Our best chapters are “still to be written”
By Alyssa Dalton
May 2, 2017 – Several months ago, I attended my first pulp and paper industry event, PaperWeek Canada, and I left the conference particularly inspired after one of the presentations.
The Wednesday luncheon speaker was James Carr, Canada’s minister of natural resources, who delivered an insightful speech about the vibrancy of the forest products sector. He described it as an industry that is not only staying ahead of the curve, but is reshaping its future through world-class innovation.
He noted that wood fibre is presently being used in ways that would “have been unimaginable just a few decades ago” listing strengthening composite car parts, making vehicles lighter, reducing emissions, and replacing plastics and chemicals made from fossil fuels as several examples.
“It wasn’t so long ago that this sector seemed to be on the ropes — its prospects grim, its potential limited, its practices criticized. To many, it seemed like an outdated, even dying, industry. But then something remarkable happened. Instead of wringing its hands, the industry rolled up its sleeves and began a transformation whose best chapters are still to be written,” said Carr.
He commended the industry for reaching out to its critics and making changes to its operations, as well as investing in new products and establishing new offshore markets. “Creating not just a new image but a new vision for what forest products could be. Now the forest sector has transformed itself into one of the most innovative parts of our economy, writing a success story most Canadians do not know well or hear often enough,” he continued. “And instead of patting yourselves on the back, you are focused on staying ahead of the curve.”
Carr pointed out that as the state of the softwood lumber agreement looms, we shouldn’t overlook the “underlying strength” of the forest products industry as a whole. “It is healthier than it has been in years, ideally positioned to help address four of the biggest challenges facing our country: combating climate change, driving innovation, creating economic opportunities for indigenous and rural communities, while advancing trade.”
The minister’s comments are a timely reflection of Canada’s rich history, as this year marks the country’s 150th birthday. It’s a poignant chapter in our heritage as many Canadian industries — including pulp and paper — are in the midst of great transformation.
My first foray into this industry couldn’t have been a more welcoming or enlightening experience, and I look forward to meeting many more of you. I encourage you to reach out and let me know what we should cover, whether it’s a trend, technology or one of your company’s latest successes. After all, this is your magazine too, and you should have a hand in shaping its content. In the meantime, keep innovating.
This column was originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Pulp & Paper Canada.