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How IKEA Is Closing the LGBTQ+ Inclusion Gap


IKEA’s Fredrik Bengtsson chats to LBB’s Laura Swinton about IKEA’s recent campaign, #FaceTheGap, created by LGBT+ IKEA co-workers and allies to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and the Pride season

How IKEA Is Closing the LGBTQ+ Inclusion Gap
This year, for International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia Ingka Group, IKEA’s largest retail franchisee, launched a new campaign #FaceTheGap. It’s been created to encourage change and create a world where all LGBT+ people can feel at home, be accepted, seen and included. The campaign has been developed by IKEA’s new global in-house creative agency, the Content Factory. 

In order to close the gap in its workplaces as well as in broader society, IKEA is using its platform to highlight the issues for the LGBT+ community. The creative is appearing on social media, in-store, and on-screen in internal employee spaces and it features a series of five personal stories from the LGBT+ community including co-workers. Moreover, IKEA’s chatbot Billie is taking part in the IDAHOTB 23 campaign, encouraging engagement and even hosting a quiz.

Creative Project Leader Fredrik Bengtsson explains more about the project and why the topic is so important to IKEA.

LBB> Why was it important to IKEA to mark this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and the Pride season? 

Fredrik> At Ingka Group, IKEA’s largest retailer, it is important to mark IDAHOTB because we want to contribute to closing the LGBT+ inclusion gap in our workplaces and in society at large, by shedding light on the issue for the LGBT+ community. Whilst progress has been made, too many in the community, especially younger people, feel unaccepted and underrepresented. We can close this gap by listening, understanding and building bridges. 
For us, IDAHOTB means advocating for a more fair and equal world, free from homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. It is about marking our commitment to creating an inclusive work environment where all our LGBT+ co-workers feel welcomed, respected and appreciated for who they are. We also want to make it clear to all co-workers and customers that we do not tolerate any form of discrimination, harassment or hostility.
Ultimately, it is about connecting our messages to the core of who we are as a company, our vision and values. Visibility, representation, and knowledge plays an important role in driving inclusion for the LGBT+ community and will always be a priority for how we show up as IKEA and as Ingka towards our vision to create better lives for the many people.

LBB> What were the insights that formed the basis of the #FaceTheGap campaign? 

Fredrik> In 2022, we conducted a voluntary and anonymous survey called Ingka Includes. The information we acquired helped to measure our level of diversity and inclusion at Ingka. Based on some of the findings, we learned that we needed to develop a campaign that would really make a difference to the lives of the various identity groups at Ingka.
Additionally, we conducted qualitative research based on the results from the Ingka Includes survey. Namely, we interviewed co-workers from CRGs (co-worker research groups) in the countries where the inclusion gap was lowest and highest to discover the actions allies could take to close the gap.

LBB> Why was it important to not only create a campaign but to proactively do something to support the LBTQ+ community within IKEA’s own co-workers? 

Fredrik> When we produced our first global inclusion survey for co-workers in 2022, we discovered that although the majority of LGBT+ co-workers are comfortable being themselves at IKEA, some still feel the need to cover or downplay aspects of their identity. This was a catalyst to the realisation that we need to acknowledge and face up to where we are now, so that our efforts to bridge the inclusion gap are driven by honest self-reflection and conversation with LGBT+ co-workers in all countries where we operate. Too many in the LGBT+ community, especially younger people, face a real inclusion gap, and we’re committed to doing whatever we can, as an employer and in wider society, to close it. 

LBB> How has IKEA been working to bridge that inclusion gap over recent years? 

