by David Lindsay, President and CEO
It’s an exciting time for the forest products industry—it is growing and transforming under the strategic roadmap ‘Vision-2020’. When released in 2012, the Vision set three ambitious goals: to refresh the workforce with an additional 60,000 new employees; improve environmental performance by a further 35%; and generate an additional $20 billion in economic activity from new products and markets.
To track our progress, FPAC made a commitment to report publicly on the collective progress of the industry every two years. We are proud to release the first of these bi-annual report cards on this decade long journey: Vision2020: Pathways to Prosperity which shows headway on all three goals between the baseline year of 2010 to 2012.
The report is a snapshot of a time when the Canadian industry was still recovering from the recession, when jobs were shed and mills closed. However, in the period 2010-2012, forest product companies in Canada did start hiring again and the sector recruited 8,000 workers, with the pace of hiring expected to increase as the industry transforms.
The progressive environmental record of Canada’s forest sector is already widely recognized―a recent international market survey showed Canada is considered the best forest products supplier in the world in terms of environmental reputation. The Vision report card shows even further advances in performance. The industry’s environmental credentials improved by 6% over the two years highlighted in the report. This includes lower water and air emissions, reduced energy use and less waste to landfill.
The Canadian industry saw only a modest increase in economic activity of $0.5 billion between 2010 and 2012 but this does not tell the whole story. Adopting new innovative products and entering new markets does not happen overnight, so the results do not yet capture the full extent of the effort being made by the industry and its partners. During the course of gathering the data on our economic activity we also realized that the measurement of bio-energy and other bio-products, for example, is not fully recognized in the Statistics Canada measurements for the forest sector. As the sector continues to develop new innovative forest products, we will need to review how best to capture their value. More recent figures do show more robust growth ― for example, in 2013, wood exports went up 27% and the GDP of Canada’s forest industry grew by 3.4%, faster than the 2% of the overall economy.
The ambitious goals of Vision2020 cannot be achieved without coordination and cooperation from many players. In addition to the important work of individual companies, there is a role for the academic community, federal and provincial governments, communities, environmental groups and others. The federal government is already helping with programs such as Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT); FPInnovations developed the world’s first large scale production of nano-crystalline cellulose (NCC) and cellulose filaments (CF) – two new innovative materials with vast potential; the creativity of the academic community is being tapped through Forest Innovation by the Research & Education (FIBRE) network which involves 8 research networks and 27 universities.
I’d like to thank everyone who is helping our industry make progress toward Vision2020 but more must be done. Realizing the ambitious goals of the Vision will require a collective effort, bold thinking and determination. The industry will continue to work with governments, policy thinkers, academics and others to find the best technological, social, environmental and economic pathways to progress. Together we can and will find ways to reach our ambitious Vision2020 goals by the end of the decade.