For many people, Ikea is the place to go for bath towels, shower curtains, scented candles and all the other items needed for a relaxing bath experience. Now, they can add a water-recycling shower system to the list, following the furniture giant’s minority investment in Danish start-up Flow Loop. The aim of the investment is to make it easy and affordable for people to save both water and energy without compromising the shower experience, Ikea’s innovation ventures manager Robert Carleke to
told Inside Retail. “Ikea is committed to inspire and enable people to live healthier and more sustainable lives and is exploring innovation to reduce water consumption and reuse of water in the homes,” he said. He added that Ikea can’t achieve its sustainability goals alone, and said that it needs to collaborate with others to fully realise its aspirations. “As a shareholder in Flow Loop, Ikea wants to support Flow Loop to continue the development of the concept together. Alongside the financial investment, Ikea can bring our expertise in large-scale manufacturing to bring a great product to market,” Carleke said. Investing in sustainability Ikea and Flow Loop have been collaborating since March 2020 to develop an innovative water-recycling shower solution that can be retrofitted in existing shower spaces. “The first step was to evaluate the feasibility of making Flow Loop’s idea into an Ikea product. Since then, we have developed and engineered the recycling shower solution together,” Carleke explained. During the development the two companies created several stages of prototypes for testing, resulting in further development and even more testing. Late last year, they achieved “proof of concept” after testing 17 recycling shower solutions with nearly 4000 showers taken in homes located in Sweden and Denmark. According to Carleke, in the next three years, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population may end up facing a water shortage. “With 10 per cent of global water consumption happening at home, Ikea has decided to explore and innovate around water-saving solutions,” he said. The company has identified showering, toilet, laundry, wash basin/sink activities and water for cooking and drinking as key areas to enable and inspire change. “Studies indicate that showering consumes the most water in a typical household – up to almost 40 per cent – and by developing a recycling shower for the many people, we believe we can inspire and contribute to change,” he noted. Carleke observed that with increase in energy prices, heating water is a big drain on resources, so there’s significant opportunity for change in this area. It’s time for disruption Access to clean water is vital for everyone, but it is drastically declining around the world every year. According to the World Health Organization, one in three people globally do not have access to safe drinking water. UNICEF states that some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed drinking water services, while 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic hand washing facilities. “At Ikea, we keep developing and launching affordable products that reduce water consumption at home. We collaborate with our partners to find the best possible solutions which are innovative and affordable,” Carleke said. By recycling and cleaning shower water in a closed loop, Flow Loop’s solution could reduce water usage by up to 80 per cent and generate energy savings of up to 70 per cent. “During the development phase we have performed extensive testing, both in the Ikea test labs and in home tests with consumers in Denmark and Sweden including nearly 4000 showers taken,” he said. The big picture According to Ikea’s sustainability report for 2021, more than 5.7 billion people the world over visited an Ikea store or website. This showed that the company has a big opportunity and responsibility to make a positive impact in the sustainability space. It has an aim to cut food production waste by 50 per cent by the end of 2022 in all its stores globally. Its goals for 2025 include making 50 per cent of the main meals offered in its restaurants plant-based. Back in 2021, Ikea introduced the Huvudroll plant ball, which has a climate footprint that is just 4 per cent of the size of its standard meatballs. The company also introduced plant-based mince for customers to cook at home. By 2030, the company aims to be circular, using only renewable or recyclable materials, and providing new solutions for customers to prolong the life of its products and materials. To become climate positive, Ikea must first reduce the climate footprint of its entire value chain in line with the 1.5°C target – including halving emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050 at the latest.