“…start to understand who your like-minded partners are as soon as possible to help build the business…”
For many years, furniture and homewares giant Ikea have had a focus on the importance of sustainability. To list just some of their efforts, the Swedish multinational have700,000 solar panels now positioned on theirbuildings worldwide and with 334 wind turbines, but energy production is only part of the story.So to find out more, we caught up withPuneet Trehan theirMaterial & Innovation Development Leader Polymers, who has been at the company for 17 years. With a Masters in Chemical Engineering and experience in Supply Chain Management, Puneet has extensive experience of both sustainability and business challenges, Puneet recently sat down with Bio-Based Worlds Emily ODowd to discuss why he enjoys working with Ikea so much, some of the biggest challenges and where he can see the business developing fastest over the next few years.
Emily ODowd (EOD): What has led you to this role?
Puneet Trehan (PT): Before working in Ikea ( @)I was living in Dubai. I have always been an Ikea customer and became more aware of their sustainable outlook and customer understanding. Then the opportunity came along to work more on their supply chain management. I had to decide a business model which was more diversified. In my previous role at Ikea I loved that by default we had become an energy company and invested a lot into renewable energy assets like wind farms, solar panels, bio-mass energy. We generate a significant amount of energy from renewable sources as we step towards becoming afully sustainable business. I enjoy the fact that Ikea is a company which has the potential to make long-term decisions whereas other companies find this more difficult.
EOD: What do you enjoy most about your role?
PT: Well, I see big long-term opportunities going forward in sustainable business and this is exciting for me as I can see we are heading in a forward direction as an industry. But I would say that the main two things are that I am able to help build an organisation around polymer innovation with a focus on renewability and bio-based products. Secondly, I am responsible for the way it is developed and how it looks like today.
EOD: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the industry?
PT: I would say the biggest challenge has been the fact that the value chains in the bio-industry are not very organised, and this is an area where wecan strive towards morecost-effective bio-based innovations. But once we see some improvements there, that will be the turning point.
EOD: What advice would you give for someone starting work in the sustainable/bio-based industry?
PT: My advice would be that at the starting point dont underestimate the need to engage relevant companies to fund the businessventure. The partnerships are not very easy to get and it can be quite challenging. Then secondly, start to understand who your like-minded partners are as soon as possible to help build the business, because it is not just one company you need. You cant do it alone.
EOD: What single change would help develop the bio-based/sustainable industry further?
PT: I would say one big thing that is lacking today in the industry is that companies need to develop technology further and commit to greater investment. It is important to think about what the customer focus is. If new companies come into the industry too late then the innovation process will be harder. So it is important to plan ahead and consider the long-term changes.
EOD: Where would you like to see your company in fiveyears time?
PT: Well, our sustainable efforts are already worldwide. However, in 2020 all the Plastics Category products that we sell should be made with recycled and renewable plastics. Our next objective is to be driving a very strong example to encourage customers to use our products, because in fiveyears time there will be a lot more competitors in the industry. Therefore, more customers will expect to have more affordable and sustainable products. I am hoping that a significant amount of the foams that we use now for sofas and mattresses will be made from polyester fibres and bio-based polymers. Of course the products will still be comfortable but more sustainable.And finally, we are always looking into what is happening in the whole of the industry to give us an idea about the latest home furnishings. It is important to take an outside perspective and find out what is going on to predict change.
EOD: Thank you for your time today Puneet, and I wish you luck with the rest of your sustainable ambitions at Ikea.
BioBased World News will bring this new 5 minute feature to our readers every week. This will able to put a face to the brandand provide established businesses and new start-ups the crucial advise they need in this industry. If you would like to be interviewed about your own bio-based/sustainable business then please email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week’s 5 minutes will feature: Tom Domen,Innovation Manager atEcover
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