|Login / Resources for Consumers / Create a FREE Online Account / Contact Us|
|Membership||Issues||Events||Professional Development||Who We Are||Contact|
Can Canada Influence the World to Act More Responsibly in Forestry and Paper-Buying – and Help Our Climate?
By Chet Dalzell
The author, a public relations professional in the direct marketing field, is the current chairperson of the Marketing Communications & Public Outreach Strategy Working Group of the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Board-level Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility and a member of the U.S. Postal Service’s Greening the Mail Task Force. Chet is both an instructor and participant in DMA’s Environmentally Responsible Marketing Certificate Program, and has authored several articles on sustainability and marketing topics. Chet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summary: As the world's leaders gather in Copenhagen to discuss climate change mitigation, and a way to better manage the environment to curb greenhouse gas emissions, one of the world’s most important means for absorbing and storing such gases – protecting forests globally – will be vital to this effort. How brands source and purchase paper and paper packaging is one way they can make a tangible difference – and improve each brand’s own reputation and sustainability. Direct marketers need to know their supply chains, right down to where their papers’ fibers originate. DMA Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility member Chet Dalzell recently went to Canada to see first-hand how one nation, and two of its forest products companies, actively manage the fiber that becomes part of today’s print media, direct mail and catalogs…
When the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) extended an invitation to host members of the Direct Marketing Association Committee on the Environment and Social Responsibility on a four-day tour of forests and pulp-making facilities in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, I jumped at the chance. FPAC had extended this offer to me through DMA in prior years, but I was always unable to take time off from my employer and those always-urgent job responsibilities. This year, 2009, answering to myself as I freelance my way through the Great Recession and hone my knowledge about sustainable marketing practices, I eagerly said “yes.” I threw my woolies, sweaters, jeans and hiking gear in a suitcase, grabbed my camera and laptop, and skirted off to the airport for destination Toronto, where FPAC and fellow tour mates were to rendezvous.
Education in the Field, er, in the Forest
A brilliant September greeted us in Ontario, where I was told a “delayed” summer in Canada had unfolded after a rainy and cool early and midseason. With summerlike temperatures (20 degrees Celsius), the FPAC team, a film crew and guest representatives of several U.S. paper concerns, boarded a charter plane for our first stop in North Bay, Ontario. North Bay is in the “near north” region of Ontario – straddling the Quebec border one hour’s flying time due north from Toronto. Here we were met by representatives from Tembec, an integrated forestry, pulp/paper and chemicals manufacturer, based in nearby Temiscaming, Quebec. Tembec has facilities around Canada as well as in France. In particular, Tembec is the first large company in Canada to certify its managed forests, harvesting operations and facilities with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC is one of three forestry certification regimes in play in Canada [the others being and Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)]. Of the three, FSC is the only one that gets top nod from environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Forest Ethics. (DMA recognizes all three regimes, as do government agencies such as the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers.)
Commercial forestry concerns differ in their opinions as to whether or not FSC is superior to SFI or CSA – whether or not the science, reporting, monitoring and auditing of any of the three “beats” the others – but several environment non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) remain to this day FSC-only devotees. Tembec threw its lot with FSC nearly nine years ago (January 25, 2001, to be exact), in part because of FSC’s stakeholder engagement process, which it found particularly helpful in engaging Canada’s First Nations (tribes indigenous to North America) and because this process also lent itself to forestry management on public “crown” lands, upon which near 90 percent of Canada’s forests grow and thrive. Of Canada’s managed forests, approximately half are now certified with at least one sustainable forest certification regime – and Canada today accounts for 40 percent of the world’s certified sustainable forests (the U.S. accounts for another 25 percent). Just 10 percent of the world’s forests are now certified as sustainable.
