Sustainability indicators

Canada’s forests are rich ecosystems that provide many renewable resources. They offer significant environmental benefits, social and cultural opportunities, and opportunities for sustainable economic development. Because forests are essential to the well-being of Canada’s environment, communities, citizens and economy, Canadians have a deep commitment to sustainably managing this country’s forest resources.

Criteria and indicators are a way of measuring progress toward sustainable forest management

Sustainable forest management is a way of using and caring for forests so as to maintain their environmental, social and economic values over time.

Sustainability indicators are helpful tools to provide an overall picture of the state of the forest. These indicators are science-based measures that give government, industry, researchers and the public a way to consistently define, assess, monitor and report progress toward sustainable forest management.

Along with an extensive framework of federal, provincial and territorial laws and regulations, criteria and indicators are a way to help ensure the long-term sustainability of Canada’s forests.

Federal, provincial and territorial governments cooperate to compile national data

The collection of timely and accurate national data about Canada’s forests would not be possible without cooperation among authoritative sources of data, including the provinces and territories.

For example, Canada’s National Forest Inventory and National Forestry Database both compile national-scale data to support evidence-based decision-making, scientific research and program delivery through inter-jurisdictional cooperation.

When measured over time, indicators show trends that:

  • provide essential information for use in discussions about the state of Canada’s forests
  • highlight where forest management policies and practices may need to be improved
  • provide authoritative information to clarify issues related to environmental performance and trade

Canada is a member of the Montréal Process

The Montréal Process is a group of 12 countries, including Canada, that account for 90% of the world’s boreal and temperate forests. These countries have developed a common set of science-based indicators to consistently monitor and report on progress toward sustainable forest management.

The indicators that follow are presented in a way that addresses the most pressing questions about forests and forestry in Canada. These indicators, together with information in the Statistical Profiles section, demonstrate changes in Canada’s forests and forest practices over time and are comparable to sustainability indicators published by other countries.

Forests will be a key contributor to progress toward global sustainability goals

In September 2015, the United Nations member states, including Canada, adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets that aim to improve peace, governance and justice and global sustainable development across social, economic and environmental dimensions.

Forests will be a key part of advancing the United Nations’ SDGs.

Forests purify water and air; provide shelter, food, renewable energy, timber and economic development opportunities; and recreational and cultural benefits.

Given that forests cover over 30% of the world’s land area and provide a broad range of benefits, improving global sustainable forest management can help advance the SDGs.

Sustainability indicator reporting has never been more important

The global context for international reporting has been shifting quickly with the implementation of the United Nations’ SDGs. The importance given to forests in achieving these goals is encouraging, but it also means that measuring and reporting on forests is critical.

Working toward a shared understanding of forest values and harmonized criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management can help measure global progress toward the SDGs. This global cooperation can help ensure a balance among the many demands placed on world forests so current and future generations can reap the economic, environmental and cultural benefits.

Indicators demonstrate the flow of forest benefits in changing circumstances

The sustainability indicators reported in this section provide insight into the interactions between forests and society over time in Canada, while aiming to harmonize with global reporting efforts. These indicators illustrate the complexity of sustainable forest management and the challenges posed by climate change and other emerging issues.

With Canada’s many years of experience with sustainable forest management, Canadians can feel confident that forests will continue to be managed to provide a broad range of benefits. Canada’s trading partners can be equally confident that the Canadian forest products they receive come from sustainably managed sources.