A wholly-owned subsidiary of home furnishings giant IKEA has been accused of destroying rapidly-dwindling old growth forests in Russia. The NGO Protect the Forest accuses IKEA’s Swedwood of clear cutting and logging old-growth trees in the region of Karelia in northern Russia. IKEA claims that it is operating within the standards set by third party certifier Forest Stewardship Council. Unfortunately, it seems that the Russian standards for FSC certification do not ban logging in old-growth areas.
Certification Not Enough to Protect
“Swedish forests are already impoverished, and now the same thing is happening with the valuable forests in Russian Karelia,” stated Protect the Forest board member Linda Ellegaard Nordström. “The same environmental certification system is used in both Sweden and Russia: the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This is a disaster for the forest both here in Sweden and in Russia. The company NEPCon, which certifies that Swedwood’s forestry is compliant with FSC standards, allows the logging of trees which are 200-600 years old.”
IKEA has clearly stated its sustainable forestry commitments: “The IKEA Group participates in a number of forestry projects with external organizations in order to contribute to the development of responsible forestry practices and policies in countries where we work. The IKEA Group’s forestry projects focus on responsible management practices, building capacity for third party certification, combating illegal logging and forestry research and education.”
This video from Al Jazeera English shows centuries-old trees that were “cleared” from forests.
The video demonstrates the disagreement on the definitions of old-growth and high value conservation forest, and this allows Swedwood to remain within the letter of the law.
IKEA’s Good, But Could Be Better
IKEA is by no means the worst offender with these activities – illegal logging on a huge scale is going on all over the world, and the Swedish company has made many advances that its competitors have not matched, including working with global NGOs like WWF and Rainforest Alliance. These examples of corporate social responsibility may indicate that drawing attention to this situation via public pressure (such as this petition) will lead the furniture giant to go beyond compliance and do the right thing in Karelia.
IKEA has a good record in several areas of environmental stewardship; for example, over half its energy is derived from renewable sources, and the IKEA Foundation is active in combatting child labor in India. The company’s own website confirms that they have a ways to go in terms of sustainable logging: “The share of FSC certified solid wood in the IKEA range increased to 16.2% in FY11, up from 15.8% in the previous year.”
Their 2011 annual summary on sustainability efforts concludes: “We will continue to strengthen our sustainability direction and keep it at the heart of our business. We can have a positive impact on people and the planet. What could be more important?” We agree.
Sign the petition asking IKEA to desist from logging old growth forest, in alignment with their stated values.
Image: Cross-section of 400 year old tree logged by IKEA, sent to corporate HQ by Protect the Forest NGO May 2012 Photo: Daniel Rutschman