North American Forests: Abundant with Care in Canada – An Ontario Example
Canada, like the United States, is not losing its forests. Literally, less than 1 percent of Canada’s forests are harvested each year, and all forests harvested on public lands must be successfully regenerated. During this recession, the expected harvest will be far less this year. But the real telling figure is how much nature itself “consumes” the forests. In fact, four to twenty times as many trees and woodlands are lost each year in Canada to natural disturbances -- such as forest fires, insect infestations, diseases and weather events – than commercially harvested. That comparison is far more important than I realized. Why? Because those natural disturbance patterns are changing the way Canada’s forestry companies are managing and harvesting their woodlands. The impact on harvesting, for one, is profound. The provinces, largely, regulate forestry practices, with some federal regulation as well – with forestry certification programs as an added layer distinct from the regulatory process. In Ontario, in a most consensual form of forestry regulation – policymakers, forestry companies, academics and the scientific research community, recreational enthusiasts, local communities as well as social and environmental concerns have come together to advance a forestry management regulatory scheme that emphasizes, for one, on harvesting strategies and techniques that mimic natural disturbances. Today’s clearcuts – on the ground and in the air – at least in Ontario, look unrecognizable to those of us who have seen clearcuts in the past. Literally, numerous trees are left standing.
Twenty-first Century silviculture, so current science seems to dictate, seeks to ensure that certain trees are left behind – just as nature would have it, and Ontario forestry regulations have been modified to reflect such thinking. Trees are needed for natural seeding by species, habitat protection (from canopy cover to nesting to tree cavities), soil and wetlands protection, and to younger tree growth enablement from the forest floor. In some cases, depending on species of trees, partial “shelter” cuts – rather than modified clearcuts -- are required for shelter and habitat protection. Even selection logging of single trees is in some instances warranted. Almost all harvesting is carried out by heavy equipment with the logs being transported by truck, therefore, access roads for harvests must be planned, plotted and built (and, in some cases, later dismantled) according to detail – and each forest harvest plot carefully marked for tree retention. Each company that receives a license to manage plots of the crown lands files a 10-year Forestry Management Plan which is designed to incorporate all stakeholders’ interests, from First Nations to tour outfitters to forest dwellers and recreational users, and then must be reviewed and accepted by the provincial government after an extensive public hearing process. (In Canada, while there are some federal forestry regulations which address trade, science and “species at risk,” each province traditionally and most closely regulates forestry management and harvesting.)
Forestry is Steeped in Canada’s Lore – and Managed for its Future
Mattawa, Ontario, is a small town of perhaps 2,000 inhabitants. It was the adult home of “Big” Joe Montferrand (also known in English as Joe Mufferaw), a 6-foot, 9-inch lumberjack born in Quebec said to be a precursor to America’s mythical Paul Bunyan. Except Joe Mufferaw really lived and – “they say” – licked as many as 29 men in a drunken fight in Canada’s lumber camps of the mid-1800s. There are wood carvings of Big Joe and other historical personalities who figured in the history of Mattawa, symbolizing its heritage – which goes much further back to the mid-1600s when French fur trappers and traders followed First Nation canoe routes northward and westward up the Ottawa River, traversing Canada in search of riches and adventures. Today, this town is better known as the home of the Canada Ecology Centre, an educational center managed by the 101-year-old Canadian Institute of Forestry as well as the home of the Forest Research Partnership, founded in 1990 and managed with Tembec’s support. Here foresters shared with us their passion for their work – and explain how forestry has been revolutionized by science – not just that of environmental science, but also anthropology and history (respect for cultural sites, for example, tracing the history of First Nations and early European Canada). Scientifically, in Ontario, the St. Lawrence/Great Lakes forest ecosystem of Southern and Eastern Canada meets the Boreal Forest ecosystem of Northern Canada. Mattawa is a mixing point. Forest managers today are aided by new digital mapping technology such as LIDAR, a special type of aerial photography that shows not just the forest canopy, wetlands and tree species, but also indications of undergrowth and topography – key to understanding natural forest growth patterns on a large scale. While there is no replacement for managing forest plots on foot, LIDAR is relied upon to ascertain forestry characteristics on a scale as boundless as Ontario—since road access to some regions are next to impossible until harvest time.
