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Corporate People & Culture 13 August 2021

At IKEA, Pride and equality are anchored in our culture

World Pride is a global event that promotes LGBT+ inclusion through parades, festivals and cultural activities. This August, it’s being held in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Malmö (Sweden), where IKEA will participate in events to stand up for LGBT+ rights. 

LGBT+ inclusion is an ongoing commitment and core belief for IKEA, that goes beyond flags and parades. We stand up against hate and discrimination of any kind, and want to help build a world that is inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities – a world where nobody feels the need to conceal who they are or who they love.  

All IKEA co-workers across the world can access online training modules to learn more about how to minimize unconscious bias, and how to create an LGBT+ inclusive culture as a member of the community or as an ally. Another example of our culture of inclusion is paid medical leave for co-workers who are transitioning. 
The language we use is central to embedding this culture, ensuring all co-workers recognise themselves in the pronouns and descriptions we use. Most recently, our language around parental leave has developed to include the word ‘co-mother’ to refer to partners in same-sex couples.  

Let’s take a look at what IKEA Denmark and IKEA Sweden are doing to nurture the vibrant culture of equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of the IKEA global family. 
IKEA Denmark: “If all co-workers aren’t thriving, neither will IKEA”  

“The important thing for us as co-workers and as customers is that, at IKEA, you are always free to be yourself,” says Sara Lynge Skovhede, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Leader, IKEA Denmark, pictured above

“It’s about a culture of equality and inclusion, in which co-workers can see the things we do and say and think ‘I recognise myself’. Our central belief is that we each bring our unique personality to our workplace – all ages, ethnicities, capabilities and backgrounds.” Sara is clear that this can’t just be for one week.

“Last year, we were invited to join other companies at Copenhagen Pride,” she says. “We decided not to, as the media focus at the time was very much about ‘pinkwashing’. It’s not about brand promotion in a parade for us, it’s about making meaningful changes for all of us, and we can do that in many other ways.” 
This year, IKEA Denmark is using its platform to push for real systemic change, as a founding partner in a national campaign with the Ministry for Equality, launching on 12 August. Sara will also take part in a webinar with the Danish Chamber of Commerce, and a panel discussion as part of the World Pride event, sharing changes IKEA has made internally and seeing how businesses can learn from each other to promote openness and inclusion in the workplace. 

It is an area in which IKEA Denmark is leading the way, often having to navigate current gaps in wider legislation. Sara says: “We take steps on an individual basis. For instance, when a male co-worker applied to take parental leave with his male co-parent, we noticed there was a legal gap– he didn’t have the same rights to claim leave. So we found a way to create a new policy in which he could take paid ‘mama leave’, and share the same experience as a female co-worker would.”  
But there’s more work to be done on a national basis to promote operationalised equality. “We are working with the Danish authorities to change policy for all organisations – otherwise we are simply creating another form of inequality, between businesses themselves. We can’t just be the big company who can afford to make a change. And no matter how much change we hope we are making, you can’t stop moving forward. If you think you’re there, you’ll lose pace.” 

IKEA Demark works closely with the organization ‘LGBT+ Danmark’, offering additional support during the pandemic to affected LGBT+ communities and raising funds for the organization through the STORSTOMMA rainbow bag.  

“Essentially, Pride is a natural part of our business – not a separate chapter of a handbook,” concludes Sara. “Diversity is essential for growing our business – if co-workers aren’t thriving, neither will we. Everybody benefits when we are all different and feel at home in that difference.” 

IKEA Sweden: “Pride isn’t a marketing event” 

IKEA Sweden shares the same ethos. “At IKEA, we want to be as inclusive as we want the rest of the world to be,” says Linda Vikström Nielsen, Country Communication Manager. “Pride isn’t a marketing event – it’s at the heart of our IKEA culture and our everyday work. It’s about standing up for human rights and the equal value of every single individual. It is the right thing to do – and it is also good for our business. It’s a fact that diverse teams are more innovative and create better results. And many customers chose IKEA based on our strong vision and humanistic values.” 

IKEA Sweden will amplify this message by uniting with other groups, organisations and individuals in a variety of Pride events. On 6 August, Linda took part in a panel discussion on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace as part of Helsingborg Pride celebrations. 

Meanwhile in Malmö, Gabriella Fredriksson, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Leader IKEA Sweden, will take part in a panel discussion about how employers can support co-workers to strengthen their inclusive culture. “We’re also doing a specific campaign on Instagram and LinkedIn, in which co-workers and members of our management team promote the message ‘Hos oss är alla hemma” – ‘Here, everyone is at home’.” The campaign will launch on 16 August.  
Proceeds from the sales of STORSTOMMA rainbow bag during the summer of 2022 will be donated to UNHCR for its work with LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers. 

“At IKEA Sweden we have the vision that 100% of our co-workers feel included in the workplace and in Leadership programs”, Linda says. “When new co-workers arrive, we provide training in unconscious bias, equality and diversity, and being a truly inclusive workplace.” Around 1,000 co-workers in Sweden have been trained since January – and as Linda says, “the work continues.” 


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