says he wants to pursue a career in logistics and ultimately own his own company. 

Dady is one of 595 refugees so far in 20 countries to participate in the Ingka Group Skills for Employment refugee integration initiative. On World Refugee Day, Ingka Group is announcing that the number of participants and countries is set to grow.  

“The private sector can play a significant role to enable refugees to realise their economic potential and together we can make meaningful contributions to the community and society at large,” says Tolga Öncü, Retail Operations Manager, IKEA Retail (Ingka Group). “We want to lead the way and inspire other companies to join in.” 

Skills for Employment going global 
Ingka Group’s long-term goal is to support 2,500 refugees to improve their skills to gain meaningful employment inside or outside of IKEA in 30 countries by 2022. While it’s a small number compared to 80 million forcibly displaced people, every contribution is important and impacts more than just the participants. 

“I liked that I was considered like all the other employees and that they helped me,” says Dady. “Mutual help and friendliness are two things that characterize my time in the program.” 

Moreover, the Skills for Employment initiative is also a memorable experience for the “buddies” from the host community who work together with the refugees in the unit.  

“I had often heard preconceived notions about refugees, but today I have a different vision,” says Justine from France, who was her store’s ambassador for the project in that country. ” I think that everyone has the right to professional integration, we are all equal, and everyone has something to offer our business.” 

So far, on average, two-thirds of the participants in the Skills for Employment initiative have found a job after the program – either within IKEA or at another company. 

 “For us, it’s about Inclusive growth,” says Mercedes Gutierrez Alvarez, Head of Communities Engagement, IKEA Retail (Ingka Group). “It’s about growing by creating opportunities for the many to gain access to a better life. We know that we can create a positive impact by opening pathways to employment for refugees. And with the program starting to pick up speed as stores reopen, we see the potential to create an amazing impact.”  

Mercedes will be joined by Ulrika Biesért, Global People & Culture manager, IKEA Retail (Ingka Group), as well as a participant from the Skills for Employment program for a Live LinkedIn event on 18 June at 13:00 CET

A strong belief that refugees bring value to business and society  
Ingka Group is marking the occasion of World Refugee Day to announce a “changing the narrative” campaign with the hope to create a movement inside and outside the company to challenge perceptions about refugees.  So Ingka Group has teamed up with GapMinder and UNHCR on a quiz that aims to challenge misconceptions around refugees for co-workers and customers. 

In addition, IKEA partners with the Jordan River Foundation, a social enterprise which produces IKEA textiles. These items are made by local artisans and refugee women and have contributed to creating income opportunities for 250 women.  

As a matter of fact, since October 2020, a cushion cover called TILLTALANDE, which is produced by these women, has been sold in all IKEA countries. Additionally, this month, the LOKALT collection launched in 25 markets, with cushion covers and throws from the Jordan River Foundation. 

IKEA has pledged to increase the volume of sales of these items fourfold with the aim of creating income opportunities for 400 local Jordanian and refugee women. 

Working with refugees in host communities 
Additionally, by the end of 2025, the IKEA Foundation will grant 100 million EUR for programs that help refugees in their host communities improve their incomes and become more self-reliant. The IKEA Foundation has already invested 30 million EUR in its urban refugee livelihood anchor program to take place in Kenya and Uganda.  

The Foundation is also supporting refugees in the rural community of Dollo Ado, Ethiopia to create a second anchor program in East Africa for 2022 and beyond.  

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