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New era of sustainability for a B.C. forest company

The latest issue of the Logging and Sawmilling Journal gives an update on the top lumber producers in North America.
Forest Ink columnist Jim Hilton. (File photo)

The latest issue of the Logging and Sawmilling Journal gives an update on the top lumber producers in North America.

West Fraser is first followed by Canfor, Weyerhauser and Interfor who collectively produced 29.3 per cent of the North American lumber output and are expecting another record high market again this year.

In the same issue Tony Kryzanowski has an article about Canfor’s latest attempt to keep among the top four with a $420 million purchase of Miller Western Forest Products in Alberta as well as how they are applying sustainability across their company in order to stay competitive. It starts with having a catchy concept like their three critical pillars “People, Products and Planet” which includes five focus areas; safety, health and wellness, Indigenous relations, sustainable relations and climate change. In order to keep a diverse work force they have committed to providing inclusion and diversity training to all of their staff.

The goal is to have a 30 per cent increase in staffing of under represented groups by 2030. By realizing that they had a gender bias in their selection process they were able to increase the application of women by over 12 per cent in 2020.

In the area of climate change they are supporting the construction of an innovative biomass to low carbon biofuel plant in Prince George. This joint venture between Canfor and Licella Holdings Ltd. will convert sawmill residue (mostly bark) into high value biocrude which can be processed into low carbon transportation fuels. They are also building a bio innovation team to develop new sustainable solutions.

The company is also aspiring to be the partner of choice for Indigenous peoples with a goal to have 100 per cent of its operating areas covered by agreements with willing Indigenous nations by 2030. It also wants all staff to have training to become familiar with Indigenous cultural awareness and understanding and is committed to five per cent total spending with Indigenous vendors for Canfors wood products business in 2025.

As Mr. Kryzanowski points out, actions speak louder than words so it will be worth while to follow their progress over the next few decades as to how successful the company has been in achieving its objectives.

In spite of the fact it will take some time to see how serious the company is, the author feels the company deserves our respect and admiration since most large corporations are not willing to admit they can do better and is open to what their plans are for the future.

In my opinion as the large companies continue to increase their control of the forests through buying up smaller operations (in large part due to the current high markets) I think the public will expect them to take on the responsibilities described above.

If the industry is not able to make this transition it may be better to have the majority of tenures more like community forests (Indigenous/local organizations) with industry concentrating on manufacturing and buying logs from local tenure holders. This way the industry does what it is best at (producing lumber and chips etc. ) and the log profits go back to local governments and organizations so they can concentrate on producing more sustainable forests and profitable communities.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.