Behaviour ChangeSustainable Development Goals
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Sustainable Lifestyles In A Pandemic World with Google and IKEA

A panel discussion with Google and IKEA on how business can support the mass adoption of sustainable lifestyles

21.05.20Aisha Ayodae

On Tuesday 19th May 2020, our Co-Founder Solitaire Townsend virtually welcomed two of Futerra’s partners – Lena Pripp-Kovac, Chief Sustainability Officer of Inter IKEA Group, and Kate Brandt, Chief Sustainability Officer of Google – for the a panel session on sustainable living in a pandemic world.

COVID-19 has radically changed the way we live and has rightly called into question how we can live our lives for the better. Google Trends has shown that in the short time we’ve been enduring this crisis (specifically in the 90 days up to April 22nd, Earth Day) many people have started to ask themselves this very question: search interest in “How to live a sustainable lifestyle” has increased by more than 4,550%. As two big household names whose respective products are being used in the majority of households across the globe, IKEA and Google are perfectly placed to explore the tension between how both ‘powerful people’ and ‘people power’ are key to bringing about global change. During this event, they explored how brands and businesses can support this demonstrated, widespread desire to adopt sustainable lifestyles.

Here are some of our key highlights.

Google searches for “How to live a sustainable lifestyle” increased by more than 4,550%.

Make sustainable living more accessible

Major corporations need to identify where they can make the most change in striving for a sustainable world. For IKEA, their role lies in inspiring and enabling people to live healthier lives. Even before the pandemic, IKEA’s insights showed that for 54% of people the most important thing in life is to secure the health and wellbeing of one’s family. For many people the largest barrier to doing this will be in the affordability of such lifestyles and post-pandemic, this will be a problem for many more families than before. Leaning into the insights IKEA already has, the home furnishing giant knows that to make things more affordable, they need to be more circular. Businesses need to similarly look at how their supply chains and models can be more resource-efficient, in order to transform our society into a renewable society. Whilst on an individual level we can change behaviours to achieve this, businesses need to enable people to make such choices on a broader scale.

Use data to empower people to make the right choices

‘Empowering users with tech means that we can do more together’ says Kate. During the coronavirus crisis, tech can be found at the heart of immediate and long-term opportunities. In the short-term, tech is keeping us connected to the outside world; in the long-term, it will give us access to important insight into what is happening around us and what we can do with those opportunities.

Google is uniquely placed to enable insights through data and to arm everyday citizens, scientists, and policy-makers alike to make more sustainable choices. Through products such as Project Sunroof, Google Assistant for Recycling, Nest and Your Plan, Your Planet, everyday people are empowered to take steps towards living a more sustainable life. Through tools such as Google Earth Engine, which visualises changes in air pollution, scientists and experts can understand the positive environmental effects brought about changes in our pandemic world’s behaviours. Through the plethora of data provided by the Environment Insights Explorer, policy-makers have to hand decision-useful insights to help in the development of climate action plans, as well as pressing COVID recovery plans, to rebuild better and differently. We need to harness and use data to empower people to make more sustainable choices and live more sustainable lives.

The success of sustainable lifestyles lies in them being seamless

‘Helping the planet needs to be seamless’, says Lena. Sustainable lifestyles and behaviours need to be fun and fully integrated into our daily lives, rather than be siloed exercises that we struggle to execute. For the widespread adoption of sustainable living to be a success, our societal infrastructure needs to support and accelerate change. We need to redesign old systems and methodologies to accommodate new ways of living.Not only do brands and business need to push for our societal infrastructures to accommodate new ways of living, they also need to ensure that these lifestyles are fun and inspiring. For example, Google uses products and platforms, such as Your Plan, Your Planet and Youtube, to share science-based information on how to live sustainably in gamified and interactive ways. Business needs to continue to educate, encourage and enable people to seamlessly live sustainable lifestyles.

Sustainable lifestyles require a dance with many

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that individual action does count, but so does coordinating the efforts of individuals, scientists, businesses, policy-makers and countries: we can work and aspire together to live better. We have proven in these difficult and trying times, that if we all change our behaviours, we can instigate and see veritable change. Everyone must be able to access the right information, assess the bigger picture, and understand how they can uniquely contribute to a more sustainable world and way of life.

A huge thank you to Kate Brandt, Chief Sustainability Officer of Google, and Lena Pripp-Kovac, Chief Sustainability Officer of Inter IKEA Group, for their participation and partnership, as well as to our viewers for their probing and inspiring questions.


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