photo copyright River Jordan NRDC

With global wood demand expected to triple by 2050, it’s becoming increasingly vital that the world’s last intact forests are responsibly managed. The creation of pulp and paper — which makes up an estimated 40 percent of all industrial wood traded globally — plays a critical part in driving forest logging. Canada’s boreal forest is the world’s largest intact forest, but demand for wood-based products is contributing to its having the third highest rates of intact forest landscape loss in the world. And troublingly, a new analysis has found evidence on the ground that logging operations are lacking key environmental and social safeguards that, if implemented, could mitigate many of its impacts.

The new report (of which the key findings are summarized here) assessed three major pulp suppliers’ wood supply chains from public forests in Ontario and Quebec, and found that they were significantly lacking on a number of key sustainability criteria. The companies — Aditya Birla Group, Domtar, and Resolute Forest Products — failed to ensure that wood going to their mills was secured with the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples. They also relied heavily on wood sourced from forest areas with weak forest certification schemes, which allow destructive environmental practices, and they sourced high volumes from forestry areas that overlap with the habitat of threatened species. Unsustainable sourcing practices threaten the health of this globally-significant forest, which contains some of the world’s largest terrestrial carbon stores critical for the stabilization of the global climate.

The findings of this report also implicate toilet paper and tissue producers like Procter & Gamble, that use boreal wood to make some of their globally-distributed brands like Charmin toilet paper. As detailed here, Procter & Gamble continues to maintain that its wood-materials supply chains are sustainable, despite evidence on the ground as well as pressure from the majority of the company’s own shareholders for it to improve the sustainability of its operations.

The report details ways that corporations that both supply and purchase boreal wood should implement policies that would better protect the rights of communities and safeguard forests. These include requiring free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous Peoples in their wood sourcing, supporting efforts to safeguard intact forests, and ensuring that where harvesting occurs it is from forests certified under the Forest Stewardship Council with strongly implemented policies.

For more details, please see the new report.

Courtenay Lewis is the Manager of Ecosystems Policy, Canada Project, at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and one of the authors of the report.