At the Ecology Centre, a walk in the woods reveals fascinating insights. Two white pine trees stand next to one another – both are 110 years old. Yet one towers, while the other struggles next to its neighbor. Previously, forest companies would cut the tall tree to let the other tree grow. Today, they leave the tall tree – for it is superior genetically and may have another 20-30 years of seeding capacity to give to the forest floor below. Thus, trees around that superior tree are harvested, to enable partial sunlight – allowing natural seeding to take its natural course. Habitat protection – from salamanders, to woodpeckers, and martens – right up the food chain to raptors, bears, wolves, moose and caribou – ensure sustainability of the forests and natural patterns to replicate. While it takes much more planning and much more care (and employee training) to ensure sustainable forest outcomes, governments such as Ontario’s and companies such as Tembec, have embraced it with enthusiasm – with an understanding that science-based research will forever evolve and refine forestry management and harvesting practices. Meanwhile, efforts to engage and recruit members of Canada’s First Nations in forestry careers are gaining traction – as Canada seeks to train another generation of foresters.
Alberta: Regional Approaches Differ Though Sustainability is Still the Focus
When the FPAC tour landed in Alberta in Western Canada – en route to the managed land of another leading forest products manufacturer, West Fraser Mills, Ltd. -- I half expected to see “same script, different forest.” I should have known better. I was born in Massachusetts, raised in Nebraska, educated (college) in Connecticut and lived most of my adult life in New York – and, as a result, I truly appreciate the diversity of the United States. The same needs to be said for regional influences in Canada. Earlier I mentioned how each province has its own regulatory framework with forestry management. In Alberta, government regulators appear to be less hands-on with the details, and while they set overall goals on forestry management and allot harvest cuts -- with the all-important stakeholder inputs from communities, First Nations, species at risk, recreational access, etc. -- forest companies themselves do the intricate work, based on their own use of research, public engagement, and “in the field” knowledge of natural growth (and destruction) patterns. Certainly this is true of West Fraser and how it manages its Hinton Forest Management Area.
Hinton, Alberta is a gateway community among the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, and a few kilometers from Canada’s striking Jasper National Park. West Fraser (and predecessor companies) has managed the Hinton Forest Management Area (more than 1 million hectares in size) since 1955, and today the company manages “crown” forests elsewhere in Alberta, as well as in British Colombia and private holdings in the Southeastern United States. During the early 2000s, when the Hinton operation was owned for a time by International Paper, it was targeted by an environmental non-government organization (ENGO), Forest Ethics, which maintained IP’s Hinton operation failed to protect “endangered and intact forests” (terms coined and defined by ENGOs) in its Canadian-held managed areas. As a frontline observer today, I find it hard to see how such criticism possibly could pass muster. Perhaps as a result of this ENGO attack, West Fraser to date categorically refuses to certify its forests with FSC (as Forest Ethics denies the suitability of any other certification regime), and chooses Sustainable Forestry Initiative certification instead. SFI, West Fraser reported, is a first-rate sustainable forest management certification system that allows the company to be able to certify all of its Canadian operations – this is because the SFI system is better suited to operating in the various tenure systems found in West Fraser’s British Colombian and Alberta operations. Instead of attacking West Fraser, company representatives wonder why ENGOs don’t focus on protecting the world’s truly threatened forests, rather than those closest to home that are, indeed, superbly managed. Good point. (Actually, the United Nations and some ENGOs are now looking at programs in developing countries called REDD -- Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation – that would pay forest dwellers in poor areas of Brazil, Indonesia, Congo and others not to cut trees.)
For two solid days, with our West Fraser host, we saw Hinton Woods management team discuss and demonstrate their tree regeneration and seedling efforts, riparian protection practices, First Nations engagement (and employment) efforts, road-building, caribou and habitat protection (even beyond species at risk), and designation of forest areas within Hinton as “special places” because of their aesthetic, natural or cultural significance. Like Tembec, West Fraser leans on a research partner, the Foothills Research Institute (formerly the Foothills Model Forest), to inform its forestry practices with science specific to its region.
