WWF & IKEA Partnership – Continuity and Perseverance for Impact

Posted on December, 27 2019

Climate change is real, and a warming climate will increase the risks for our forests and our forest-based economies
We can already see huge areas of forests affected by bark beetles, heavy snows, and drought, and this will continue to happen with even more virulence. There is an urgent need to develop nature-based climate adaptation strategies and adapt current forestry practices to improve forest resilience. Our forests have huge climate mitigation potential. WWF is working to adapt forest management practices to maintain or improve our forest capacity to act as carbon sinks and develop sustainability criteria for wood biomass to ensure that we don’t burn wood for “clean” energy. Meanwhile, current logging techniques negatively impact water quality and quantity, soils, forest vegetation, and overall forest health. Protection of our forest heritage is not just vital for the air we breathe. Forests are a nature-based solution to climate change and drought, and also provide habitats for thousands of species.
The aim of WWF’s partnership with IKEA is to promote responsible and sustainable forest management practices; climate-resilient forests; and biodiversity rich forest landscapes to provide a full range of ecosystem services and goods for the well-being of local communities in the Danube-Carpathian Region, the Green Heart of Europe. The WWF partnership with IKEA began in 2002, and has continued for more than 17 years. Originally focused just in Romania, our cooperation in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region now stretches across 4 countries.

As part of the company’s overall sustainability strategy, IKEA aims to become what it calls “forest positive.” In other words, the company would like to certify more forest than the company actually needs to use in its products. The objective includes an ambitious commitment to obtain all timber from more sustainable sources (FSC certified or recycled) by 2020. IKEA reached its target in all source countries where there is a high risk of illegal logging, including Romania by 2017, and globally has contributed to the certification of significantly more forest than required to meet its needs. This commitment has proved instrumental in driving uptake of FSC in Romania. More than a third of all forest in Romania is now FSC certified – a total of 2.83 million hectares, 2.47 million of which are state-owned.
Protecting old-growth forests (OGF) is now an integral part of FSC certification in CEE, and represents a significant conservation achievement in forest management. Romania, for example is home to more than half of Europe's last remaining old-growth and primeval forests — valuable ecosystems that are habitats to endangered brown bears, wolves and lynx as well as many other flora and fauna. These areas also provide valuable ecosystem services to the local populations, and are a nature-based solution to help mitigate climate change and drought. In FY19, IKEA sourced approximately 4% of all its timber from Romania, primarily beech and oak.

WWF relies on partners like IKEA for influence and leadership in shaping better business and market practices in the global forest industry. IKEA’s cooperation strengthens FSC credibility and increases the market availability of FSC products; whereas IKEA relies on WWF for expertise and credibility in delivering its sustainability commitments. Without market demand for sustainability and responsible forest management and forest products, FSC certification will not become popularised and become an effective tool for forest protection.  IKEA’s embracement of FSC could provide the necessary impetus to change this.  As consumers we can do our bit by prioritising FSC products and asking brands and retailers to use FSC certified wood.
Partnership achievements
Together, WWF-CEE and IKEA have had a significant impact on forest management, constantly improving the region’s standards and voluntary verification mechanisms. We are working to strengthen policy and enforcement, increase transparency and accountability in the wood supply chain, to preserve high conservation value forests (HCVF), and protect some of the last remaining virgin and old-growth forests in Europe.
The partnership has enabled:
  • Identification and protection for around 218,000 ha of virgin and old growth forests in the region, and more than 200,000 ha of high conservation value forests;
  • Implementation of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest certification standards and solutions to mitigate risks of illegal logging.  As a result, 1,600 companies have been given chain-of-custody certifications, and more than 8.6 million ha of forests are now FSC certified (more than ⅓ of total forest area in the region);
  • Influence on relevant legislation. Over 50 major legislative amendments in Romania & Bulgaria have been brought into line with responsible forest management principles, EU legal provisions, and FSC forest management standards;
  • raised awareness among more than 3 million people about more sustainable forest practices;
  • transformation of the best voluntary practice principles into norms;
  • development of online platforms to assist companies in implementing systems for proper due diligence and better traceability of wood supply chains; deadwood and marginal habitats management; sustainable HCVF management; and most importantly, virgin and old-growth forest protection; and
  • training and information to hundreds of thousands of forest practitioners and relevant stakeholders. More than 2000 key stakeholders now directly engage in promoting responsible forest-management practices.
WWF and IKEA are working together to increase the area of responsibly-managed forest; identify and map old growth forest (OGF) and push for protection; support forest managers and communities to achieve FSC certification; and push for improved forest management legislation and policy.
The FSC is a global forest certification system that promotes responsible forest management. Its ‘tick tree’ logo indicates that products are certified according to FSC standards and allow consumers to purchase wood, paper and other forest products produced from well-managed forests and/or recycled materials.
For more information:
Ionut Sorin Banciu
Regional Forest Coordinator,
WWF Central and Eastern Europe
sbanciu@wwfcee.org, Tel: +40 21 317 49 96 
(additional source for the article: http://ecological.panda.org/2017/04/06/behind-the-flatpack/)
Workers from the Strîmbu-Băiuț Forest Management Unit harvesting FSC-certified beech trees. Maramures, Romania.
© James Morgan / WWF