Sustainability and Collaborations at IKEA Democratic Design Days 2019

On Monday evening, I arrived at IKEA home – Älmhult, a small town of just 9,000 inhabitants in Sweden, to attend the annual Democratic Design Days. This year’s focus has been on sustainability, and within the 2-day event, a series of cool things have been announced in this area, some very exciting collaborations, and a project of rethinking cities and living with Space10, which I love!

Beyond CSR and business with purpose, IKEA integrates sustainability into its business directions, and this is essential to make the transition to a clean economy. We shouldn’t need NGOs and philanthropy to make things right, we need companies to do business responsibly, socially and environmentally. Instead of fixing problems, we should try not to generate them in the first place. We have to go from being always reactive to becoming proactive. It’s smarter and more efficient.

How a sustainable event looks like

No prints, no PETs, no waste and no useless stuff. Upon registration, we received a water bottle and a coffee mug which we could refill in different areas, all these in a beautifully designed bag that made my girlfriend extremely happy when returning home. For the agenda and access to resources, useful information and locations, there was an event app (Hello, 2019), where we also received notifications when things happened or when surprises occurred. Well done, IKEA!

Democratic Design Days 2019

IKEA’s vision is ‘to create a better everyday life for the many people’, and alongside the 5 Democratic Design Principles, they are the foundation of everything IKEA does and creates. At one of the interview sessions we found out how everything they develop starts from setting a price tag, from which they do not deviate so they have to innovate to get a product that complies with all five principles:

  1. Form – all products should look very good
  2. Function – to be useful and comfortable to make life easier
  3. Quality – be more durable than competitive and more sustainable than I promise you to be surprised
  4. Sustainability – this has an environmental, social and financial efficiency component, reduces waste to a minimum
  5. Affordability – not cheap, but affordable, even if it is the ultimate principle, is actually the most important since innovation begins after they have set the price they need to get to

The event also took place in several buildings, sometimes different things were happening in the same time. We heard all the announcements in the 2 Spotlight Sessions, but we also had Interviews, Presentations, Tests, Museum Visits, and Interactions with products. I organised by theme all IKEA announced, but I have also added some things that were previously announced, but they are still new for the people.


  • Sonos (speakers in furniture bodies or speakers as supports, super high quality sound at a great price)
  • Ori – ROGNAN, Moving robotic furniture – super cool
  • UNYQ și Area Academy – chairs with 3D pieces made specifically for the body shape of gamers
  • Greyhound Original – small, low budget, repurposing stuff
  • Adidas – how to make more sports at home, the first products will appear in 2021
  • LEGO – gama BYGGLEK, pentru mai multă joacă acasă, aici nu au fost clari cu ce lansează, dar o să apară în 2020
  • Claus Meyer, co-founder of Noma Restaurant – More Sustainable, More Fresh Food in IKEA Restaurants
  • Saint Heron – how to bring art at home, combine art into functional objects – why having to go to the museum always?!
  • Zandra Rhodes, famous British designer – to create textiles with colours, patterns. I can not wait, I love th crazy stuff Zandra is doing

Sustainability Announcements at DDD2019

IKEADDD2019 was both an amazing and useful experience, which, beyond all, made me more optimistic. What IKEA and other similar, large and innovation-oriented companies are doing, serve as examples of good practice for other large, medium and small companies.


  • MUSSELBLOMMA – a collection made partly of recovered plastic, originating in the Mediterranean Sea. Launching on the selected markets will take place in 2019.
  • Recycled Polyester – As part of the transformation into a circular business, IKEA aims to replace all virgin polyester products with recycled polyester by 2020.
  • A new collaboration with the World Wide World Surf (WSL), a partnership where IKEA and WSL will collaborate on a climate awareness awareness project and will inspire action to reduce the pollution of the ocean.

#clean air

  • Indoors: Climate and Clean Air – IKEA joins the United Nations Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CACC) to advance what it learned from the Better Air Now initiative and develop solutions for burning crop residues and reducing pollution air. Until now, they have developed curtains that purify GUNRID air and now work on mechanical cleaners. Bonus, here is a guide [PDF] on how to breathe cleaner air step by step.
  • OUTDOORS: FÖRÄNDRING – a collection made from rice straw, a residue that is traditionally burned, which contributes to local air pollution. The launch will take place in some markets in autumn 2019.


  • SAMMANLÄNKAD – a collection in collaboration with Little Sun and his founder, artist Olafur Eliasson. The ambition behind the collection is to provide tools for everyday life where renewable energy contributes to a better and more independent life.

#food and urban farming

  • Alternative meatballs 😀 with meat taste, but from vegetable protein – beyond the direct impact, the indirect impact is also important. Eating healthier food it is also good for our health but it also mitigate global warming and is fair to animals
  • Urban Farming – news about Tom Dixon’s collaboration through which IKEA is exploring affordable solutions to grow plants and vegetables at home.

#cities and living

Lately, I have researched everything happening around the world in terms of innovation in cities and dwelling, and so far the only company doing interesting things was happening was Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google), making a mega a project in Toronto in a public-private partnership, of rethinking communities. Finally, there is something happening now in Europe as well, which I think, is more interesting: the Urban Village Project.

IKEA, in partnership with Space10 and EFFEKT Architects, has launched the urban village project, but this is such an amazing initiative that it deserves a separate article. It’s almost everything I hoped a project like this to be, some stuff took me by surprise (positive), and in others, I think it’s room for better, but overall, it’s wow. And there is also the collaboration with Ikano Bostad in The better living project I would strongly recommend to look into.

  • RÅVAROR, a collection of 20 flexible, modular products that will be launched in September 2020 for small spaces.

I am also going to write a separate article about the extraordinary experience at IKEA TEST LAB. I was blown away. Stay tunned.

This article is part of Pursuing Sustainability, a series of articles where I find and write about organisations and events that are examples of good practice in terms of sustainability.

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