Greening the forestry industry

Photo credit: “Waiting to be processed,” Flickr/Digging For Fire

Avrim Lazar, the head of the Forest Products Association of Canada, visited the Citizen‘s editorial board yesterday, and the recording of the 45-minute session is in MP3 format here.

His central message is that the Canadian wood, pulp and paper industry has had the stuff knocking out of it the last little bit, and things are going to get worse. Their solution: go green, and advertise that worldwide. They’re aiming for carbon-neutrality across the industry by 2015. It’s not that Canada’s forest-industry CEOs are nice guys, Lazar says in almost so many words, it’s that that’s where the money is.

He also makes the interesting argument that government regulations on tree-cutting on public land, especially in Quebec, have kept the industry inefficient. Cutting rights are linked to the locations of mills, Lazar told us, so that if a company wanted to close an old, small, inefficient mill and consolidate, the government would say OK, fine, but you’ll never be able to cut trees in the surrounding forest again. That prevented economies of scale, he says, and also delayed by decades the incorporation of new, more efficient and less-polluting equipment.

Having not done it the easy, natural way, Lazar says, the industry is now shaking out the hard way.

It’d all be so much puffery if Lazar hadn’t moved to the association from 25 years in government, including being the assistant deputy minister for policy in the federal environment department when the Kyoto Accord was negotiated, and a spell as Environment Canada’s director-general on the biodiversity file.

If you’re interested in the intersection of environmentalism and business, I’d say it’s a must-listen.

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