Ikea Criticized for Reportedly Eating up Romanian Forests

  • Ikea’s quest for timber is harming some of Romania’s ancient forests, according to The New Republic.
  • Ikea has long touted its positive environmental record and sustainability, and told Insider “under no circumstances does IKEA accept illegally logged wood.”
  • The furniture company has previously attracted scrutiny over potential ties to illegal logging.

Activists are blasting furniture giant Ikea for its reported push to buy up Romanian forests in order to access the country’s valuable wood resources. Reporting for The New Republic, Alexander Sammon investigated Ikea’s reliance on Romanian timber, along with the rampant deforestation and the violent business of illegal logging occurring in the country.

The Swedish furniture company has long touted its environmental record. The company currently runs a 2030 initiative to promote responsible management, and has called for the protection of endangered species and replanting trees to make up for deforestation caused by logging. Ikea also announced plans to reduce its furniture waste in 2020.

On its website, the company claims to mostly source its wood from “Sweden, Poland, Russia, Lithuania and Germany.” But The New Republic reported that the furniture-maker could get up to 10% of its timber from Romania, and that Ikea has become the country’s “largest private landowner” and the globe’s “largest individual consumer of wood,” as it’s doubled its wood consumption during the past decade.

The New Republic reported that Romanian nonprofit Agent Green filed a complaint against Ikea, alleging that they had photographic proof that the company was “clear-cutting without a permit and without an environmental impact assessment in an Ikea-owned old-growth forest.”

“Under no circumstances does IKEA accept illegally logged wood,” a spokesperson for IKEA of Sweden AB said in a statement to Insider. “We have developed a comprehensive due diligence system with multiple safeguards. This includes strict requirements for documentation of wood origin by our direct suppliers, a global team of wood sourcing and forestry that perform over 200 audits a year, and third-party auditors that control our supply chain with a special focus on high right countries.”

An audit by the Forest Stewardship Council found that Ikea hadn’t broke any rules, but Agent Green representatives told the magazine that they doubted the credibility of this finding.

This isn’t Ikea’s first brush with controversy around its wood-procurement practices. In 2021, an investigation by London-based environmental group Earthsight found that Ikea had likely been using illegally-obtained Russian wood in its children’s furniture for years. In 2012, a joint report from the United Nations Environment Program and INTERPOL found that anywhere from 15% to 30% of “the volume of wood traded globally has been obtained illegally.”

In response to the Earthsight investigation, Ikea told NBC that the company would “no longer accept wood from a number of companies” affiliated with the supplier facing claims of illegally obtained wood.

According to The New Republic, Ikea began buying up Romanian forestland in 2015. Sammon also reported that the country has seen up to two-thirds of its virgin forests vanish since 2007. The New Republic used a drone to photograph swaths of Ikea-owned forests that had been cut down, oftentimes adjacent to protected sites. An Ikea spokesperson told Insider that the company has worked “with multiple stakeholders” to “improve forest management and sourcing practices in Romania.”

“Romania is a country that continues to face certain challenges related to forestry practices and we remain committed to using our presence to further improve the situation,” an Ikea spokesperson said in a statement to Insider.

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