Lessons Drawn From Precedent-Setting Forest Agreement
Just over one year ago Canopy joined the Premier of British Columbia, First Nations Chiefs and leaders, executives of the forest industry, environmental organizations and journalists from around the world, in the architectural marvel that is Vancouver’s famous Museum of Anthropology.
Overlooking the sea, surrounded by totem poles and indigenous art, with drumming, regalia, song and ceremony, we witnessed the official announcement of the completion of the precedent-setting Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. Securing business certainty and supply of sustainably harvested forest products, community well-being and stability, and forest ecosystem conservation the Agreements were the outcome of two decades of conflict, compromise, negotiation, persistence and — perhaps most importantly — American paper and forest product customer engagement.
The Great Bear agreements were a long time in the making, but they have blazed a trail, establishing a path towards solutions that will serve as a model for the creation of conservation legacies in other critical forested regions of the globe.
The lessons learned through two decades of hard work on these agreements will inform future endeavours and likely condense the timeline for the next jurisdiction tackling the historically challenging balance of finding solutions that meet the needs of the economy, communities and the environment.
Here are a few of the lessons that stand out:
- Markets matter. The voices of forest product customers carry enormous weight. The forestry industry and governments are sensitive to sales contracts, trade, GDP, and the good will of customers — all of which are key to any jurisdiction’s economic vibrancy. When North American printers began sharing their direct interest in seeing the need for business certainty, long-term supply and sustainable practices in the Great Bear Rainforest, the government and forest industry, began to respond with a longer-term vision that encompassed conservation and communities as well as forestry. The market’s clearly expressed expectation of responsible management and meaningful conservation gives strength to communities on the ground that are struggling to create a stable, rational and enduring balance between jobs and the health of ecosystems they rely on for survival. And make no mistake, these long-term solutions mean greater certainty on price points and steady paper supply in years to come.
- All voices count. Many of Canopy’s partner companies engaged in supporting the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, including North American printers from sector leaders like TC Transcontinental to medium-sized and smaller companies such as Hemlock and International Web Express. While sales volume may carry weight, every voice contributed to the prevailing message that customers cared and wanted to see a positive consensus outcome for the future of this globally rare and important forest.
- It’s quick and easy to weigh in. A short, simple letter to government, a quick phone call or designating a company representative to participate in a video conference, are not hugely complex or time consuming. Yet that simple act of sending an email or picking up the phone sends a strong signal that the market is supporting solutions in endangered forest regions. In the Great Bear Rainforest process, some printers engaged their suppliers directly, some participated in webinars or in-person meetings and others just dashed off a short email voicing concern. The return on investment is impressive: a quick and easy act for a printer lands with a large impact in government and supplier circles and that value added can be passed on to your print customer.
- Transparency is becoming a big deal. More and more these days, printers need to know what is going on in the forest to understand their supply chain. While governments and industry generally position harvesting activities as legal, sustainable, eminently responsible, even “world leading,” printers need to have their own analysis and security. Your customers need to know their supply chain is free of conflict and to do so, printers need to increase their reporting out on fiber sourcing and be more engaged in ensuring their supply chains become sustainable. Transparency matters.
- Finally, stick with it. Win-win outcomes can take time. The lessons learned through the Great Bear should shorten the timeline for future solutions to secure supply and increase protection of threatened ecosystems. But patience is still essential. Crafting an enduring solution is a process of creation, innovation and discovery. So it’s important for customers to maintain engagement throughout. Negotiations can stall and the process can get bogged down. Therefore, it’s imperative that forest product customers are requesting periodic updates. Regularly offering encouragement for a constructive, conservation-based outcome that secures stable fiber supply into the future is a key contributor to success.
Canopy, our market partners and all participants in the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements, celebrate this one-year anniversary of a global forest conservation precedent with a focus on the future. We know that the lessons learned can help forge the pathway to solutions for the rest of the world’s ancient and endangered forests and all the species — including you and I — that depend on them for survival.
Contact Canopy and become part of creating the next legacy for the children and grandchildren in your life.
Catherine Stewart, a corporate campaigner with Canopy, an independent not-for-profit organization, has over 25 years of experience in the environmental movement on issues ranging from fisheries and forests conservation to water pollution and climate change. She was a lead negotiator on the Great Bear Rainforest campaign, brokering the moratorium in over 100 intact valleys and playing a pivotal role in crafting the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements in British Columbia.
Working with Canopy, an independent not-for-profit environmental organization, Stewart is continuing her efforts to increase conservation of the world’s threatened forests by assisting forest product customers in the development of sustainable purchasing policies.
Formerly a small business owner in a resource-based community, Stewart understands the importance of both jobs and a healthy environment to the viability and long-term future of rural communities.