Partnership story

New IKEA Campaign to Bring Sustainable Lighting and Energy to UNHCR Refugees Camps


By: Jeremy Sprigge, UNHCR

On Monday 3 February 2014, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and its largest corporate donor, the IKEA Foundation launched a two-month global cause campaign to bring sustainable lighting and energy to refugees living in camps in Ethiopia, Chad, Jordan and Bangladesh.

Traditionally, access to lighting and sustainable energy has not been addressed as a fundamental and basic need in humanitarian assistance to refugees and host communities. However this is changing. In this new campaign, for every IKEA ‘Ledare’ brand LED (light-emitting diode) bulb purchased between the 3rd February and 29th March in IKEA stores in over 40 countries, the IKEA Foundation will donate €1 to UNHCR. Funds raised by the “Brighter Lives for Refugees” campaign will provide solar-powered street lights, indoor solar lanterns and other renewable energy technologies such as fuel-efficient cooking stoves.

There are currently nearly 10.5 million refugees globally. Many have no choice but to live in refugee camps where an absence or lack of lighting and sustainable energy after sunset can have a devastating effect on safety, security and education. Access to sustainable energy and lighting is a globally relevant issue for refugees that lies at the nexus of many of the most important challenges in UNHCR’s humanitarian operations; protection and safety from violence, health and nutrition, livelihoods and education.

Access to energy is a basic need. When this need is not met through humanitarian programs, refugees are often forced to find other ways to cope. For example, they may sell part of their rations to buy fuel to cook, so they eat less; they may wander into the countryside to gather wood, harming the environment, creating conflict with host communities and exposing themselves to violence. Women and children are especially affected. Women who are collecting firewood have limited time to build livelihoods or care for children. Girls who are collecting firewood for fuel are not in school and miss out on the opportunity of education.

Sustainability represents an important focus for IKEA who through their People and Planet Positive strategy have committed to creating a better life for people and communities, including enabling and inspiring customers to live a more sustainable life at home by saving water, energy and waste. Further, by enabling UNHCR to improve refugee camps, making them a safer and more suitable home for refugee children and their families, the campaign supports the objectives of the IKEA Foundation to improve opportunities for children and youth in the world’s poorest communities.

‘Brighter Lives for Refugees’ is UNHCR’s first cause campaign and represents the latest chapter in the collaboration with the IKEA Foundation, which have committed €73 million ($95 million) in support since 2011. The campaign will run for a minimum of three years and will, in addition, provide funds to improve primary education.

For more information, please contact: Jeremy Sprigge, Private Sector Fundraising (PSFR), UNHCR, London.