Sustainability indicators

Canadians have a deep commitment to sustainably managing the nation’s forest resources because Canada’s rich forest ecosystems offer significant environmental, social and cultural benefits, as well as opportunities for responsible economic development. Sustainable forest management ensures that these benefits are maintained for both present and future generations.

Sustainability indicators measure progress toward sustainable forest management

Science-based measures called sustainability indicators are helpful tools for understanding the overall condition or state of Canada’s forests. Indicators provide a way to consistently define, assess, monitor and report progress toward sustainable forest management. Government, industry, researchers and the public all use indicators in addition to an extensive framework of federal, provincial and territorial laws and regulations.

Through the collection of data over time, sustainability indicators:

  • provide essential information about the state of and trends in Canada’s forests
  • highlight any needs for improvement in forest management policies and practices
  • supply reliable information for discussions and initiatives related to environmental performance and trade
Along with other United Nations member states, Canada has adoped the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals identified in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Canada uses internationally agreed-upon indicators of sustainable forest management

Along with 11 other countries, Canada is a member of the Montréal Process, an international working group of northern and southern hemisphere nations committed to sustainable forest management. Since 1995, the Montréal Process member countries have used a common set of science-based criteria and indicators to measure progress toward the conservation and sustainable management of 90% of the world’s boreal and temperate forests.

The indicators presented in this section address today’s most pressing questions about forests and forestry in Canada. Together with information in the Statistical profiles section, these indicators reveal trends in Canada’s forests and forest practices over time and are comparable to sustainability indicators published by other countries participating in the Montréal Process.

Sustainably managed forests contribute to global sustainable development goals

The United Nations identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by United Nations member states, including Canada, in September 2015. In addition to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the Agenda includes 169 associated targets aimed at improving global sustainable development across social, economic and environmental dimensions as well as peace, governance and justice.

Forests cover more than 30% of Earth’s land area and contribute directly to several of the Sustainable Development Goals. Forests provide such benefits as: purifying water and air; providing food, shelter, renewable energy, timber and economic development; and offering recreational and cultural opportunities. Improving global sustainable forest management can thus help in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals faster.

Sustainability indicator reporting helps ensure that benefits flow to future generations

The many demands placed on global forests need to be balanced so that current and future generations can benefit from the economic, environmental and cultural benefits of forests. Therefore, with implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals underway, it’s critical to measure and report accurately on forest-related sustainability indicators. Reporting on the global Sustainable Development Goals is a step toward a shared understanding of the value of forests.   

Indicators illustrate the benefits of forests in a changing world

This section presents 19 sustainability indicators that illustrate how Canada’s forests and society interact over time. The indicators also show the complexity of sustainable forest management, particularly in the face of such challenges as climate change and other emerging issues.

Nevertheless, Canada is a nation with decades of experience in sustainable forest management, so Canadians can feel confident that sound management practices and the many benefits from Canada’s forests will continue. Canada’s trading partners can also be assured that Canadian forest products are sourced from sustainably managed forests.

Sustainability indicators
Sources and information

The data in this report are derived from a number of sources, which are identified here by their relevant section. All data are subject to revision. Some numbers are rounded and therefore may not always exactly match the sum of their elements.

In most cases, the data represent the year before the reporting period. However, where they are gathered from several sources, it generally takes longer to compile and produce them. In these cases, the numbers reflect results from two or three years before the reporting period. As well, while most figures are calculated for the calendar year (January 1 to December 31), some are based on the federal government’s fiscal year (April 1 to March 31).

All dollar figures, unless specified otherwise, are in Canadian dollars.

It may not be possible to compare directly the data from the report’s various sections, as they come from several sources and those sources may compile their statistics differently from each other.

Dates on which data were accessed online are now included for sources including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the National Forest Inventory, the National Forestry Database, and Statistics Canada.