IKEA’s approach to delivering ethical AI for all

100% Human at Work
Parag Parekh, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of IKEA Retail, in discussion at a 100% Human at work event in London | Tom Soper Photography
Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
1 March 2024

At a recent 100% Human at Work gathering in London, Parag Parekh, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of IKEA Retail (Ingka Group) spoke to a room of business leaders about how IKEA has been approaching and embracing the world of AI.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of business transformation, few companies have embraced change as wholeheartedly as IKEA. Once renowned for its innovative cash-and carry-model, IKEA rightly recognised the need to adapt its operations to align with shifting consumer behaviours. This realisation went on to spur an all-encompassing digital transformation journey, and since 2017 IKEA has been continuously assessing every aspect of its business model and operations.

“At the core of IKEA’s digital transformation lays a commitment to ethical and responsible AI, with the company’s value principles now embedded into the design, development, and use of all digital technologies,” said Parag Parekh. “Also, as we commit to transformation, we’re ensuring that the customer trust that’s been successfully built over the last 80 years+ is nurtured.”

Parag Parekh, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of IKEA Retail (Ingka Group) speaks about how IKEA has been approaching and embracing the world of AI.

In 2019, IKEA created the first-ever digital ethics policy, positioning responsible AI as a core value rather than an afterthought and outlining commitment to accountability, transparency, inclusivity, diversity, and sustainability in all AI initiatives. Whilst the company’s large-scale adoption of AI has been extremely well received, IKEA management remains cognisant of the varying and very personal feelings of its employees, since amidst the tremendous opportunity, lies understandable concerns about the future.

According to Parag, “IKEA recognises the importance of listening to our 165,000 strong workforce. We are committed to upskilling and reskilling employees – and to helping everyone navigate the changing landscape of AI, while preserving human dignity and agency.”

As the company continues to pivot to its omni-business model, it remains committed to a human-centric approach – building new, equitable, inclusive solutions that uphold the brand values. Some of IKEA's new initiatives include enhancing customer purchasing experiences, driving increased convenience through innovative supply chain solutions, and leveraging AI to help customers plan their living spaces and create better homes. IKEA is redefining the retail experience and staying true to its ethos of putting what matters most - co-workers, customers, communities, and the planet - at the forefront.

100% Human at Work
Parag Parekh, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of IKEA Retail speaks about how IKEA has been approaching and embracing the world of AI | Tom Soper Photography

IKEA Retail (Ingka Group) also recently started a new AI literacy programme, implemented across the organisation, the programme will train over 3,000 co-workers in 2024, helping to speed up the organisations’ learning curve and help employees reskill to be able to take on the jobs of tomorrow. The group also has a company-wide AI and data education programme, working to put co-workers at the centre of the development and use of responsible AI.

IKEA approach to AI showcases a positive shift in corporate responsibility, where businesses not only embrace technological advancements, but do so in a responsible and trustworthy manner. By prioritising human-centric design principles, IKEA is setting a precedent for how AI can be harnessed for the benefit of all - paving the way for a more inclusive and sustainable future.

As we all continue to navigate the complexities of the digital age, IKEA's commitment to AI for good can serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring others to follow suit in fostering a more equitable and empathetic society.

Learn more about the 100% Human at Work network and the work its doing to re-define and change work for good.