Ikea funds local schools to boost hiring efforts

Ikea is donating 16 million kronor ($2.46 million) to help improve schools near its headquarters in southern Sweden to make it easier for the furniture giant to recruit workers to the area.

Ikea funds local schools to boost hiring efforts

“Älmhunt is the heart if Ikea and we have 4,000 employees here,” Gudmund Vollbrecht, a senior advisor with Ikea AB, said in a statement announcing the initiative.

“In order to recruit, develop, and retain competence in Älmhult we need to be an attractive employer and good schools are an important part of that.”

Plans call for Ikea to donate 8 million kronor to Älmhult municipality in 2013 and 2014 to help local officials develop and improve the town’s primary schools as well as its international school.

Ikea has long been a strong financial backer of Älmhult’s international school, donating at least 800,000 kronor a year since the school was founded in 2000 to help support its International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.

While the town claims to have strong schools, the new initiative is meant to make them among the best in Sweden.

“The goal of Ikea’s efforts is to improve the quality of our schools, and in turn the attractiveness of Älmhult,” local councillor Elizabeth Peltola said.

Specifically, the new funding will go toward updating the schools’ technology, expanding the offering of intensive courses, and developing leadership in the classroom.

While decisions about curriculum development will be made by education officials in Älmhult, an advisory board including representatives from the company will also be created to oversee how the money is used.

However, local politicians aren’t worried that the company will exert undue influence on what students learn at area schools.

“It’s more about keeping their house in order. Ikea is working hand-in-hand with the municipality and as a result we don’t feel they can affect things in the wrong way; rather, it’s going to be a great opportunity for our children,” Sonja Emilsson, vice chair of the local governing board, told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

She hoped the new effort would help entice Ikea employees who currently commute two hours from as far as Malmö to consider relocating to the town of roughly 16,000 residents.

“Älmhult and Ikea have always followed one another,” she said.

“We’re not among the municipalities that are shrinking, but without some sort of motor that attracts others it’s tough. Ikea also attracts other companies.”

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Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price

In the run-up to what would in normal times be the festive season sales rush, Ikea has vowed to buy back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

Ikea will buy back your used furniture at up to half the price
Got any pieces of Ikea furniture at home? You may be able to get rid of it and get money back. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Ikea, the world's largest furniture chain, said Tuesday it would begin buying back used furniture from customers to resell – and pay up to 50 percent of the original price.

The “Buy Back Friday” scheme, timed to coincide with the “Black Friday” pre-Christmas retail frenzy, will run from November 24th and until December 3rd in 27 countries.

“Rather than buy things you don't need this Black Friday, we want to help customers give their furniture a second life instead of making an impulse buy,” said Stefan Vanoverbeke, deputy retail operations manager at Ingka Group, Ikea's parent company.

To address concerns its affordable, flat-pack products encourage overconsumption and waste, the Swedish company had previously said it would start renting and recycling furniture as part of an eco-drive.

Under its buyback scheme, the group said that “anything that can't be resold will be recycled or donated to community projects to help those most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“Some countries like Australia and Canada for example are currently testing different buyback services, but BuyBack Friday will be the first time that 27 countries do this together,” the statement added.

The Swedish giant employs over 217,000 people and has more than 50 outlets. Its annual turnover is around 40 billion euros ($46 billion).

The group did not specify how it would determine the price paid for second-hand furniture and customers will receive a voucher, not cash, for their products.  

As part of efforts to reduce waste, Ikea has already begun repairing and re-packaging products in every store that have been damaged in transit, as well as allowing customers to return products – including furniture – for resale or donation to charities.