VP Indigenous & Government Relations and Sustainability, Tolko Industries Ltd.
Canada’s forestry sector is supporting a more sustainable future and helping Canada reach its climate targets.
Our forests have been an important part of Canada’s history, and they will play a vital role in our future as well. Trees provide us with oxygen, sequester carbon, stabilize the soil, and provide homes to the world’s wildlife. Forests are integral to our ecosystem, our livelihood, and the cultures of the people who live in and around them. Wood products, particularly building products, will play an important role in creating a more sustainable, lower-emissions society.
Sustainable forestry supports our economy, the global ecosystem, and long-term sustainability. Organizations like Tolko — family owned and operated from the BC Interior since 1956 and with more than 2,500 employees across Western Canada — are building the sustainable and responsible forestry industry of the future.
Forests are integral to our ecosystem, our livelihood, and the cultures of the people who live in and around them.
Forestry is at the heart of a lower carbon future
Most are aware of the importance of trees in the carbon lifecycle, but Canada’s forest products sector also plays a critical role in our collective fight against climate change. Using wood as the primary material in building construction has several advantages as the world seeks to reduce carbon emissions. Not only is wood natural and renewable, lumber and wood frame buildings serve as carbon sinks. One square metre of wood wall studs stores the equivalent of 16.7 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2). The equivalent amount of steel emits 18.0 kg of CO2 during its production while concrete emits 27.5 kg of CO2. Expanded across the wood products sector, the carbon benefits are enormous.
Beyond traditional wood products, mass timber is an innovation that has the potential to dramatically expand the benefits of building with wood. With mass timber, there’s an opportunity to use a sustainable wood product in a host of building types, supplanting the need for more carbon intensive alternatives. Mass timber construction can also be completed 25 per cent faster, reducing carbon pollution during construction by up to 45 per cent, and requires less energy to heat and cool long-term. In addition to creating more sustainably built communities, using wood more in construction would provide numerous economic benefits, including creating 50,000 new jobs between 2018 and 2028 in the manufacturing, design, and construction sectors. It would also add $7.5 billion worth of economic activity through the construction of 900 new commercial, residential, and institutional mass timber wood buildings in Canada.
The forest products industry is also working to reduce emissions from its operations. By 2030, the sector plans to pull 30 megatonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere annually — the equivalent of taking nine million cars off the road. Innovation in the sector can also grow our green economy, creating green jobs and accelerating our country’s transition to a net-zero future by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and building more sustainable communities.
Canada’s forest sector is also exploring new ways to solve the challenge of delivering secure, affordable, and sustainable energy like wood bioenergy using clean technologies. Today, nearly 60 per cent of the sector runs on bioenergy. By converting wood chips, sawdust, and bark — which might otherwise be considered wood waste — into bioenergy, the sector has created a low-carbon energy source to power its operations and reduce emissions. That same technology has the potential to help Canada’s remote communities generate reliable energy while reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.
Towards Indigenous reconciliation
The nature of our operations brings most forest products companies into close collaboration with Indigenous groups. Tolko has a long track record of productive work with Indigenous partners and recognizes the vital role Indigenous stewardship plays in managing Canada’s forests. We are eager to move forward toward reconciliation, with significantly increased Indigenous participation in forestry. This is a shared objective of governments, industry, and Indigenous Peoples, and will require collaboration, creativity, resources, and an ongoing commitment. Tolko is proud to work with companies like Ntityix Resources LP, a Westbank First Nation business and long-time leader in Indigenous stewardship that uses their 7 Generation Plan to guide management decisions regarding wildfire and water stewardship, as well as culturally important plants and animals, and providing economic development opportunities through timber harvesting for Tolko.
The importance of good stewardship
The foundation of our industry will always be the health of our trees. Sustainable harvesting contributes to both forest health and wildfire prevention. In the face of climate change and related issues like intensifying fire seasons, there has never been a greater need for responsible forest management. In many areas of Canada, the allowable harvest has been reduced, partially in recognition of these issues. As an industry, we are heavily invested in reforestation. Tolko alone plants more than 30 million trees annually, and each year our facilities produce enough seed to grow nine million spruce and 4.4 million lodgepole pine seedlings. Our nursery facility also grows a wide variety of other tree types, producing some six million seedlings each year.
The commitment to responsibility extends to all aspects of the forest management system. Not only is Canada home to some of the world’s most robust and well-enforced forestry regulations, we also lead the world in third-party forest certification. Through these standards, Canada’s registered professional foresters ensure our forests can be more resilient, adapt to future climate conditions, and continue to serve as the ultimate renewable resource.
An industry of the future
While forestry is a part of Canada’s heritage, it is very much an industry focused on the future. We are encouraged by steps like the 2 Billion Trees initiative and the increasing recognition of the importance of trees to life on Earth. Our industry’s 230,000 workers will continue to be on the front lines of sustainability as we continue to invest in forest health. Further product innovations will deliver the environmental and economic value of wood to more areas of modern life. And forest products will continue to be a major manufacturing segment, creating good jobs in rural communities across the country. Our industry is at the centre of several themes that will help define Canada’s future, and we are energized by the opportunities ahead.
Source: Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC). Tolko is a proud member of FPAC.