All 20 stores are involved in the programme, which focuses on helping all disadvantaged children, not just refugees
While most refugees fleeing conflicts entered Germany, more than 160,000 claimed asylum in Sweden in 2015. Here Save the Children coordinates efforts of major companies like IKEA, financial services group Ikano (also owned by Ikea’s founders), pharmacy group Apoteket, and consultants Accenture.
The programme focuses on disadvantaged children, not just those of refugee families. Theres Wirrell, sustainability leader for people and communities at IKEA Range & Supply says IKEA didn’t want “just to donate money .... we wanted to come up with a project where our co-workers can be involved.”
Staff in IKEA’s 20 stores across Sweden help equip community centres with furniture and handicrafts so they’re more welcoming to children and families. Young people will also come to IKEA to get help with job interviews and CVs, and a mentoring programme is being discussed.
In Switzerland, all nine IKEA stores offer work experience. Some 110 refugees are expected to complete the six-month programme by 2019. Six of the 18 who took part in the first round applied for jobs. Language has again been the biggest challenge. IKEA itself has a diverse workforce who can offer support, and at store level language requirements for some jobs are less stringent, notes sustainability specialist Roxana Schwartz, who runs the project.
The company is trying to work out how to offer better language provision, but Schwartz says it’s a difficult balancing act. Courses offered by the government are basic, while private language courses are expensive. Other internees might wonder why refugees get courses paid for by IKEA when they do not. “It’s a sensitive topic: so many Swiss need support also,” Schwartz said.
IKEA has had to tackle criticism from the media and customers as well as its own employees. The company made a big effort to justify its strategy internally, even bringing in external experts on migration to explain different cultures and help employees understand the plight of refugees, a measure that Schwartz believes has been successful.
This is part of Ethical Corporation's briefing on corporate response to the refugee crisis. See also:
Sweden Switzerland Ikea