By Derek Nighbor, CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada
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.
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. Here are some reasons why:
• Canada has virtually zero deforestation, just 0.02% a year.
• Canada retains about 90% of its original forest cover, more than any other country.
• By law, all harvested areas are regenerated.
• 93% 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% of the world’s certified forest, four times more than any other country.
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.
Economically, the forest products sector already generates more than $59-billion a year in revenue. That translates into 1.4% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 12.5% of our manufacturing sector GDP. It also means 235,000 direct jobs, 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% since 1990 and now produces enough green energy to power all the houses in Calgary
And 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.
Under our industry’s Vision2020 plan, forestry products companies are aiming to reduce their environmental footprint by an additional 35% 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.