Food for Thought

The following article was written by Joe Nemeth, President and CEO of Catalyst Paper and was posted on the Vancouver Sun on May 4, 2016.

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Catalyst Paper’s 38,500 square-metre Surrey Distribution Centre, located on a 3.6 hectare site along the Fraser River in Metro Vancouver, provides an important transportation and distribution link between Catalyst’s mills and their customers. Pic Cred: PNG Merlin Archive.

Leading pulp and paper producers from more than 30 countries converged on Vancouver this week to attend International Pulp Week, a three-day conference that is part of PwC’s Global Forest Products Leadership Summit.

Vancouver was a fitting venue for the 13th edition of this conference. Not only is Vancouver a world-class city, its also the commercial hub of a province whose pulp and paper sector has long been an economic engine for numerous communities, supporting families in the Interior and on the Coast.

Living in the Lower Mainland, it’s easy to forget the role that resource development plays in BC. Few people in Vancouver will ever see a logging truck, a pulp or paper mill, a mine or a natural gas rig. But these industries remain British Columbia’s economic foundation.

Together, BC’s 15 pulp mills and six paper mills directly employ about 12,000 workers and support an additional 12,500 indirect jobs – about 20 per cent of all forest sector jobs in BC. The sector pays among the highest wages and salaries in the province. While many rural families depend on these jobs, the sector also supports many professional services jobs in the Metro Vancouver area.

But it’s not just working men and women and their families who benefit from pulp and paper production in our province. The sector generates significant tax revenues for the provincial government which help pay for public services such as education, health care and transportation.

BC’s thermo-mechanical mills alone (which account for just five of the 21 pulp and paper operations in the province0, provide government with about $250 million in tax revenues each year. That’s about half of the Vancouver School Board’s budget.

Whether it’s market pulp, packaging, tissue or paper products, BC mills create premium products that are sold around the world. In 2014, global exports of BC pulp and paper were valued at $4.2 billion.

Despite significant global sales, BC’s pulp producers face intensifying competition from new, lower-cost mills in Asia and Europe. On the paper side, we’re experiencing declining demand for news print and other paper products; and the entire sector must continue to reckon with the mountain pine-beetle epidemic. Structural challenges in the market will no doubt be a topic at International Pulp Week.

I can assure all of the communities who depend on pulp and paper production that BC’s pulp and paper sector is up to meeting this challenge.

We’re working hard to improve our competitiveness, and we’re pleased our provincial government recognizes the global challenges we face and is helping.

We are working with the BC government and forestry research institutions to develop a roadmap for the pulp and paper sector as part of the government’s Forest Sector Competitiveness Strategy.

At Catalyst Paper, we’ve been making great efforts to strengthen our balance sheet and enhance our long-term competitiveness and we’re migrating to more sustainable paper product segments. I know my industry peers are doing the same.

Our sector is focused on new growth-oriented pulp markets, particularly in China and Asia. And now we’re leveraging BC’s strength as a world leader in sustainable forest management to serve higher growth markets and customers who value products that are certified to come from sustainable sources.

We continue to innovate and improve our environmental performance. BC’s sawmilling and pulp and paper sectors have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 62% since 1990, and we’re now the largest producer of clean bioenergy in North America.

On the coast, Catalyst and other forest products companies have worked with First Nations, local communities, NGOs and the BC government since 1998 to make the Great Bear Rainforest a reality, protecting fish and wildlife habitat, old growth forests, and First Nations’ cultural values, while also providing a sustainable harvest level that will support an economically viable forest sector.

There is a lot to celebrate about BC’s pulp and paper industry, but we also need to work to protect our place in a highly competitive global market.

By working together, we can identify and implement solutions to the challenges we face to ensure the pulp and paper industry remains competitive and a key contributor to BC’s economic future.

That’s good for the communities we support and for all British Columbians.

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