The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has withdrawn its certification of Swedwood, a forestry subsidiary of furniture giant IKEA (which also goes under the names Swedwood Karelia and IKEA Industry).
According to the FSC, a recent trip to the Karelia Forest in Russia revealed that the company has been harvesting old-growth trees in the protected regions of the Russian forest, which is located near the Russia-Finland border.
The subsidiary has leases to log 700,000 acres, as long as it does not cut down old-growth trees and trees in specified areas. According to FSC’s report there were “major deviations” from regulations that included the suspected harvesting of 600-year-old trees.
IKEA’s profits last year exceeded $4 billion. Approximately 1 percent of the world’s wood supply is said to be harvested by the Swedish furniture company.
According to the Swedish environmental organization Protect the Forest, concerns about IKEA’s operations in Karelia date back more than a year. According to PTF’s website, a petition containing 180,000 signatures from environmental organizations was submitted to IKEA about two years ago "with demands and suggestions for how Ikea should transform their forestry and preserve valuable old-growth forests.” IKEA was encouraged to work with environmental experts who were formulating a master plan for the protected forests of Karelia.
In fact, as we reported in December 2012, questions were already being raised about Swedwood’s logging practices, which the Global Forest Coalition said included logging the areas that are now being investigated in 2014.
IKEA issued a statement downplaying the relationship of the suspension to environmental concerns. Per an IKEA spokesperson, "[the] deviations mainly cover issues related to facilities and equipment for our co-workers, forestry management as well as training of our forestry co-workers." No further statement could be found on its website regarding the suspension, but a company spokesperson told MailOnline that "[the company's] full focus is now on correcting the remaining deviations and reinstating the FSC certificate urgently," saying that the furniture giant sees the suspension as "highly temporary."
PTF, however, says that FSC issued the suspension because of environmental violations that included included “logging of key biotopes, insufficient dialogue, lack of environmental consideration and work environment issues.”
“But unfortunately, the audit report does not address clearly enough our main concern over the FSC-certified logging of intact tracts of natural forests,” said Linda Ellegaard Nordstrom, a director of PTF. “The report raises several deficiencies, but does not describe the main problem, which is that pioneer exploitation, with fragmenting and breaking into the last intact forest landscapes and tracts, does not fit to FSC's principles and criteria. Thus we believe that the FSC label is still far from being a guarantee for sustainable forestry.”
Swedwood Karelia announced on Feb. 11 that it was suspending operations in the Karelia Forest and would be leaving the area. The news prompted some scathing criticism from several regional environmental organizations, including Friends of the Earth Sweden.
"IKEA’s departure from this part of Karelia, with its high concentration of old natural forest, clearly shows that it is not ecologically, socially, or economically sustainable to harvest old-growth forest, which are a non-renewable resource,” said the organization’s representative, Klas Ancker.
It also has prompted some concerns by PTF, as to the fate of a fully-operational mill in the Russian Republic of Karelia.
“Since IKEA now intends to leave Karelia, our opinion is that they have a great responsibility to make sure that whoever possibly buys their factory has a genuine environmental commitment and does not accept timber from intact forests,” said Ancker. “IKEA owes this to Karelia.”
Update: An IKEA spokesperson sent Triple Pundit the following statement via email: "IKEA does not use 600 year old trees in our products. The average age of the trees we are cutting in the lease is 160 years... A majority of the deviations have already been corrected and our full focus is now on correcting the remaining deviations and reinstating the FSC certificate urgently. We take our responsibility for the forests and the people who work there very seriously and we appreciate that correcting the deviations will improve the way we manage the forest in Karelia."
Image of IKEA store in Sweden: Christian Koehn
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.