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IKEA accused of fleecing Russia's primeval forests for furniture

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 5th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While Swedish furniture manufacturer IKEA takes pride in being "green" and only harvesting wood that is "sustainable, it's practice of chopping down trees in Russia's most primeval forests is drawing mounting criticism - opponents say the practice is anything BUT sustainable.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Pine, spruce and birch trees on Russia's north-west frontier with Finland stretch are prevalent everywhere. The natural beauty here is marred by tracks crisscross the forests, accommodating logging vehicles. There are ribbons tied around trees which earmark them for clearing.

Logging company Swedwood Karelia LLC, wholly owned subsidiary of Swedish furniture giant IKEA, owns around 300,000 hectares here. Swedwood's factory on the edge of the town of Kostomuksha processes logs into planks that will end up as flat-packs in hundreds of IKEA's stores worldwide.

IKEA eyes Russia as a prime territory for expansion. Two of its top three globally performing stores located in Moscow, and Russia/s vast boreal or taiga forest belt is a source of high-quality timber.

IKEA's logging practices in Karelia has raised pointed questions about its reputation for sourcing sustainable wood. This issue has come under a harsh spotlight as it has brought into focus wider problems associated with commercial forestry in northern Europe and Russia.

Environmental non-governmental organizations held protests outside eight IKEA stores in Sweden in April to raise awareness. A study conducted into IKEA's activities in Karelia claims that the company, through Swedwood, is helping to destroy ecosystems that are home to endangered species by clear-cutting already depleted old-growth forests.

Karelia has been frequently exploited for its abundant timber reserves, even during the Soviet era. Ninety percent of the original forest is estimated to have been logged. But in old-growth forests, trees die and decay naturally.

Alexander Markovsky explains that the delicate and humid conditions provided by trees that are allowed to die and decay naturally are difficult to replicate.

"Rare species of lichens, mosses and other plants and animals live in this forest. They have no chance to survive in secondary forests. I can say that in taiga old-growth forests around 25,000 types of species survive. In secondary forests there are far fewer. Old-growth forests also play a climatic role. Carbon is stored in the soil. When logging comes, the soil is disturbed and the carbon escapes."

"IKEA has responsibilities. They are responsible for what happens now in our forest. This conflict shows that they do not follow this high standard which they talk about everywhere," Markovsky adds.

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