How is the forest sector changing?
The forest sector is undergoing major changes because of shifting global markets for traditional forest products, as well as growing demand for non-traditional products that can be used in innovative, environmentally friendly and sustainable ways, advancing Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
The forest sector is at a crossroad
Demand for print media, such as newsprint and printing and writing paper, has continued to shrink as consumers increasingly turn to digital media. In 2019, global demand for newsprint fell 13%, and demand for printing and writing paper fell 6% from the previous year. In addition, declining fibre supply, growing protectionism, and the cyclical up-and-down markets of many commodities are pushing the forest sector to diversify product lines and pivot toward higher value products. The growing focus on climate change and sustainability offers such opportunities and demand for cost-effective, low-carbon solutions from the forest sector is expected to grow.
The development of innovative new products and the discovery of new applications for existing products is helping the forest sector adjust to challenges, improve financial performance, and demonstrate a commitment to environmental performance and green growth.
For example, advances in engineered wood products and building systems are boosting demand for wood products. The advances are enabling the construction of taller, more sustainable, and more energy-efficient buildings made primarily from wood, helping to reduce the carbon footprint of construction.
Additionally, wood-fibre residues and by-products of forest product manufacturing are being used to make bioproducts, a fast-growing category of products that includes biochemicals, biomaterials, and bioenergy. For example, compostable bioplastics are already a flagship of the forest sector’s potential. Importantly, low-carbon biofuels from sustainable forest biomass, such as those produced from sawmilling and harvest residues, are currently the only alternatives for conventional aviation and marine fuel and will be central to the transition toward a low-carbon economy.
Restructuring to adapt to new trade patterns
The expansion of trade has led to increased global integration across many industries. Many Canadian forest sector firms now operate facilities in the United States, and some have invested in European facilities as well. Considering that China and Japan have become key destinations for many Canadian forest products, the sector’s structure has changed from Canadian companies competing in North American markets to North American companies competing in global markets.
Calling for a new generation of workers
In 2016, women comprised only 17% of the workers in the forest sector, while immigrants, which represent 25% of the Canadian workforce, made up only 12% of the forest sector. Indigenous people made up 7% of forest sector employment compared to 4% for the Canadian workforce. The sector’s transformation creates an opportunity to attract workers with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, higher technical skills and more diverse backgrounds.
Sources and information
- Coffee Association of Canada. Coffee Facts.
- Li, J. 2018. Comparative life cycle assessment of single-serve coffee packaging in Ontario. Master’s thesis, University of Waterloo.
- Pulp and Paper Products Council. World Printing & Writing Report – December 2019.
- Pulp and Paper Products Council. World Newsprint Statistics – Global 100 Report for December 2019.
- Statistics Canada. 2016 Census of Population, customized tables. (accessed March 17, 2020).
- Statistics Canada. Table 17-10-0005-01 Population estimates on July 1st, by age and sex. (accessed June 11, 2020).
- ThinkWood. Taller Wood.
- UBC Sustainability. Brock Commons Tallwood House Fact Sheet [723 kb PDF].
- G-Cup photo by GCUP Technology Corp.
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