A man in a checkered shirt and a vest standing in the forest.

Ulf on bringing together love for wood and forests and ambitious goals

IKEA is launching a global wood sourcing map, and for the first time sharing details of all the markets its wood used in products comes from. With this map, one can also assess the quantity of wood sourced from each market. We talked to Ulf Johansson, Head of Global Wood Supply & Forestry, at IKEA, about greater transparency regarding wood sourcing, responsible forestry and the wonderful ecosystem that forests are – and why pine trees will always stay close to his heart. 

If there is one constant in Ulf's life, it's the forests. As a child, he would wander into the woods to play, taking in the sounds and smells of the unique ecosystem with chirping birds, humming insects and moss on tree trunks. As a young adult, he studied forestry, and as a professional, he has been in roles almost always related to the woods.

So, this wintery morning, it wasn't surprising to find Ulf at home in the midst of a forest, as he showed his surroundings – snow and tall pine trees. Over the last few months, Ulf and his team have had their hands full with something unique, significant, and very close to his heart.

A view over a pine forest.

The wood IKEA uses

Two persons standing beside a pile of logs in the forest.

Hence, as a large user of wood, it's important for IKEA to source wood responsibly, be transparent about the sourcing practices and promote responsible forestry beyond our footprint. Also, where is the wood in IKEA products coming from? Was it responsibly sourced? How does that impact the environment? Those are questions that often come to the minds of IKEA customers. And rightly so. IKEA hopes the transparency around wood sourcing will help consumers make more informed decisions.   

"By introducing this map, we will take another step towards transparency on how we are sourcing wood. We are a big wood consumer, and with that comes big responsibility. We want to be a force for good, and we want to be known as the major retail brand for engaging in and influencing the dialogue about responsible forest management globally," says Ulf.

Larger picture – forest agenda

Wood is essential to the IKEA identity, as are forests to Ulf's.

And over the last 20 years, Ulf has seen significant changes in the way forests and forest management have been perceived. In 2000, when he started working with IKEA as a forestry manager in Southeast Asia, he was what he calls the first generation of foresters that were tasked with developing wood sourcing requirements and implementing the good ways of doing it.

"No company at that time was asking suppliers to present reports to indicate the origin of the wood and put similar requirements on their sub-suppliers. Today, we have a solid base of suppliers who share our values and business model, putting responsible wood sourcing at the heart of their and our business," says Ulf.

A portrait of a man in a checkered shirt and a vest standing in the forest.

Openness and honesty are part of our core values.

Ulf Johansson, Head of Global Wood Supply & Forestry at IKEA.

But Ulf believes there is still a lot that needs to be done. The good news is that IKEA has started well on its journey; being transparent about the wood we use is one part of it. The bigger journey, however, is towards 2030.

In January 2021, IKEA launched the new Forest Positive Agenda for 2030 for improved forest management and biodiversity globally. The agenda also includes ramping up the work to mitigate climate change, driving innovation to use wood in smarter ways and securing that at least one-third of the IKEA wood range is made from recycled wood.

Currently, approximately 15 per cent of wood used at IKEA comes from recycled wood. The IKEA business is becoming more resource-efficient, one step at a time and transitioning into a circular business. This includes working to make all its sourcing and materials more sustainable.

When it comes to wood usage, in FY20, IKEA reached its goal to only use wood from more sustainable sources. In FY22, 99.9 per cent of the wood used for IKEA products was either Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified or recycled.

Despite these efforts, the pressure on the world's forests and surrounding ecosystems are rising, cautions Ulf. As the world moves away from virgin fossil materials, the demand for forest products increases, adding more pressure on forest resources. It affects 1.6 billion people who rely on forests for their livelihoods worldwide.

"Responsibly managed forests can support the livelihoods of people who depend on forests, safeguard biodiversity and provide a sustainable wood supply. Forests can also mitigate climate change. Many forests used for wood production in the world today have the potential to remove more carbon from the atmosphere by more active management," says Ulf.

Growth, innovation and future plans

The IKEA vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. With new stores and markets, IKEA hopes to reach and interact with three billion people by 2025. How will IKEA strike a balance between its growth and wood procurement?

"As we grow, it's hard to say exactly what our wood consumption will look like, especially if we talk about volume. But we believe increasing the share of recyclable wood will positively impact our total wood consumption," says Ulf, adding that new and innovative engineered wood solutions will also help IKEA reduce wood consumption.

Two men standing in a workshop.
A man in a checkered shirt and a vest walking in the forest.