IKEA’s Sustainability Misstep

With climate change being a more pressing issue than ever, it seems like great news that corporations are stepping up to the plate to tackle this urgent problem before it’s too late. Ikea, everyone’s favorite do-it-yourself Swedish home retailer, promises that by 2030, they will be more sustainable than ever. According to their sustainability strategy on their website, IKEA is focusing on tackling 3 major focus areas titled: “Healthy and Sustainable Living,” “Circular and Climate Positive,” and “Fair and Equal.” They further elaborate on the strategies they are using to reach their goals, which include points such as working on being powered by 100% renewable energy in all stores, promoting gender equality and equal pay for their employees, and supporting refugees. These are all incredibly important and noble strides to mitigating the climate crisis, but IKEA is not perfect. Right now, no corporation is. They kind of forgot to mention the part about making an effort to stop getting their wood supply from illegal lumber operations.

In 2019, IKEA came under fire for illegally logging wood in Ukrainian forests, and furthermore, were marketing the wood used in their products as sustainable. Illegal logging is the mass-harvesting of wood done either without special permits or in violation of said permits. Earthsight, a non-profit organization that investigates climate crimes, reported that IKEA had been working with corrupt-state owned logging companies to fell trees in the Ukrainian Carpathians. 40.2% of the Carpathians are forests, and it is home to countless threatened and endangered species such as the brown bear and the lynx. It is estimated that in 2018, 1 million m3 of wood in this region was illegally harvested.

IKEA relies heavily on the Ukrainian and Russian region to supply wood for its production range. In order to guarantee that wood is sustainably supplied, the company worked with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a non-profit that oversees sustainable forest management. Despite that, illegally harvested wood from beech trees that are FSC certified have been used to make furniture like the Terje Chair and Ingolf dining chair. Once these allegations came to light, IKEA announced that they would investigate their lumber supply chains, and released a short, vague statement stating that the FSC found that no illegal harvesting had been done, with no backing to support this claim.

This is a big deal because the importance of forests to the environment cannot be emphasized enough. Second to oceans, forests are the second largest storehouses of carbon dioxide, making them essential to combating the 43 billion tons of CO2 that is released into our atmosphere every single year. Additionally, roughly 2 billion people rely on forests to provide shelter, food, water, medicine, jobs, and fuel, in addition to the countless terrestrial species around the globe that call forests home. Because of the reliance we and so many species have on forests to survive, to say that illegal lumber harvesting operations are committing eco-terrorism is an understatement.

IKEA’s illegal logging ties don’t stop in Ukraine. Not too long ago, in summer of 2021, Earthsight reported that IKEA’s Sundvik, their children’s furniture range, has been made with illegally harvested wood from Siberian forests, which make up one of the largest and most important carbon sinks in the world. Once again, the FSC certified this wood as legally harvested. This time, IKEA claims that it cut ties with that Russian logging company, and states that it has temporarily banned logging in Siberia until a more sustainable option is found. Whether or not IKEA will follow through on these promises in addition to the recently announced measures it’s taking to forest management in their supply chain remains to be seen. But so far, IKEA has failed to prove that it is a company paving the way for a more sustainable future. Unless IKEA can prove that it is actually working to fulfil the promises in its sustainable strategy plan, it will just be yet another greenwashing corporation.

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Lauren Holliday

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