get to know canada's forest sector

What exactly is “sustainable" forestry?

Sustainable forestry is more than just harvesting at sustainable rates. The Montreal Process Working Group — formed in 1994 to develop and implement internationally agreed-upon criteria and indicators for the conservation and sustainable management of temperate and boreal forests — defines the term as “a dynamic and evolving concept, intended to maintain and enhance the economic, social and environmental value of all types of forests, for the benefit of present and future generations.”

Put plainly: It’s ensuring we have a long-term plan to keep our forests healthy while recognizing and realizing the economic and environmental value of the world’s most renewable resource. And Canada is a global leader in doing both.

Not only has Canada retained over 90% of its original forest cover, but we harvest less than 0.5% of forests designated for harvesting per year and replant between 400 and 600 million seedlings annually, all while promoting the wildlife habitats, biodiversity and water protection that will help keep our forests as forests forever. These practices not only help our forests retain their carbon-capture potential but, in providing environmentally friendly alternatives to the products and resources Canadians use every day, sustainably-sourced wood products have the potential to be transformative in addressing one of the most significant social and economic challenges of our time: climate change.

How does Canada’s forest sector compare to other countries in terms of sustainable practices?

Canada is globally recognized as a world leader in sustainable forest management. Not only do we have some of the most robust and well-enforced federal and provincial regulations in the world, but Canada leads in third-party forest certification, managing 37% of the world’s certified forests, more than twice the area certified in any other country. These voluntary and internationally recognized standards include commitments to reforestation, promoting wildlife habitats, biodiversity and water protection, and add a layer of independent verification so Canadians can be assured that we’re doing our part to keep our forests as forests forever.

How does sustainable forest management help fight climate change?

Everyone knows that as a forest grows trees absorb and store carbon. But as trees age they become susceptible to natural disturbances such as fire, pest outbreaks and disease that can release tremendous amounts of CO2 and other GHGs back into the atmosphere. Though these disturbances are normal in the forest, they are becoming more frequent and severe as a result of climate change, putting our communities at risk and turning our forests from climate change assets into liabilities.

That’s where our sector comes in. When we manage our forests through carefully planned harvesting and replanting, we remove the decay and debris that accelerates these natural disturbances and renew our forests capacity to capture carbon for another generation. What’s more, because carbon stays locked in wood products long after trees leave the forest, wood products can create the renewable, sustainably-sourced products we need to reduce our carbon footprint and power our country towards a cleaner, greener economy.

How do wood products have the “potential to be transformative” in our fight against climate change?

As carbon captured over a tree’s lifetime stays locked inside the wood, sustainably-harvested wood products continue to represent a carbon storing solution long after they leave the forest and can provide more environmentally-friendly alternatives to materials and products with a heavier carbon footprint. So, when you buy Canadian wood, you’re doing your part to support a low-carbon future by giving a second life to trees.

Innovation in our sector also has the potential to be transformative; as climate change and global warming become more urgent, Canada’s forest sector is exploring new ways to solve the challenge of delivering secure, affordable, and sustainable energy by converting wood waste into the bioenergy will help reduce our country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

That sounds like a “zero-waste” approach. Is Canadian forestry a zero-waste sector?

We aim to be—and as a sector that generates some $73 billion annually, represents 11% of our country’s GDP from manufacturing, and employs hundreds of thousands of Canadians, that’s no small feat. Today, 79% of our forest operations and mills use bioenergy (and that number is growing). Since the early 1990s we’ve seen a 60% reduction in GHG emissions from the pulp and paper and wood products sector relative to 1990. Moreover, emerging green industries using wood co-products like wood-fibre and lignin to create more eco-friendly products not only ensures that every part of a tree we harvest is being put to use, but that our sector is poised to support the quality, green jobs the next generation of Canadians need.

So you support the development of a “green economy”?

Yes. But part of growing a green economy is developing an inclusive economy, one that values sustainability alongside diversity and opportunity.

