IKEA's FSC certificate suspended for poor forestry practices in Russia

Furniture giant IKEA has had its forest management certificate suspended for its operations in Karelia, Russia, after the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) revealed concerns with poor forestry practices.

Karelia is home to one of Europe's last great forests

Karelia is home to one of Europe's last great forests

The FSC, which promotes the responsible management of the world's woodland, said that forest management issues such as a lack of proper environmental impact assessments used at the local level before harvest has led the organisation to suspend IKEA's FSC certificate for its Karelia operations, which is near the Russian-Finnish border.

Media reports in the Sunday Times (23 February) and the Daily Mail (24 February) suggested that Swedwood, IKEA's forestry subsidiary, was felling 600-year old trees from protected woolands in Karelia. Rainforest Foundation UK executive director Simon Counsell told the Sunday Times that ancient trees would have ended up in cut-price IKEA furniture. However, a FSC spokeswoman dismissed this reason for IKEA's FSC certificate suspension.

An FSC spokeswoman told edie.net that the main reasons for suspension are:

  • Lack of proper environmental impact assessment used at the local level before harvest;
  • Failure to maintain at least one forest clump per each seven-hectare opening;
  • Failure to identify key biotopes (an area of uniform environmental conditions providing a living place for a specific assemblage of plants and animals) before harvest;
  • Harvest within buffer zones around marshes and steep slopes, and on landscape features that could be used to maintain patchiness within the forest;
  • Failure to change from large-scale clearcuts to narrow strip harvesting or to smaller clearcuts (up to several hectares), shelterwood cuts or selection harvest; and
  • Failure by forest engineers to wear protective equipment when clearing trees that had fallen across a road.

The FSC also said that it welcomed the fact that both Swedwood and IKEA had committed to correcting the deviations.

Speaking to edie.net, IKEA global forestry manager Anders Hildeman said: "We were definitely not up to scratch with our performance in Karelia. But a majority of the deviations have now been corrected and we are confident that we will get our certificate back as quickly as possible. We are committed to working with our supply chain and suppliers to increase the amount of FSC materials that we use. We are already one of the biggest users of FSC certified wood in the retail sector."

An IKEA spokeswoman added: "Wood is one of our most important materials and it is used in many of our products. For us it is important to offer home furnishing products of good quality to low prices. However, a low price must never be at the expense of quality of production conditions.

"Our FSC certificate for Karelia has been suspended. We see the suspension of the certificate as highly temporary. 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. 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.

"And whilst disappointed we also believe that the certificate suspension shows that the FSC system working. 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.

"While operating in Karelia, we have worked together with NGOs and authorities to improve forestry management in the region, for example set aside forest land and to leave trees standing on the logging sites.

"IKEA is committed to responsible forest management and to the principles of the FSC. Our lease in Karelia has been FSC certified since 2006 and we believe that a reinstated FSC certificate will continue to be the best protection for natural values in the logging areas.

"Once we have transitioned our operations, we will continue to support the development of responsible forest management in Russia, which will also have positive impact on the Karelia region. We will do this through organisations such as the FSC."

Liz Gyekye
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