Most of the forests here consist of lodgepole pine, mixed with spruce and aspen stands in certain locations. A lodgepole pine, if cultivated and protected “artificially” by man, might live 200 years or more. Yet a lodgepole pine in Western Alberta, left on its own, would rarely make it to 125 years: nature “takes it out” with forest fires, insect infestations or other natural disturbances. In fact, since West Fraser foresters have managed the Hinton Forest Management Area, there are more mature forests there today than in 1955, primarily because forest fires have been suppressed. Here, “old growth” is a misnomer. Or rather, the oldest forests are those protected by man from forests fire and diseases, unnaturally, and have yet to be harvested. This is today the case on the Hinton Forest Management Area. So silviculture here, like its Ontario cousin, is today about mimicking natural disturbances, through science-directed thinning and harvesting and regeneration, as nature would have it, but without the most destructive elements of natural disturbances. Well almost…
Threats in Western Canada Require Applied Science and Coordinated Planning
Alberta forests have unique challenges that are less prevalent or non-existent in Ontario. First and foremost is the world’s insatiable thirst for gas and oil. Canada has the world’s third largest proven reserves for oil – behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq – and much of it is locked in tar sands in northern Alberta but some of it, as well as natural gas, is beneath other parts of Canada – including the Hinton Forest Management Area.
Alberta companies such as West Fraser pay a fee (called stumpage) to the provincial government for each tree harvested. While stumpage may provide revenue to the provincial governments, these fees are no match for oil, natural gas, coal and other mineral and subterranean wealth which comes first on the government priority list. Forest companies have to manage “around” these interests, which often suddenly pop up within their holding areas with immediate demands for exploration and extraction, with an infrastructure to support such activities – all with the federal and provincial governments’ blessings. As a result, West Fraser does its best to work with dozens of oil, gas and mining players – some that are huge companies, others that are entrepreneurs – and to plan road-building, inventory loss and forest cuts to accommodate these interests. While West Fraser may recoup some of its lost harvest potential through “timber damage fees” paid by the other tenure holder (such as an oil & gas company), often these fees are not nearly enough to offset the loss.
At the end of the day, the shimmering glass towers of Edmonton and Calgary – built largely by energy and its wealth – tells the observer who has the power. Increasingly, there have been calls by both industry and the public for a more formal integrated land-use planning process to help integrate the diverse commercial and community interests found on the public land. The government responded to these concerns and initiated a land-use planning process in 2007. The first region to undergo this process is the area of northeastern Alberta containing the world-famous tar sands. The Hinton area is next on the list and that process should start in the fall of 2010. West Fraser and the Foothills Research Institute, with their thorough knowledge of the area, are among a number of entities poised to help with the process. For the time being, a more informal process is underway, with most parties doing their best to achieve win-win scenarios.
Another challenge in Alberta is a pesky little insect. Mountain pine beetle, along with other insects, regularly kill a certain number of trees every year – in fact quite a few more than are harvested, by a magnitude of many. In the past few years, however, these beetles have exploded in number, and scientists, as far as they can ascertain, believe this outbreak is not part of a normal, periodic pattern. Global warming has found its way into the forestry debate – not only because of the positive effect of carbon that’s stored in forests, but also negatively, because of the millions upon millions of acres of forest inventory recently destroyed in Western Canada because the mountain pine beetle’s numbers are skyrocketing. Harsh Canada winters used to keep these beetles in check – sustained temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius kill the beetle’s eggs and larvae. Yet, because of changing climate patterns, Western Canada hasn’t had such a winter in years – and British Colombia, in particular, has been ravaged. Millions of acres have become forest wasteland. In just two years, a single tree can die – its needles turning a tell-tale red just one year after a beetle lands upon it. The beetle bores beneath the bark, and lays its eggs for another beetle generation. West Fraser and the Hinton Forest Management Area had their first evidence of naturally occurring mountain pine beetle earlier this year, and the company is now about to make targeted cuts in a bid to prevent the insects’ spread. Success will require as much in luck as in smart silviculture. At its worst, lodgepole pines throughout the entire Hinton Woods Forest Management area, and those management areas bordering it, could be decimated. At best, preventive cuts will lessen the chance that the beetles – that depend on winds to carry them as adults to new trees and new forests – will find their way to uninfected stands. The battle is on. It would be nice if a winter’s kill could stop this activity – which stands to wipe out more of Canada’s Boreal in the immediate future than Canada’s forest companies could ever seek to harvest and replant.
