Steve Howard on Transformational change

Monday, May 08, 2017

18:00 - 21:00

Steve Howard joined IKEA as Chief Sustainability Officer six years ago, since then IKEA has undergone one of the fastest sustainability transformations of recent years. His announcement that he will leave IKEA in June creates a moment to digest the process of transformational change, and we’re delighted to give Steve our stage on the 8th May.

Steve’s story is remarkable. In 2003, he founded the Climate Group, a 100-person team that helped shape global climate policy. He joined IKEA in January 2011, turning a solid foundation for sustainability into no. 3 globally according to the latest Globescan survey. Investing €1.5bn in renewable energy and increasing sustainable product revenues to €1.8bn are just some of the standout achievements. 

Steve’s mantra is “going all in”. He believes in risking failure whilst being obsessive about success, and consigning incrementalism to the history books. It’s a story of being ruthlessly committed to a mission whilst understanding of what matters to stakeholders, and building a world-class team. And somehow finding time to co-found We Mean Business along the way.

In his last public engagement for IKEA, Steve will give a TED-style keynote on what has - and hasn’t - worked during his time at IKEA, followed by an interview with Axel Threlfall. We’ll discuss why;

  • The expectation for change must be set in the interview process
  • Total change can be easier than incremental change
  • 100% renewable energy has a robust business case
  • The focus must be on the top line, as well at the bottom line
  • Sustainability needs to be easy, affordable and attractive
  • Change is a team sport.

We hope the 8th May will be a shot in the arm for those who are working on transformation programmes in their organisation. It’s a 6pm start at the ICEAW in Central London, followed by a variety of roundtables on different strands of the transformation agenda.


Axel Threlfall Reuters

See bio

Steve Howard IKEA Group

See bio
Round Tables

The art of transformation

Drawing on the experiences of Steve Howard at IKEA, what are the top 5 things an individual or team should consider to transform an organisation from a social or environmental perspective? From winning over key people to setting targets to the merits of business cases v’s values cases. Which people and companies are getting this right?

Activating customers

As more companies look to engage their customers in their core purpose, we look at IKEAs LiveLAGOM project and asking how these types of initiatives can be taken to scale. How can an organisation go beyond influencing better purchasing to turning employees and customers into a community working together? How does one make the business case?

Climate leadership

How do we define corporate climate leadership post-Paris? If setting a science based target is the new norm, then is the next step to commit to net zero by 2050? What are the implications for heavy emitters? From a policy perspective, does leadership mean business going beyond managing its footprint to using its 'handprint', and if so, to what degree is business ready and willing to do so?

Collaborative transformation?

An African proverb says if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. What are the merits of a company showing great independent leadership versus one that works with other stakeholders to drive more systemic, sustainable change? Who are the critical actors in the collaborative approach, and does the table have a favoured solution?

My world

Sustainability often fails to land effectively when it’s about big, global issues, which may explain the growing interest in “going local” and “my world”. How does a company go about identifying the issues that are relevant to a local community, and how can it engage them on issues that matter to them? Which companies are leading the way?

Renewable transformation

IKEA has a radical renewables strategy, committing to generate more renewable energy than the energy it consumes globally by 2020, and has already invested €1.5bn. Does the table feel other companies should pursue this strategy, and what are the relative merits of other renewable solutions such as on- and off-site renewables, buying permits etc.?

The Social Board

If you can connect your board with the big issues in society, does purposeful transformation become easier? We’ll discuss the merits of the different emerging mechanisms – a CSO on the executive board (IKEA), youth advisory boards (Kingfisher), appointing worker reps (First Group), board immersions (BITC) and social Non-execs (PepsiCo). How should the customer be heard?

Transforming energy

What are the game-changing ideas that could transform the way we use energy? From global market mechanisms to nudge theory to company initiatives such as choice editing of products. Out of the box thinking is welcomed. Is there one stand out solution, and how could a small group of progressive businesses make it happen?

What sustainability does:

...not what it is. If you had 10 minutes with a FTSE100 CEO, how would plant a seed that would grow? Is sustainability going mainstream? What does this mean for the future of sustainability? Is the sustainability agenda leading the way for transforming business models?

Venue Detail

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales


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