Big corporate buyers of products from Canada's forestry industry will keep tabs on their suppliers to ensure they follow through on promises made in a landmark forest conservation agreement.
Nine companies – from newspaper and magazine publishers to office supply retailers to consumer products companies – are part of the new Boreal Business Forum. The roundtable group will meet regularly to monitor progress made by 21 member companies of the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) who signed on to the conservation deal last year.
Among the goals of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement are more sustainable harvesting practices and habitat protection for 72 million hectares of forest across the country.
FPAC companies – including newsprint giant AbitibiBowater Inc., West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. and Louisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd. – have committed to suspending logging operations on nearly 29 million hectares and implementing conservation plans for endangered woodland caribou.
Nine environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, Canopy and ForestEthics, also signed the three-year agreement. The groups pledged to suspend all "do not buy" campaigns against FPAC members, which they had waged for several years to draw attention to forest industry practices.
The new business forum is a key step in implementation of the agreement, said Nicole Rycroft, executive director of Vancouver-based Canopy, which encourages major paper users to source their product from sustainable forests.
"This [forum]is made up of a core group of very influential customers. They are there to provide advice, troubleshooting to get over roadblocks – and they have very large cheque books," she said, referring to their purchasing power.
"Participants in the forum will provide invaluable guidance and keep us all accountable to our conservation commitments," Ms. Rycroft added.
The forum "brings together a group of stakeholders who really share a conservation mandate. It's an opportunity to keep the agreement on track, keep the agreement moving forward beyond discussion to on-the-ground conservation work," said Michelle Marley, sustainability director at Toronto-based Indigo Books & Music Inc.
Other members of the forum include consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark; retailers Lowes, Rona Inc., Office Depot; and publishers Axel Springer AG, Time Inc., The Globe and Mail and Hearst Corp.
The signing of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement "represented a historic milestone in the environment-forestry debate. But like many agreements, signing is not the end point – it's the start," said Yalmaz Siddiqui, director of environmental strategy at Office Depot. "As a business that uses forest products from Canada … we look forward to working with [the signatories]to achieve the desired outcomes of the agreement," Mr. Siddiqui said.
The forum will hold its first meeting next month and meet every six months.
The forestry industry, which says it has made major inroads over the past few years in shifting to greener forest practices, sees agreements such as the CBFA as a way to enhance its international image as a careful steward of natural resources that is dedicated to reducing the global carbon footprint. It also views a commitment to the most stringent global forestry policies as a competitive advantage in a market of rising consumer demand for green products.
Longer-term goals of the CBFA include development of large protected areas and world-leading forest management practices.
The 21 member companies of the Forest Products Association of Canada who are signatories of the Boreal Forest Agreement:
Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc.
Canfor Pulp Ltd. Partnership
Cariboo Pulp & Paper Co.
Daishowa-Marubeni Intl. Ltd.
F.F. Soucy Inc.
Howe Sound Pulp & Paper Ltd. Partnership
Louisiana-Pacific Canada Ltd.
Mill & Timber Products Ltd.
Papier Masson Ltée
Tolko Industries Ltd.
West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd.
Weyerhaeuser Co. Ltd.