Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 5, 2021 by Catherine Zacuto, M. Ed.
Saving a forest is big news these days, and just what we need to energize us. Each day, we practice sustainable living – reusing, reducing, recycling, upcycling. Every bit helps ward off climate change. So when IKEA buys a gigantic forest, saving it from development, and promises to manage it sustainably, we have reason to celebrate. We have a partner that values the science behind climate change and is willing to invest in the future. IKEA’s recent purchase of 10,680 acres of Georgia forest, and its commitment to maintain it responsibly, lend hope to all the eco-warriors out there fighting the good fight.
What it’s all about?
The Altahama River Basin, home to IKEA’s new forest, holds the largest free-flowing river on the East Coast, according to the Georgia River Network. IKEA’s purchase secures the future of a native longleaf pine forest and the threatened gopher tortoise. Once covering 90 million acres, the longleaf pine forest has been diminished to a mere 4% of its original size, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Development and agriculture are two of the reasons for the decline. The Ingka Group, IKEA’s parent company, bought the 10,680 acre forest from the Conservation Fund, which is famous for buying and protecting large swaths of working forests. (So far, the non-profit has saved more than eight million acres of land in the U.S.) The land purchased by IKEA is subject to the Conservation Fund guidelines that preserve and protect the land. According to the agreement, IKEA promised to
- keep the land intact (no selling off parcels for development).
- restore and preserve native species (like the longleaf pine and the gopher tortoise).
- grant public access to the land for hiking.
Why is this significant?
Buying forests isn’t new for IKEA. It’s built into their Swedish DNA: more than half of Sweden is covered in forests. Ingka Group owns roughly 613,000 acres of forest in Europe and the U.S., including Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia. It makes sense – right? . . . a furniture company investing in a resource vital to its economic success. What makes this different is that while IKEA plans to use sustainably-sourced wood from the forest, it has vowed to do so responsibly. The company is legally bound to manage the land according to strict, eco-friendly guidelines, but it’s also part of their long term business plan. Striving to be a sustainability leader in the world, IKEA set a goal to be “climate positive” by 2030. They are actively pursuing this goal by switching to electric delivery vehicles and building a circular economy in which used furniture is returned for repair and reuse. The values espoused by the Ingka Group (found on its website) support their mission:
- Caring for people and planet
- Cost consciousness
- Renew and improve
- Different with a meaning
- Give and take responsibility
- Lead by example
IKEA’s commitment to environmental leadership sets a standard for corporations worldwide. Its care for the forest and surrounding habitat, together with its savvy business plan, make IKEA a model for other companies. Working together with organizations such as the Conservancy Fund, companies large and small can follow the path IKEA has ventured out on.
The planet is the ultimate beneficiary. The forest will continue to thrive as a natural habitat for the longleaf pine, the gopher tortoise, and the more than 350 plant and wildlife species that live there. Hikers and naturalists will breathe in the fresh scent of the pine trees and try to spot a gopher tortoise. In the long run, all of us benefit as the forest works its magic to mitigate climate change.
What else can we do?
Having a big, impressive leader doesn’t let us off the hook. Every person can contribute to the fight against climate change. Knowing there are companies like IKEA working for change, we might be motivated to add our voices to the mix. Being knowledgeable about climate issues and active in the local community, each of us can make a difference.
- Support companies working toward sustainability
- Up your game on reducing, reusing, recycling and upcycling
- Stay informed about positive changes being made in your area
- Join one of the many organizations that are planting trees and promoting sustainability
- Share the news with friends and neighbors!
DiFurio, Dom, “Why is IKEA buying up thousands of acres of forestland in East Texas?” The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com/business/retail/2019/11/22/why-is-ikea-buying-up-thousands-of-acres-of-forestland-in-east-texas/, 11/22/19.
Elassar, Alaa, “Ikea bought 11,000 acres of forest in Georgia to protect it from development.” CNN,
Ingka Group, https://www.ingka.com/
Georgia River Network, https://garivers.org/altamaha-river/, 2018.
Hirsch, Sophie, “IKEA Just Bought – and Will Protect – an 11,000 Acre Georgia Forest.” Greenmatters. https://www.greenmatters.com/p/ikea-georgia-forest. 1/27/21.
Peters, Adele, “Why IKEA just bought an 11,000 acre forest in Georgia.” Fast Company, https://www.fastcompany.com/90594218/why-ikea-just-bought-an-11000-acre-forest-in-georgia?partner=rss&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=rss+fastcompany&utm_content=rss?cid=search. 01/14/21.
Rosane, Olivia, “IKEA Parent Company Buys Georgia Forest With Pledges to Manage It Sustainably.” EcoWatch, https://www.ecowatch.com/ikea-georgia-forest-2650169769.html, 1/28/21.
Soderpalm, Helena. “IKEA Stores Owner Ingka Buys 10,840 Acres of U.S. Forest Land.” Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ikea-georgia-forest/ikea-stores-owner-ingka-buys-10840-acres-of-u-s-forest-land-idUSKBN29J1NR, 01/14/2021.
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