How is the forest industry changing?

Canada’s forest industry is undergoing major changes as global demand for traditional forest products shifts and demand for non-traditional products grows.

The market for newsprint and printing and writing paper continues to shrink as more consumers turn to digital media in place of print media. As well, another Canada–U.S. softwood lumber dispute is causing uncertainty in lumber markets.

At the same time, new applications for existing products, along with development of innovative products, are helping the forest sector adjust to changes in market needs, improve financial performance and demonstrate a commitment to sustainable forest management.

For example, next-generation building systems are expanding Canada’s traditional line of structural lumber products. New wood-based materials and building design systems are boosting demand for wood products in construction applications in both existing and emerging markets.

Bioproducts, including biochemicals, biomaterials and bioenergy, are made from biomass, including the wood-fibre residues and byproducts of forest product manufacturing.

Bioproducts are a fast-growing category of forest products. Biochemicals, for instance, are being used to make pharmaceuticals, biodegradable plastics, personal care products and industrial chemicals.

New markets and new challenges are creating a new industry structure

In the forest industry, as in other industries, the growth of multinational firms and the expansion of trade have led to increased global integration. Because many Canadian firms have acquired assets in the U.S. in recent years, the forest industry’s structure has changed from being made up of Canadian companies in North American markets to being made up of North American companies in global markets.

New technologies are improving environmental performance and energy efficiency

Investment in new technologies is also changing forest industry operations. For example, between 2004 and 2014, Canada’s forest industry cut its total energy use by 35% and reduced its direct carbon emissions by 49% by generating bioenergy from waste products, increasing energy efficiency and reducing energy use. Research is now underway to expand pulp mills into biorefineries where residues from the pulp-making process can be used to make new bioproducts.

  • Industrial Sector – Aggregated Industries
    • Table 8: Pulp and Paper Secondary Energy Use and GHG Emissions
    • Table 15: Forestry Secondary Energy Use and GHG Emissions
  • Industrial Sector – Disaggregated Industries
    • Table 28: Wood Products Industries Secondary Energy Use and GHG Emissions
    • Table 34: Converted Paper Products Industry Secondary Energy Use and GHG Emissions
  • The methodology for estimating the amount of primary energy attributed to wood and spent pulping liquor in the pulp and paper manufacturing sub-sector was updated in 2015, causing changes in the data series between 1995 and 2002. In addition, from 1990 to 2010, wood waste and spent pulping liquor were incorrectly included in other fuels when estimating electricity generation in the Report on Energy Supply and Demand in Canada. This has now been corrected for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 data points, but will not be corrected for years prior to those. These changes have directly affected the estimates for industrial energy use and electricity generation, and indirectly affected the emissions estimates. The time series data for 2011–2013 may therefore not be completely consistent with data for earlier years.
  • Additional information about the Natural Resources Canada–Canadian Forest Service’s Investments in Forest Industry Transformation Program.
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