Ikea's Simple and Sustainable Solution to Promote Safety in Refugee Camps

Millions of people are living in hundreds of refugee camps around the world, and too often, that means living in darkness and danger. The Ikea Foundation has made it a point to light up these places. 

In 2014, Ikea launched the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, donating €1 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for every LED bulb Ikea customers purchased. In its inaugural year, the campaign raised €7 million to provide solar street lights in the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan; solar lanterns and streetlights for families living in the camps in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia; and lighting for children living in camps in Chad to continue their educations.

Well, the Ikea Foundation has done it again, raising €10.8 million to provide sustainable lighting to displaced people living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, Chad, Ethiopia, and Jordan. The funds will also go toward solar streetlights for the camps themselves and solar lanterns for the families. The money will also support continuing illumination of primary schools in Chad.

Oh, and did we mention that Ikea raised that €10.8 million not over the course of the year, but over the course of two months? Pretty impressive. But then, Ikea has been impressing us lately with its big leap into big giving.

Related: Ikea Foundation is Ramping Up

We’ve been keeping a close watch on Ikea since it began ramping up its funding in 2014. The foundation is committed to giving away at least three percent of its profits annually, and with a slow but steady rise in net profits to around $4 billion, we at IP made a bet that it would begin giving away more money than ever before. And so far, it’s looking like Ikea is staying on that generous trajectory.

What’s even a bit more impressive is that Ikea is not only ramping up its giving, it has zeroed in on some of the most urgent global problems—disaster response and relief, empowering women and girls, fighting child labor, fighting for children’s rights, and helping refugee children and their families. All of these matters are a far cry from the early days at the foundation when it focused its funding exclusively on architecture and interior design.

In regard to Ikea’s recent funding interests, it has been really dialed in to the growing refugee crises in Syria, Sudan, and Iraq. These are all arenas where many other funders fear to tread. 

Related: Ikea Foundation Goes Where Other Funders Won't. This Time: Sudan

We know that funding in conflict zones is complex and messy for a number of reasons. And Ikea is a furniture store—what could it know about the levels of human suffering occurring in camps around the world?

Presumably not much, which is probably why the foundation works in close partnership with UNHCR, which operates on the front lines of every major refugee crisis in the world. And it supports the UNHCR in a big way. Not long ago, Ikea gave UNHCR €62 million over three years for the agency’s work with Somali refugees who had recently arrived at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Shortly after that, it gave another €76 million to UNHCR and other refugee organizations to provide shelter, care, and education for refugee children and their families in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Bangladesh.

We’re keeping an eye on Ikea. It’s doing big things in areas of the world where many other NGOs aren’t working.

Related: Ikea Jumps in to Help Refugees Again. This Time With Better Shelters in Iraq and Beyond