Inspiring a sustainable future

Brendan Seale inspires a sustainable future through his work as Sustainability Leader at Ikea Group.

by Jillian Clark
Brendan Seale is Ikea Canada's Sustainability Leader.

Brendan Seale is Ikea Canada's Sustainability Leader. — Photo: Ikea

A personal drive for a sustainable future

Brendan Seale saw a need for sustainability, and made a huge career shift to meet this global requirement. He started his career in corporate communications. “I actually worked for a mining company at that time,” he said. “As a young man out of school, I was becoming a lot more aware of the connections in our world: the interconnectivity of our economic activity and the impact of society on the environment.”

Seale saw the challenge of creating a sustainable society, and realized that he was not equipped to support the change he wanted to see in the world. “My moment of clarity was recognizing that I wanted to contribute to the change—support the emergence of a more sustainable future—but I didn’t feel equipped to do that.” Seale made the decision to obtain his master of science degree in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability from Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden.

"It became clear to me early in my career that we have a great challenge in front of us as a human society of creating a just and sustainable society that will allow us to thrive into the future. It dawned on me that I was not personally equipped to support the change that will be required for the coming decades," he said. 

Implementing sustainable strategies at Ikea

Seale returned to Canadian soil, and used his master's degree from Sweden to earn the role of Sustainability Leader at Ikea. Working with a large company like Ikea helps Seale reach his underlying goals to create change. “We’ve seen a great erosion of trust in large institutions, and I think that there are some large institutions that wield a great deal of power,” he said. To Seale, success is “making a meaningful contribution to a cause.” Large institutions “have a huge opportunity to effect change in positive ways,” he said. 

Seale said that Ikea especially “has the scale to make a difference.” Working with Ikea extends Seale’s personal influence—he said he feels as though he has achieved success because he gets to work towards his goals of making a meaningful contribution on a daily basis: “I’m thankful for that.”

Seale described his work at Ikea

“My job as a Sustainability Leader at Ikea is to translate the global strategy–People and Planet Positive—into a relevant strategy for our market in Canada,” he said. His work touches consumers’ home lives, the operation footprint of Ikea and the local community. “I love it. It can be local, national or global, and I can be looking at commercial, operational or community-based issues through my work. Truly, no days are the same,” Seale said.

“The real challenge is to integrate sustainability across the operations and culture and governance of an organization,” he said. When done well, it can take on a life of its own in a community. The ability to lead change plays a major role in Seale’s success as Sustainability Leader: “Sustainability work is as much about leadership as it is understanding what a sustainable future looks like.”

Aside from leading, good leaders should know how to lead different types of people, and even when to follow. “We don’t always need to be leading in the sense that we are out in the front leading. Enabling others to do great work is a powerful skill,” Seale said. He views sustainability leadership as inspiring change, rather than leading from the front of the line.

A positive perspective on a sustainable future

“It’s very easy when we look at sustainability challenges, whether they are social or environmental, and quickly adopt a doom-and-gloom approach,” said Seale. Many do adopt this hopeless perspective on sustainability. Seale always tries to bring “the futuristic look and the strategic thinking” into his work “to create a positive vision of what we would like to achieve.”

“It’s great to approach this work with joyfulness and positivity around the future we can create together,” he said. Through his positive perspective, Seale is able to help build lasting values within the business. Shared values, shared vision and a shared respect are part of his positive approach to creating a sustainable future. Seale loves when he sees others adopting his attitude towards sustainability.

Ikea buys windmill near Drumheller

Ikea Canada has recently made a big move to decrease its environmental footprint. They are waiting to finalize their acquisition of Wintering Hills, an 88-megawatt wind farm near Drumheller, Alberta. The wind power facility cost Ikea $58.6 million, but is priceless to the company’s sustainability goals. The goal is to produce more renewable energy than their stores consume by 2020. Sustainability Leader Brendan Seale was a part of this decision.

Ikea has purchased another wind farm near Drumheller, Alberta, to offset their energy consumption across all of Canada's stores.

Ikea has purchased a wind farm near Drumheller, Alberta, to offset its energy consumption across all of Canada's stores. — Photo: Ikea

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