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Make your voice heard, send a letter to IKEA – Swedwood!

Northern Europe had, until recently, large intact areas of old-growth forest. Remnants of these forests are located in a horseshoe shape running along the Scandes mountains in Norway and Sweden, up to the Lapp regions of northern Finland, and then to northwestern Russia.

But today only a small part of Fennoscandia’s old-growth forests remain. In Karelia, for example, only about 10% of the ancient old-growth forests remain* according to a survey by Russian conservation experts. Companies from other countries, such as the Swedish IKEA/Swedwood, have come to the region in search of cheap resources and are continually logging old-growth forest, in violation of the promises IKEA has made to their customers. Large clear-cuts are made in intact forest areas with centuries-old trees, and the invaluable forest ecosystems are rapidly shrinking. So-called silver firs which first sprouted many hundreds of years ago are being cut down. This kind of forestry can be compared to mining.

IKEA claims in its advertising that the wood they use has been obtained in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way, and that customers do not need to worry that the furniture they buy might contain wood from old-growth forests.

This is a blatant lie – IKEA’s furniture does contain such wood. IKEA is deliberately misleading its customers, not least by hiding behind the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an environmental certification which has often been criticized and which has serious flaws.

Protect the Forest Sweden and Friends of the Earth Sweden have examined IKEA’s actions in Karelia during the last few years, and we have proof of our claims. We demand that IKEA stop lying, and that they abandon their plans to cut down further thousands of hectares of ancient old-growth forest in Russian Karelia and the rest of Russia.

If any company in the world has the capital and power to change their ways and do better, it is IKEA. If they wanted to, IKEA could influence policy makers and rival companies to stop logging old-growth forest, and instead adopt an environmentally sustainable forestry on lands which have already been logged in the past.

Read more about the natural forests of Karelia here:

You, the reader, can protest IKEA’s actions by signing the following letter and sending it to the management of IKEA and Swedwood.

To the management of Swedwood and IKEA,

I am writing to you because your logging in Russian Karelia worries me deeply. Since you are one of the world’s largest furniture companies and your timber consumption is very large, your actions affect not only humans and nature locally, but you affect forest ecosystems on a global level.

Because of your size, you need to take responsibility for both the environmental and social consequences of your actions. At the same time, you have the economic resources to actually take that responsibility.
I therefore appeal to you to:

  1. Speak the truth!
  2. Immediately cease the logging of forests with high conservation value
  3. Ensure protection for the remaining old-growth forests on the Swedwood lands in Russian Karelia
  4. Be a positive political force for environmental sustainability, instead of repeating old colonial patterns
  5. Take steps towards a more trustworthy IKEA.

Read a more detailed version of the demands below:

  • IKEA, speak the truth!
    “Low prices, but not at any cost” – this is how IKEA describes itself in advertising. They claim that their products are produced in an environmentally sustainable manner, and that old-growth forests and other forests with high conservation value are not logged or used as raw materials by IKEA. But to sell mass-produced wood products at such low prices and to do it in an environmentally and socially sustainable way is simply not possible. IKEA keeps its prices low by hiding the real cost of its products. The consequence is that workers are repaid by low wages and bad labor conditions and nature is repaid by the destruction of forest ecosystems. We have extensive documentation of how IKEA through Swedwood, which is a subsidiary IKEA wholly owns, regularly cuts down old-growth forest in Russian Karelia.
  • Immediately cease the logging of forests with high conservation value
    IKEA and Swedwood must openly declare that they will not continue to log or to buy raw materials from identified old-growth forest and other forests with high conservation value, or from areas which are planned to be formally protected in the future, in Russian Karelia and the rest of Russia.
    Inventories made by Protect the Forest as well as by Finnish and Russian experts in forest conservation have documented that IKEA, through Swedwood, entirely clear-cuts areas of old-growth forest, and they plan to continue this in the future. These forests provide a home for many species which are now on the decline in northwestern Europe as a whole. Many of the felled trees are pines and spruces which have reached the venerable age of 200-600 years.
  • Ensure protection for the remaining old-growth forests on the Swedwood lands in Russian Karelia
    Protect the Forest demands that IKEA ensures protection for the remaining forests with high conservation value on the lands that IKEA has leased from the Karelian government, so that other investors cannot destroy them either. Since IKEA is one of the world’s most profitable and rich companies, this is a plausible demand, and it is the least they can do to recompense the thousands of hectares of old-growth forest they have cut down and profited by.
  • Be a positive political force for environmental sustainability, instead of repeating old colonial patterns
    IKEA’s forestry in Russian Karelia follows the same colonial pattern that we have seen Western companies adopt in many parts of the world. Political and legal loopholes are taken advantage of to ensure the continued availability of cheap forest resources. Protect the Forest demands that IKEA cease this colonial behavior immediately. Instead, IKEA must take regional responsibility and use the position the company has as an important investor in Russian Karelia to influence the government there towards a responsible and sustainable environmental policy.
  • Four steps towards a more trustworthy IKEA
    If IKEA actually wants to live up to its own professed standards, the company could start with the following:
    a) True dialogue with the local population and with environmental organizations
    IKEA and Swedwood ought to be involved in a real dialogue with all interested parties, such as the local population who use the forest for hunting, firewood, recreation, berry-picking, etc; with eco-tourism companies and other local companies who use the forest; and with environmental organizations. When it comes to the protection of old-growth forests and the environmental impact of forestry, the dialogue should include organizations such as the Russian environmental organization SPOK, Protect the Forest, etc.
    b) A transparent account of the conservation undertakings
  • IKEA and Swedwood must provide clear and easily-understood maps of their environmental conservation undertakings (including GIS maps). IKEA and Swedwood have claimed that they voluntarily protect large areas of old-growth forest from logging. When Protect the Forest examined the maps, which were quite difficult to interpret, it seemed that a large part of these protected areas are not voluntary, but are required by Russian law, such as buffer zones next to lakes, streams, and wetlands. IKEA must make clear how much is voluntarily protected, exactly where these areas are, and how long-term the protections are intended to be. When such maps are available, interested parties can examine whether IKEA really is protecting all forests with high conservation value.
    c) Finish the survey of forests with high conservation value
    IKEA and Swedwood should, within the next 3-6 months, finish the survey of forests with high conservation value within the areas leased by Swedwood, and invite all interested parties, including the Karelian government, to a dialogue about how to protect these forests. Until this is done, there should be a moratorium on logging in Swedwood forests with high conservation value and forests suspected to contain such values.
    d) Introduce an environmentally sustainable forestry in already-logged forests
    The power which a large company such as IKEA possesses through Swedwood ought to be used to introduce and work for environmentally sustainable forestry practices in forests which have already been logged in the past or are otherwise affected by humans. IKEA and Swedwood could thereby inspire other forestry companies and the Russian government towards an improved forestry legislation and a forestry which does not impoverish the forest biologically and socially.

Read more about the situation for the natural forests of Karelia here:

  • The initiator of the Appeal is the organization Protect the Forest
  • All small old-growth forest areas have not been identified yet, which makes the figure of just over 10 percent, approximate. Further work on identification of small areas of old-growth forest, would probably increase the percentage of old forest a little.
  • Every day, the area of primeval forest is shrinking because of forestry in Northern Europe.