Fredrik> In 2017, we launched a global LGBT+ inclusion plan that aims to create a consistent way of working with LGBT+ inclusion across all Ingka Group organisations and countries. This helped to create a foundation for closing the inclusion gap, with the work being led in our countries. For example, in Italy, IKEA co-workers going into gender affirmation have the right to six weeks of paid gender affirmation leave. In Switzerland, IKEA amended their maternity and childcare leave for co-workers with parental leave that includes same-sex couples following a vote to extend paternity leave and marriage for all.
Later, in 2020, we expanded our global business commitment to diversity and equality based on an inclusive culture that values individual differences. In doing so, we developed the Ingka Equality Plan (FY20-24) that reaches across co-workers, business practices and society. It’s a commitment to taking a bold stand for equality for everyone and reflecting it in everything we do. It sets out a roadmap on how, as an employer, we can reflect the many dimensions of our communities, including physical and mental abilities, age, nationality/ethnicity/race, sexual orientation and gender identity. There is still much more to do, but we believe it’s important to advocate for a more fair and equal world free from homophobia, transphobia and biphobia.

LBB> What were the most interesting creative conversations that you had during the development of the campaign? 

Fredrik> We were adamant that we understand, represent and give visibility to the real, lived experience of our LGBT+ co-workers and the wider community as this would deliver a better campaign.
Having worked on other IDAHOTB campaigns over the years at IKEA, one insight is how brands best show up for the LGBT+ community in today’s world. For example, we need to make sure we come across as authentic and committed to the cause by showing real action with real impact. And not fall into “rainbow washing”. For instance, we sell an immensely popular bag, the STORSTOMMA rainbow bag. For us it’s a way to give the many people a way to show their allyship and pride – but of course it is not enough. The people we met and interviewed for the campaign is one way to extend the visibility of LGBT+ people, beyond the rainbow symbol, but we need to do more, including ensuring that our own LGBT+ co-workers feel safe and included.
One of the many interesting conversations we had as we built this campaign was with our co-worker Georgii. The insights he provided gave us another level of storytelling so we decided to build a “room set” that reflects his safe space at home. It is currently on display in one of our main offices. In the display we show the importance of clothing, lighting and the significance of gaming, which Georgii uses to dive into stories and try on different personas.
We interviewed young LGBT+ adults – co-workers as well as non-co-workers – to capture their lived experiences, ideas and visions. The series of portrait stories stemmed from an important discussion around inclusion and the feeling of home.

We landed on an idea where we collaborate with young people from the LGBT+ community and talk to them about their lived experiences. We gave them a megaphone, our megaphone, and amplified their voices through our channels. We ended up with the strapline "Face the gap" because we talked with these young people about what they are facing. Face the gap also relates to all of us who need to face up to this gap and better understand the world that the LGBT+ community live in. What we have done is of course just a starting point, the real activation will take place in the countries. 

LBB> And what did you learn working with and speaking with IKEA’s LGBTQ+ community in the process of making this campaign? 

Fredrik> Working on this campaign made it clear to us that while great progress has been made on the LGBT+ agenda, there is still a long way to go and it varies across geographies. IDAHOTB is just the start. We will be rolling our activations for the whole of ‘Pride season’ until September as they happen across many markets. This will include store activations such as raising the Pride flag, which in countries with more traditional notions of gender, such as Japan, is a bold activist statement.
We have a long history of showing up for the LGBT+ community, and were in a way a very daring brand in the ‘90s when we first showed a gay couple on one of our ads during a time when the community was going through a very difficult time – that kind of visibility mattered then, and it matters now; showing life at home of queer individuals and families that are not seen, heard or perhaps not even protected.

LBB> Where would you like to go next with this campaign and idea? 

We have for many years advocated for the acceptance of the LGBT+ community and a world free from homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. We will use the energy garnered from the launch of #FaceTheGap to instil actions within the organisation, such as the wider use of pronouns and inclusive language and encourage a strong network of allies to further the LGBT+ cause. This is more important than ever.
Going forward, we will always show our support during IDAHOTB and Pride season, but perhaps our biggest impact will be how we create visibility and representation of LGBT+ people throughout the year. Everyday, at home, in our communities and in our workplaces. As queer creatives and allies, we will continuously learn how we can move the needle for how we show up, when we show up and where we show up.

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Categories: Retail and Restaurants , Retail Stores

LBB Editorial, Thu, 25 May 2023 15:59:02 GMT