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FSC Suspends IKEA's Certification After Discovering Use of Old-Growth Forests in Russia

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While Ikea has been leading the charge in its use of sustainably sourced cotton and promotion of LED lighting, it apparently should pay closer attention to its wood sourcing — the company recently got a slap on the wrist from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which suspended IKEA’s certification after discovering that the Swedish furniture giant’s subsidiary, Swedwood, has been cutting 600-year-old trees in Karelia, Russia, near the border of Finland.

Environmental organizations have voiced their concern about IKEA’s logging of old-growth forests in Karelia for several years, according to Protect the Forest, Sweden (PFS), which apparently last year handed the company over 180,000 signatures and a joint statement with demands and suggestions for how it should transform its forestry practices and preserve valuable old-growth forests. Despite the withdrawal of IKEA’s FSC certification due to logging of key biotopes, insufficient dialogue, lack of environmental consideration and work environment issues, PFS says FSC is not addressing the core issues.

”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,” says PFS' Linda Ellegaard Nordström. “Together with Russian environmental organizations we have suggested to IKEA that they, as an influential multinational corporation, should set a good example by announcing that they will no longer log or buy timber from intact old-growth forests, whether the forests are certified or not.”

Karelia is home to one of Europe's last old-growth forests and Swedwood has permission to log 700,000 acres in the region, provided it avoids old trees and does not clear steep slopes, which erode without tree cover, according to the Daily Mail.

An IKEA spokesperson told the UK paper: “'Our FSC certificate for Karelia has been suspended. We see the suspension of the certificate as highly temporary.

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.

“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.”

Days after the announcement of the certificate's suspension, IKEA announced that it will shut down its operations in Karelia during 2014.

“We would have liked to see IKEA take responsibility and leave the old natural forests alone, and move their production to secondary-growth forests in Karelia, in consultation with the government of Karelia and other concerned stakeholders,” said PFS’ Viktor Säfve.

"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,” the IKEA spokesperson said. “We will do this through organizations such as the FSC.”

To learn more about how companies worldwide are cleaning up their supply chains, check out our editorial channel.

Jennifer Elks is Managing Editor at Sustainable Brands. She is a writer, editor and foodie who is passionate about improving food systems, closing loops and creating more livable cities. She loves cooking, wine, cooking with wine, correcting spelling errors in… [Read more about Jennifer Elks]

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