Ikea Buys 11,000 Acres Of Pristine Forest In Georgia Just To Keep It That Way

The name Ikea brings to mind mass-marketed press-board furniture that's challenging to put together, not to mention the stores that are easy to get lost in, parking lots that stretch on for days, and meatballs that you either avoid at all cost or eat by the dozen.

The Swedish home outfitter is trying to add at least one more image to our minds as well: conservation.

Let's face it: all that modular furniture we love to complain about — and just plain love once it's put together — requires a lot of wood.

So it's easy to think that Ikea must be responsible for the clear-cutting of wide swaths of forest. While that might once have been true, however, Ikea is increasingly showing a commitment to conserving more trees than it uses.

The latest example is a noteworthy purchase of almost 11,000 acres of pristine forest in Georgia via the company's investment group, Ingka Group, a chunk of land that Ikea says it plans to protect from development.

Ikea says that forestry management is becoming a cornerstone of the company's corporate culture.

Unsplash | Sebastian Unrau

"We truly believe responsible forest management is possible and we see that a large part of our responsibility towards the land we own -- and by extension the planet -- is to restore forests and plant more than we harvest," Ingka Group's managing director, Krister Mattsson, told CNN.

"In all our properties nature conservation is important. In this particular US investment in Georgia, first it is important that the land cannot be broken up into small units and it remains forever forestland."

That land in Georgia is home to about 350 plant and wildlife species, two of which are on the endangered species list.

The longleaf pine once blanketed 90 million acres of the U.S., from southern Virginia to Florida, and out to Texas. However, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the longleaf pine has been devastated by development, agriculture, fire suppression, and conversion to faster-growing trees like loblolly and slash, leaving just 4% of that longleaf pine forest remaining.

The Georgia land also hosts gopher tortoises, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Ikea has larger, overarching sustainability ambitions as well.

The company is trying to get to the point that it takes more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere than its stores produce, and so forests are going to play a large role in that. In addition to the Georgia purchase, Ingka Group has bought up more than 600,000 acres of forested property in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania, as well as other areas in the U.S. such as Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.

Ingka Group also says that the concerns of locals are being taken into account.

Which means that they'll be supporting the local timber economy while also allowing public access to the land for recreation.

Ingka has also shown a commitment to adding more forested land to the world, planting almost 7 million seedlings on its properties.

"For all the forests we own, our commitment is to manage them responsibly, to preserve and increase the quality of the forests over time," Mattsson told CNN. "Our vision on forest management is to consider all the functions of a forest and plan for dozens of years ahead. We look at it as a commitment to balance the economic, environmental and social aspects related to the forest."

h/t: CNN, Ikea