Sustainability in Forestry: Environmental, Social – and Economic
Pulp and paper mills and sawmill enterprises across Canada have been shut down and some permanently shuttered. It’s a sorry outcome of the Great Recession, as well as a manifestation of a global market for paper and forest products that still appears to put more of a priority on price alone, than sustainability and all its economic, social and environmental considerations. Canada, too, mirrored the good times of the U.S. economy -- and many of its forest products companies lived off America’s home-building bubble. However, now that hard times have hit, Canada has not backed down from its commitment to responsible forestry. Today, more than 40 percent of the world’s inventory of certified sustainable forests is in Canada – in a world where just 10 percent of our forests similarly are certified. That’s got to change. United States and Europe – both of which have forest lands that are privately held – are following Canada’s sustainable forestry lead, albeit more slowly -- primarily because of the diversity of private ownership. Yet Brazil, Indonesia, China and Russia – all of them still heavily forested, and a growing source for pulp and paper -- have shown little appetite in practice thus far for sustainability.
Paper users in the United States must be aware that procuring paper and forest products originating from faraway countries carries a risk: illegal harvesting is rife, particularly in sensitive ecosystems such as Tropical Rainforests (Brazil and Indonesia) as well as the Boreal (most of which is not in Canada but in Russia). Marketers who rely on print communication need to do their homework. While the U.S. Lacey Act soon will require pulp and paper purchasers to acquire legal documentation to “prove” that products did not originate from illegal harvests – there are remaining social and environmental concerns beyond legal compliance that relate directly to climate protection, species at risk and human dignity. Collectively, these concerns warn us all “buyer beware.” Brand managers should insist on sourcing paper for their wood products, print communications and packaging that carries a certified sustainability label – and if that’s too expensive for the moment, given the economy, brands should at least get the dialogue going with suppliers to prepare for such procurement in the near future. Demand will only push more forests to become certified – adding to the world’s certified supply and pushing trading partners beyond Northern Europe and North America to adopt responsible forestry practices.
Practical Advice and Tools for Paper Purchasers in the U.S. and Elsewhere
To see Canada foresters in action, first hand, helped to illuminate my understanding of Canada’s progressive contribution to the global discussion about forests, paper production and paper use. Education in the woods is beneficial – and I encourage marketing, procurement, printing, production, communications and social responsibility professionals to dialogue with their suppliers about sustainable paper sourcing and purchasing, and, going further, to pay their paper sources a visit, when they have the opportunity.
Numerous tools are available to help marketing professionals ensure a thriving market in responsible paper use.
First, visit the U.S. Direct Marketing Association “Green 15” Toolkit and consider taking the DMA Paper Pledge (http://www.the-dma.org/cgi/member/PaperProcurementDMAGreen15Insert.shtml). Consider these call-outs in the pledge, based on the DMA’s “Green 15” principles for sustainability in marketing and communication:
Second, consider use of the Paper Working Group’s Environmental Paper Assessment Tool (EPAT, https://www.epat.org/EPATHome.aspx?request=119). The tool was developed through a collaboration of 11 leading companies and Metafore, a nonprofit environmental organization focused, in part, on responsible forestry and sustainability in forest products and paper.
Third, investigate forest certification programs, in relation to a current or future procurement commitment: American Tree Farm System, Canadian Standards Association, Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and – globally – Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (the latter of which recently endorsed new certification programs in Russia and Malaysia). These are cataloged on Metafore’s Forest Certification Resource Center: http://www.metafore.org/index.php?p=Forest_Certification_Resource_Center&s=147 with a handy comparison matrix free from endorsing any one regime: http://www.certifiedwoodsearch.org/matrix/matrix.aspx