Government opens investigation into IKEA wood sourcing

IKEA has remained profitable despite the coronavirus pandemic. Keystone / Obs/ikea Ag/inter Ikea Systems B

The Swiss authorities have launched proceedings against IKEA for alleged false declarations of where timber is sourced. The furniture company rejects the accusations.

This content was published on October 15, 2020 - 17:36

The case was triggered by a complaint filed on August 31 by the Bruno Manser Fund with the Federal Department of Economy, Education and Research (DEFR) and the Federal Consumer Affairs Bureau. A DEFR spokesperson confirmed with news agency Keystone-SDA that proceedings were launched.

After inspecting five IKEA branches concerned, the DEFR opened administrative criminal proceedings in two cases of possible repeated false timber declarations. According to DEFR, this is the first time the company has been subject to criminal proceedings for a false declaration.

The Swiss timber law requires that companies provide information on the origin of each wood product.

IKEA Switzerland rejects the charges. Aurel Hosennen, who is a member of the IKEA Switzerland management team told Swiss public television, SRF, that IKEA has all of the origin information available.

“We know from every supplier which wood they are working with and where it comes from. We have been showing this on our website for years. There is no reason for Ikea to hide or not reveal anything."

Hosennen added that labels, which are hand-printed by IKEA, are sometimes missing in furniture stores because it is a manual process. In each branch, 80 to 100 labels have to be replaced each day because they are lost.

The Bruno Manser Fund, which is dedicated to protecting forests, argues that in some cases the company doesn’t provide sufficient information on the timber origins. This makes it difficult to determine if the wood was in fact sourced sustainably.

Riding through the pandemic

Ikea Switzerland saw sales rise 0.7 percent to CHF1.15 billion this year, despite the coronavirus lockdown. In an interview in the Tages-Anzeiger on Thursday, IKEA Switzerland CEO Jessica Andere said that the company was able to make-up for about 15% of loss in revenue by reacting quickly with more drive-in pick-up points.

On November 2, the company will introduce a taxi service that will drive customers home with their furniture purchases.

Andere also said that in response to the pandemic and the financial strain facing customers, the company reduced prices for some 250 products. During the pandemic, they have sold more items in lower price categories.  

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