It was no great shock to hear recently that a Leger survey ranked Canada’s forest products companies as having the world’s best reputation for environmental practices.
But it was still very gratifying.
Canada’s forest products companies have worked extremely hard over the last few years to ensure that our forests are healthy and will remain so for generations to come, while still providing the sustainable harvests needed to support our communities.
The nine-country survey found that international customers of wood, pulp and paper in the United States, Europe and Asia (fpac.ca/leger) gave top grades to Canadian forest products companies for their products’ quality and sustainability, with special note being taken of the domestic industry’s respect for the law and its sustainable forest management practices.
Released late last month, the Leger survey produced similar results to one conducted by the same company in 2014.
And in both cases, the respondents were bang on.
It’s no accident or good fortune that Canada’s forest products companies have such a great reputation for the environmental stewardship — they’ve earned it.
Many Canadians, particularly those who live in urban areas, may not realize that Canada is a global leader and an international model for forest management. Here are some reasons why:
• Canada has virtually zero deforestation, just 0.02 per cent a year.
• Canada retains about 90 per cent of its original forest cover, more than any other country.
• By law, all harvested areas are regenerated, which means that this vital renewable resource will support us economically and environmentally for generations to come.
• 93 per cent of Canada’s forests are publicly owned, which means that the companies operating within these lands are bound by some of the world’s toughest regulations.
• Canada has 160 million hectares or 43 per cent of the world’s certified forest, four times more than any other country. Only about 10 per cent of global forests are certified.
• The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) is the world’s first to insist that its members’ environmental and social practices are 100 per cent, third-party certified across all operations.
Our forests are rightfully a great source of Canadian pride and key stakeholders — companies, governments, aboriginal communities, municipalities and environmental groups — collaborate to ensure that we balance our interests.
Our forests are critical and, as populations around the world grow and increase their standards of living, will become even more important.
Economically, the forest products sector already generates more than $59-billion a year in revenue. That translates into 1.4 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 12.5 per cent of our manufacturing sector GDP.
It also means 235,000 direct jobs, and we have publicly set a target of adding another 60,000 new employees (based on a 2010 starting point) by 2020, including more aboriginals, women and new Canadians.
And significantly, many of these good, high-paying jobs are in rural and remote areas, including thousands within aboriginal communities.
Environmentally, forests help clean our air and water. They also absorb carbon and help to mitigate climate change.
Canadian forest products companies have also been adding extra benefit by overhauling and greening their internal processes.
For example, the industry has:
• made dramatic progress in reducing air and water pollutants, including the elimination of PCBs and dioxins
• reduced greenhouse gas emissions at pulp and paper mills by 65 per cent since 1990 and now produces enough green energy to power all the houses in Calgary
• worked with environmental groups under the landmark Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement to reduce ecological pressure on the boreal forest, while enhancing economic opportunities
And the industry is now in a position to offer an even greater contribution to the environment and the fight against climate change. We are developing innovative new “green” products from wood fibre — car parts, cosmetics, clothing and engineered wood products — that can replace products made from materials with a more intensive carbon footprint.
Still, even as international customers confirm again that the Canadian forestry model is seen as the world’s best, the industry is not resting on its laurels.
Under our industry’s Vision2020 plan, forestry products companies are aiming to reduce their environmental footprint by an additional 35 per cent by the end of the decade. The 12 measures will include greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste.
We’re determined to achieve these goals — for our environment, our economy, our communities, and our future.