In southeast Georgia, a forest covering nearly 11,000 acres was at risk of being split up and developed. But a conservation organization acquired the land to protect it—and Ikea’s parent company, Ingka Group, just bought it under a contract that will continue to protect the local ecosystem.
For Ikea, it’s one piece of a strategy to become “climate positive” by 2030, meaning that the company will reduce more greenhouse gas emissions than it emits through its value chain. As the company slashes emissions directly by using renewable energy, shifting to electric delivery vehicles, rethinking materials, and implementing new business models such as taking back old furniture and repairing it for resale, it’s also turning to trees to suck CO2 from the atmosphere.
In Georgia, the company acquired the forest from a nonprofit called the Conservation Fund. The group buys up working forests—meaning they’re places where wood is harvested—and puts in place permanent easements that mean the land can never be broken up in a future sale and the native forest will be protected and restored as habitat for local species. (In this case, the forest, near Georgia’s Altamaha River Basin, is a habitat for the gopher tortoise, a turtle that is a priority species for conservation.) The public also has the right to hike on the land, something that normally wouldn’t happen in a working forest.
“We buy threatened forests, which are owned by investors that have perhaps short term tenure, and often they get broken up in this area—it’s a high-growth area and it’s prone to break up into subdivisions and smaller and smaller pieces,” says Brian Dangler, vice president and director of the Working Forest Fund at the Conservation Fund. “And when you break up the function of large intact forests—tens of thousands of acres—it gets reduced very quickly. So we try to keep them whole.” After setting in place permanent legal protections, the organization resells the land.
For the Ingka Group, the acquisition is one of a growing number of forests. In the U.S., it now owns around 136,000 acres of forest in five states. A company spokesperson says that “no significant amount” of wood from the forests is currently used in Ikea products; the primary focus of the investments is to ensure that the land is sustainably managed. The annual growth of the trees is larger than the amount of timber that is harvested.