With nearly one third of the forest sector’s workforce retiring within 10 years, our sector is investing in the next generation of Canadians who will help shape a greener future. Through programs like #TakeYourPlace, Women in Wood, the Greenest Workforce, Free To Grow in Forestry, Outland Youth Education Program and Project Learning Tree, we are committed to building an inclusive sector, one that supports the growth of women, Indigenous Peoples, new Canadians, and youth as innovators in a sector that contributes to all 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — including providing clean water, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.

Let’s go back to sustainable harvesting and regeneration. What is Canada’s forest sector doing to “keep our forests as forests forever”?

Understanding the future impacts of climate on our forests and planting the right trees in the right places to reflect co-benefits of climate mitigation and increased resiliency is incredibly important. Canada’s Two Billion Trees initiative is an example of continuous improvement in the selection of areas that would benefit the most from an incremental tree planting program. We are committed to partnering with federal and provincial/territorial governments, Indigenous Peoples, forestry companies, and established silvicultural companies to help determine the most effective ways to deliver this program.

And where can I learn more about these third party forest certifications?

There are three major, credible certification programs that indicate sustainable forest management practices and track sustainably produced forest products in Canada. These include the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative Program (SFI). When buying sustainably sourced and high-quality Canadian wood products, consumers can look for ‘Made in Canada' forest products with any labels corresponding to these standards. To learn more about forest certification in Canada visit: https://certificationcanada.org/en/home/

You mentioned sustainable forestry provides “nature-based solutions” to climate change. What does that mean?

Nature-based solutions are actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems to provide both human well-being and biodiversity benefits. Building tall with wood is a perfect example. As a natural, renewable building material that not only stores carbon but reduces pollution during construction and requires less energy to heat and cool long-term, using wood — as opposed to materials with a heavier carbon footprint — to build multi-family homes, schools, seniors’ residences, and office buildings, allows us to move the carbon capture potential of our forests into cities to build more sustainable communities.

In providing nature-based solutions to climate change, do Canadian forest products help other countries reduce their emissions?

That’s correct. Climate change is a global issue and one of the ways Canada can have a real impact now is by providing the world with sustainably-sourced, renewable products with a lighter carbon footprint. Exporting wood products not only helps grow our own green economy, but in providing sustainably sourced products that have net-carbon benefits to other countries, we can expand our contribution to global emissions reductions efforts and encourage other countries to do the same.

How is the Canadian forestry sector working in partnership with Indigenous individuals and communities?

It is widely recognized that Indigenous Peoples have an integral role in furthering the objectives of sustainable forest management through the application of Indigenous knowledge and an intrinsic awareness of community values on the land base. Not surprisingly, Canada’s forests have played a central role in meeting the cultural, spiritual and material needs of this community.

Recent decades have seen a steadily expanding role for Indigenous peoples in the management of Canada’s forests through a wide variety of approaches. Notably, in recent years, Canada has seen an increase in the forest land and resources under Indigenous management, both in terms of fibre volume allocations and area-based tenures. Currently, Indigenous fibre allocations account for over 19 million m3, or 9% of the total available wood fibre from Canada’s managed forests. This represents an increase of over 11 million m3, or 135%, since 2003. On an area basis, the portion of the managed forest under Indigenous management totals more than 17 million hectares, or approximately 7.5% of the total managed forest area.

We are committed to facilitating greater Indigenous participation in a thriving Canadian forest sector as it brings significant opportunities to existing and emerging Indigenous-owned businesses and initiatives. Today, there are over 1,400 Indigenous-owned businesses that typically employ between 10 and 30 people, many generating revenues of more than $1M a year. And with more than 11,600 Indigenous Peoples working in the sector, we are one of the largest employers of Indigenous Peoples in the country, supporting jobs in more than 400 Indigenous communities.

The growing need for diversity of skills in the forest sector requires creation and delivery of training and education opportunities like the Outland Youth Education Program that will enable Indigenous people – particularly youth – to consider and pursue forestry-related careers.

show your support

Join thousands of Canadians coming together to support Canada’s world-leading sustainable forestry sector and learn more about what we’re doing to support a net-zero carbon future.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.