WEDNESDAY 27 FEB 2019 3:20 PM


Ikea has super-sized one of its bath toys and placed it in the River Thames. The automated toys are collecting river jetsam in southeast London to promote sustainability and follows a number of initiatives by the furniture giant to reform its environmental image.

During half term week, Ikea has launched two giant remote control versions of its Småkryps, three-part bath toys physically available on the company’s website, to clean up the River Thames in southeast London.  

The educational initiative is led by advertising agency Mother London, in a partnership with the Creekside Education Trust in Deptford. It is part of Ikea’s campaign to mark the opening of its newest Greenwich store, advertised as the company’s ‘first sustainable store in the UK.’ The initiative also sets an example on the creative use of business assets to support company values; children throughout half term have been able to steer the ‘Good Ship Ikea’ remotely, as well as engage in recycled plastic workshops to learn about sustainability.

Despite showcasing lively and colourful appearance, ‘Good Ship Ikea’ is powered by fully functional environmental clean-up boat technologies, allowing it to collect trash efficiently from around the river. Each boat can clean up to around 20 kilograms of waste at a time, and all the collected rubbish will be employed to create a sculpture to be featured at the Greenwich store.

Now that the installation is over, the company plans to donate the boats to sustainability charity Hubbub, which will keep it operational to tackle the issue of water-borne trash.

Learning from the past – Ikea's new sustainable strategy

Ikea’s recent focus on sustainability comes as an attempt to suggest a more positive brand image of the company itself. For years, Ikea has strived to achieve the lowest prices in the furniture market, which meant having to come to compromises with the production chain, including clear-cutting old growth trees in endangered areas of Russia. Furthermore, Ikea’s low prices encourage fast purchase and even faster disposability of the company’s products. By selling goods which prove easier to replace than to fix – especially in home decor – Ikea has long been synonym with waste and expendable consumer goods.

But things are changing for the Swedish retailer, and ‘Good Ship Ikea’ is just one of the many recent initiatives coming from the company’s ‘People & Planet’ strategy, battling sustainability issues and waste in the industry. Ikea’s efforts can be seen through most of their new products and their approach to customer engagement, promoting a more sustainable life at home and outside.

Overall, the company’s new approach confirms that sustainable thinking is now vital to long-term survival in the current business landscape. It’s an example of how it’s possible for even the worst sustainability offenders to turn around and become advocates for ethical practices. Ikea’s past may be difficult to forget – but the Swedish company has already made some significant steps in the pathway to redemption.