Forestry Innovations: A Change In Attitude Means A Change In Fortune
Development and Innovation The forest industry must strike a balance between the demands of the market and those of the environment. Through a renewed emphasis on research and pilot projects, the industry has won the support of environmental groups.
Bone replacements, jet fuel and auto-parts—these are all pro- ducts made from wood fibre. These are not the kind of products you would normally associate with the forest products industry—a sector historically known for cutting trees, sawing them into lumber and selling them to the nearest market. These traditional activities will always be at the core of our sector. But today’s competitive global economy requires new thinking about our forest resource. Instead of building a business model based on a “commodity consciousness”, we need to instead embrace a “market consciousness” that responds to the shifting demands of the marketplace.
"A recent study identified a potential world market of $200 billion dollars for bio-energy and bio-products made from wood."
Cultivating new markets
A prime example is how the engine of economic growth has shifted to Asia. The industry responded by aggressively cultivating these markets to the point that forest pro- ducts are now Canada’s number one export to both India and China. Twenty eight mills have reopened in BC because of the upsurge in exports to China. Or consider the emerging bio-economy. A recent study identified a potential world market of $200 billion dollars for bio-energy and bio-products made from wood. The Canadian forest products industry is now emerging as a global leader in trying to exploit this vast potential.
For example, Canada has the first commercial plant aimed at the production of nano-crystalline cellulose. Pulp and paper mills are re-inventing themselves as bio-refineries. Wood waste is being turned into parts for HD TVs, pharmaceuticals and food additives. And forest companies are partnering with the auto, chemical, energy and other sectors to find ways to extract innovative bio-products from trees.
Appreciating nature in all forms
The sector is also hoping to respond to demands in the construction market aimed at those who appreciate the performance and aesthetics of using natural wood. As a result, the industry is attempting to go on beyond lumber for the residential market and develop building systems for larger construction projects. Products made from wood, a renewable resource that is part of nature’s cycle, are becoming increasingly attractive in the marketplace because of the growing consumer sensitivity to products with strong environmental credentials.
In response, Canada’s forest sector has moved decisively to become the greenest and most progressive forest products industry on the planet. Greenhouse gas emissions have been cut by about 60 percent since 1990. The industry has eliminated dioxins and cut water use. More of Canada’s forest management policies are independently certified than any other country by far. And these world- leading improvements in forest practices have won the support of big-name environmental groups in the marketplace.
This new model of responding to market demands is forcing the forest industry to increase its capacity. This means a big emphasis on research and pilot projects. Canada’s FPInnovations is now the world leader in forest product research and development. It also means refreshing our workforce. The industry is now hiring, underscored by a report by the Forest Products Sector Council estimating a need for 40,000 to 120,000 new workers by 2020.
There are now huge career opportunities for those with the skills, knowledge and the desire to work in the sector. The reinvented forest products industry has a bright future. The sector is no longer just framing itself as a mere hewer of wood and is instead actively responding to shifts in the global marketplace. With this change in attitude, Canada’s forest pro- ducts industry is confident it can triumph in tomorrow’s economy.