A report in The Times said IKEA staff are wrongly claiming that all its timber comes from certified sustainable sources. But the company’s global forestry manager Anders Hildeman strongly defended IKEA’s wood sourcing policy to TTJ and said it actively encouraged sustainable forest management.

The Times story on Saturday was based on visits by reporters, masquerading as shoppers, to two IKEA stores, in Southampton and Edmonton, north London.

Reporter Ben Webster said that six staff, including a store manager, had claimed all IKEA’s wood products used certified sustainable timber.

In fact, he maintained, only 16% of the wood used by the company was certified under the Forest Stewardship Council Scheme, against a target it had set itself five years ago to achieve 30% by 2009.

The article also claimed that IKEA continued to source timber from areas with known illegal logging problems.

Mr Hildeman would not comment directly on the report, but said that the company had not hit its certified timber target due to availability and the fact that it had increased overall wood consumption,

“But 23.6% of our solid wood is now FSC-certified and we are on target to achieve 35% by 2012,” he said. “We have also just recently introduced a new sourcing policy for board materials and are already at 10% certified sustainable – and we’ll announce our targets for this in the spring.”

He said that IKEA had backed the WWF’s initiatives to increase certified forestry in China, where its manufacturing suppliers used a range of domestically-grown timber.

“The WWF’s technical support programme, funded by IKEA, has contributed to the certification of 1.4 million ha of forest in China, out of its total certified area of 1.8 million ha,” said Mr Lindeman.

IKEA had also played a significant role in the expansion of certified forest in Russia in the past decade, from under 5 million ha to over 25 million ha.

Mr Lindeman said that the company had focused its sustainable procurement strategy most strongly on “challenging sources of supply”.

“We’ve been less concerned with Germany, France and Poland, for instance, where we’re more confident of overall forest management standards,” he said.

Via the Timber Retail Coalition (which includes other retail giants such as Marks & Spencer) IKEA is also liaising closely with the EU on the development of the guidelines and implementation programme of the new European Illegal Timber Regulation (ITR), which comes into force in 2013.

“Given our existing sustainable sourcing and due diligence strategy, we believe the new regulation will give IKEA a competitive advantage,” he said.