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Tue Jun 30, 2020, 08:07 AM

Once Again, Forest Stewardship Council Certification Means Squat: Ikea Using Illegal Ukrainian Wood

The global furniture giant Ikea used illegal timber from Ukraine in its supply chain and one of the world’s preeminent forestry certification organizations failed to stop it from happening, a new report says. The report, published last week by the U.K.-based environmental watchdog Earthsight, accuses Ikea of sourcing manufactured products — including its flagship Terje folding chair — from suppliers that have used logs that were felled illegally in Ukraine.

“In this case, VGSM, the company that was supplying these chairs and chair parts to Ikea is cutting some of the trees itself, but it’s doing so under illegally issued licenses issued by the State Forestry Enterprise that controls the forest,” said Sam Lawson, director of Earthsight. Like in other former Soviet bloc countries, forest regions marked for logging in Ukraine are managed by state-run enterprises. Most of these “state forestry enterprises” are controlled by Ukraine’s State Agency of Forestry Resources, including one in Velkyy Bychkiv, a remote region in western Ukraine near the Romanian border.


Created in 1993 as a mechanism for environmental activists to work with the logging and wood manufacturing industries to cut down on unsustainable and illegal logging, FSC has since become one of the world’s largest timber certification organizations. The FSC logo appears on wood products and corporate websites across the globe, indicating that FSC has given its stamp of approval to a company’s operations or its ability to sort through whether the timber in its supply chain comes from legal or illegal sources. FSC charges companies for this certification, which allows those companies to slap a large markup on the timber products they sell to consumers. FSC has repeatedly come under fire by environmental activists, who say the organization is acting as a de facto arm of industry and “greenwashing” timber on the global market. These critics say that FSC’s fee structure creates an inherent conflict of interest, with most of its financing coming from corporations and foresters who pay to have their supply chains certified.

“FSC certifying bodies are profit-making companies that compete for business from logging companies to audit them,” Lawson said. “And there is a natural tendency towards a race to the bottom. Whoever is the least strict is more likely to get business.” In 2018, Greenpeace, one of FSC’s founding members, announced that it was ending its membership, citing frustration with FSC’s lack of transparency and the influence of a bloc of industry players in preventing tighter regulations on logging practices.



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