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IKEA accused of felling trees in protected woodlands

The Swedish furniture chain Ikea has been accused of felling trees up to 600 years old from protected woodlands to make flat-pack furniture.

As a result, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which promotes the responsible management of the world’s woodlands, has stripped Swedwood, Ikea’s forestry subsidiary, of certification confirming that wood cut from forests in Russia is being harvested sustainably.

The move comes after an audit of Swedwood’s operations in north Karelia, near the Russian-Finnish border, which is home to one of Europe’s last great forests.

Swedwood has leases to log 700,000 acres provided it avoids old trees and does not clear steep slopes, which erode without tree cover.

However, an audit found a number of “major deviations” from the rules, including the harvesting of “key biotopes”, or older trees.

“During the field inspections, auditors found key biotopes had not been identified before harvest ... key biotopes were found also at the harvest areas of previous years,” it said, adding that logging staff were unable to identify important habitat that must be left alone.

Simon Counsell, executive director of Rainforest Foundation UK, said ancient trees would have ended up in cut-price Ikea furniture.

The FSC decision is embarrassing for Ikea, whose promotion of the sustainability of its wood has helped to make it one of the UK’s bestselling furniture brands.

The company made global profits of £2.7bn last year.

According to a report last year by Pacific Standard magazine, Ikea requires about 1% of the world’s wood supply.

For conservation groups, which have long argued that logging in Karelia is inherently unsustainable and that the FSC certification system is deeply flawed, the decision is a belated victory.

Linda Ellegaard Nordstrom, a director of the campaign group Protect the Forest Sweden, said: “The report raises several deficiencies, but does not describe the main problem, which is fragmenting the forest.”

Shortly before the FSC announcement, Ikea announced it was planning to shut down operations in Karelia.

In a statement, it said: “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.

“Whilst disappointed we also believe that the certificate suspension shows that the FSC system is working. We take our responsibility for the forests and the people who work there very seriously.”

Source : Louise Gray & Jonathan Leake - The Sunday Times

24 February 2014
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