Watch Now

Climate coalition calls for Ikea to ‘abandon dirty ships’ by 2030

First zero-emissions ships expected to be operational by 2024

(Photo: Ship It Zero)

Climate and health coalition Ship It Zero is calling on Ikea to transition to zero-emissions shipping by 2030. The coalition delivered a petition signed by nearly 20,000 shoppers to the company’s Delft, Netherlands, headquarters Thursday, urging Ikea to “abandon dirty ships.”

Ship It Zero is led by environmental organizations Pacific Environment and It also targeted Walmart, Amazon and Target for their contributions to climate change and air pollution through shipping.

Ship It Zero has three main goals, according to Dawny’all Heydari, campaign lead:

  • Push companies to “immediately abandon dirty cargo ships” and incorporate emissions-reduction technologies and methods such as slow steaming and wind-assisted propulsion.
  • Call on retailers to sign contracts to ship goods on the world’s first zero-emissions vessels.
  • Urge retailers to commit to 100% zero-emissions shipping by 2030.

In July, the coalition published a “Shady Ships” report about the retailers that contribute the most to ocean shipping-related emissions. It listed Ikea as the seventh-largest polluter in the U.S. The report said Ikea’s shipping led to more than 400,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and over 16,000 metric tons of air pollutants, such as sulfur oxide and particulate matter, in 2019.

This air pollution, Heydari said, leaves port communities at a “heightened risk of asthma, cancer, and premature death.” Ship It Zero even held “die-ins” to call attention to the 260,000 premature deaths and 6.4 million childhood asthma cases linked to burning fossil fuels for shipping annually.

Read: Report: Sustainable marine fuels should meet expansive criteria

“We know that Ikea aims to be a climate leader in the industry. With the knowledge we gathered on Ikea’s ship pollution, Ship It Zero staged this action to push Ikea to be accountable to its own ambitions of averting the most catastrophic climate scenarios and ultimately saving human life. The time for ending dependence on fossil fuels in ocean shipping has arrived,” Heydari told FreightWaves.

This call to action from Ship It Zero came just a day after Ikea announced it will be a partner for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. 

Ikea did not respond to FreightWaves’ request for a comment, but the company’s climate goals, as stated on its website, include: 

  • Reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions from product transport by 15% by 2030, compared to 2017, while growing the business.
  • Switching to 100% renewable energy across the entire supply chain by 2030.
  • Becoming “climate positive” by 2030 and reaching net-zero emissions no later than 2050, using science-based targets.
  • Achieving a circular business model by 2030 by leveraging buy-back, resell, repair and furniture leasing programs.

“It is undeniable: There is a growing trend for corporations to set sustainability goals. Currently a quarter of the Fortune 500 companies have set targets to be carbon-neutral by 2030. That should be applauded. Meanwhile, we should push more organizations to do the same,” said Danny Gomez, managing director of financial and emerging markets at FreightWaves.

Gomez continued: “The reality is, the world is watching, so once you publicly set goals, you need to be prepared to explain how you are tracking to those goals. Firms need to do their homework and really chart their path to carbon neutrality before they make public announcements. If you are falling short, someone is going to hold your feet to the fire, which isn’t a bad thing, but it needs to be done in a productive way. We are all in this together.”

Read: E-methanol: Missing piece to shipping’s decarbonization puzzle?

Potential for zero-emissions shipping by 2030

The Global Maritime Forum estimates that zero-emissions shipping fuels will need to make up at least 5% of the global fuel mix by 2030 to be in line with the Paris Agreement. The forum said that establishing this target would “mobilize stakeholders along the supply chain” to make investments in zero-emissions shipping fuel, technology and infrastructure while also providing an increased level of confidence that there is a demand for these fuels.

“Corporate cargo customers like Ikea must step up to the leadership helm by taking immediate steps to reduce their maritime climate pollution and committing to zero-emissions shipping by 2030,” Kendra Ulrich, shipping campaigns director at, said in the release.

Ulrich referred to carbon credits, biofuels and liquefied natural gas as “false climate solutions” and said they will “sink our livable future before we’ve even set sail.”

In the short term, Ship It Zero recommended slow steaming, using wind propulsion, maximizing efficiency in terms of route planning, hull cleanings, coatings and air lubrication, prioritizing contracts with carriers for ports with shore power, demanding zero-emissions fuels from carriers, and investing in zero-emissions shipping.

The coalition’s report said that adding wind-harnessing technologies to existing ships can reduce emissions by up to 30% per voyage and 8% to 10% per year.

Long term, the coalition estimated that zero-emissions ships would be on the water by 2024, giving the Swedish retailer six years to fully decarbonize its ocean shipping operations by 2030. Heydari said the group is looking at the life cycle emissions of fuels from well to wake and considers wind-assist propulsion, battery-electric power and green hydrogen-based fuels such as ammonia and e-methanol to be the future of clean shipping.

Heydari also said there is potential to create “thriving, green port economies” by investing in local production and storage of these zero-emissions fuels near ports.

“It’s time to set sail on zero-emissions cargo ships and break retailers’ dependence on ships that pollute our ports, harm our health and obstruct our opportunity to meet our climate objectives,” Heydari said.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

Ocean delays turn desperate retailers to the skies, increasing emissions

Want your own farm? This one comes in a shipping container

Will sustainability fall to the wayside this peak season?

Maersk throws its weight behind unicorn electrofuels company

Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.