Taking Action to Combat Climate Change
Interfor recognizes the global significance of climate change and the need to address this important issue by managing our own environmental impacts and supporting the use of wood as a sustainable construction material.
As a manufacturer of sustainable building materials and proponent of sustainable forest management, Interfor contributes meaningfully to the global effort to combat climate change.
“ In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.”
– United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007
Our efforts to continuously improve the efficiency of our facilities and our work in sustainable forestry are foundations of our business and each provide mitigation benefits. We continue to work to understand and report on the risks and opportunities that climate change presents to our business.
Interfor GHG Emissions
In this 2020 report, we have provided and organized our emissions metrics in line with guidance from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol). We have provided direct (Scope 1) emissions, emissions from electricity consumption (Scope 2), and our estimated upstream supply chain emissions. Biomass carbon emissions are reported separately, while methane and nitrous oxide from biomass combustion are included in our Scope 1 emissions. All of our emissions combined amount to less than a quarter of the carbon stored in our lumber products.
For more information on the methodology, factors and calculators used in our GHG reporting please see References and Methodology at the end of this report. Note: The numbers reported here are based on a different methodology than the emissions information disclosed in our 2019 report (which was based on combination of reported and estimated emissions and did not report biogenic emissions separately).
Estimated Forest Management, Harvesting and Log/Raw Material Transport Emissions
Log supply related emissions are primarily from contractor-owned operations. The estimated emissions we report here are based on life cycle assessment publications for surfaced dry softwood lumber for each of Canada, the US Pacific Northwest region and the US South region. This table estimates the emissions allocated to lumber from: producing tree seedlings, tree planting, fertilization, forest harvesting, log processing, log transport to mill facilities as well as ancillary material (i.e. lubricants) transported to and used by both the forestry and sawmilling phases of lumber production.
Our Framework for Climate Risks and Opportunities
Board-level oversight of environmental performance is delegated to the Board’s Environment and Safety Committee. As of 2021, the Environment and Safety Committee amended its Terms of Reference to expressly include oversight over climate-related risks and opportunities. Our Chief Forester provides a quarterly environment report to the Committee which, as of 2021, includes a section on climate-related matters. Material risks, issues and performance are included in the quarterly reporting.
Our climate strategy includes understanding the risks and opportunities associated with climate change and positioning ourselves for resilience.
Our key climate-related initiatives include:
- producing and promoting the use of sustainable building materials;
- upholding and promoting sustainable forest management practices; ;
- using renewable biomass energy to power the majority of our kilns;
- modernizing our facilities; and
- implementing strategic energy management programs.
With a changing climate comes a range of risks that have the potential to impact Interfor’s business. Identifying, understanding and planning for the mitigation of material climate risks is part of Interfor’s overall risk management process and closely ties to our duty as a manager and steward of public forested lands in British Columbia, and our role as a manufacturer of forest products in North America. A report on company-wide material risks is prepared and reviewed by our senior executives and Board on a quarterly basis. Annually, senior leaders throughout the Company contribute updates to a register of risks that have been identified as material to our business.
We have an extensive program in place to protect our assets from physical risks such as wildfire or hurricanes. We work with third-party loss prevention engineers to identify and mitigate risk factors for our assets, starting with the design of our facilities. Due diligence processes for strategic decisions such as capital investments and acquisitions also include the identification and discussion of risks.
Metrics and Targets
See page 22-23 for our climate related metrics.
Using renewable biomass to power the majority of our kilns helps us to reduce our fossil fuel GHG emissions by approximately 400,000 tonnes CO2e annually.
While we can demonstrate that we have achieved GHG reductions and improvements through the initiatives listed above, we recognize that targets are a valuable tool for driving performance and achieving results. For that reason, we will be working in 2021 to set effective and meaningful GHG emissions targets within our business to drive and quantify further reductions.
Interfor is aligned with the Forest Products Association of Canada’s “30 by 30” Climate Change Challenge, pledging to contribute to an industry-wide effort to help Canada move to a low-carbon economy by removing 30 megatonnes (MT) of CO2 per year by 2030. This is more than 13% of Canada’s emissions target under the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
Extreme Weather, Wildfire and Forest Health
Increased frequency and intensity of storms and wildfire pose a risk to our business. Our operations use emergency response and preparedness plans and procedures to ensure employee safety.
In areas where there is the potential for hurricanes and tornadoes, our operations have:
- procedures for severe weather;
- severe weather alarms;
- notification systems for closure of operations due to weather risk; and
- designated meeting points.
Severe rainfall can result in flooding and landslides, both of which have the potential to impact Interfor’s operations and supply chain. We have programs in place and are taking further steps to mitigate the impacts of severe rainfall such as:
- developing comprehensive flood plans for our at-risk sites;
- tracking snowpack and water levels as an advance indicator of flood potential;
- implementing preventative building and site improvements where water damage has occurred in the past;
- employing rainfall shutdown procedures in our woodland operations;
- planning log supply and inventory flows to account for seasonal shutdowns;
- utilizing culverts that are more resilient to debris flows/floods on our forest roads; and
- employing enhanced sediment control measures on erosion prone sites.
In addition, drought and extended periods without rainfall have been experienced in a number of our operating regions. With drought comes increased likelihood of catastrophic wildfires. The devastation caused by wildfires in recent years has significantly increased the cost of wildfire liability insurance.
Interfor’s woodlands operations have strong wildfire preparedness, prevention and response programs. We develop annual fire plans that include:
- responsibilities of Interfor and contractors regarding fire preparedness and response;
- restrictions on activities and shutdown procedures above and beyond legal requirements;
- daily and continuous weather monitoring protocols;
- fire control procedures;
- emergency contact information and reporting procedures in the event of a fire; and
- fire-watch checklists and fire hazard assessment forms.
The fire plan is provided to all of Interfor’s woodlands contractors. Following the release of the plan and during fire season, Interfor staff and contractors complete regular on-site fire preparedness inspections for high-risk activities in woodlands operations.
In 2020, our BC Woodlands had one operational fire. It was acted upon immediately by our contractors with the fire suppression resources they had on-site. We commend our staff and contractors for upholding our high standards of awareness, preparation and preventive measures (including shutdown) to avoid operational fires.
In addition to wildfire, drought can pose a threat to the health and success of forests. Drought stress can result in reduced tree survival and limited resistance to disease and insects. At the same time, changes in climate, such as warmer, shorter winters, can lead to insect and disease outbreaks. The Canadian Forest Service’s Forest Change program provides information about the impacts of climate change on Canada’s forests and how to adapt to changing conditions. The initiative reports on indicators that reflect past trends and future projections for changes across Canada. It also provides adaptation tools and resources for forest managers. Some of Interfor’s actions taken to understand and mitigate impacts of climate change on forest health include:
- prioritizing mixed species planting and diversity when planting new forests to improve resilience, and maintain or enhance ecological diversity with 14 different species used in our 2020 tree planting operations;
- selecting seedlings with consideration to their adaptability to future climate changes in the areas where they will be planted; and
- participating in BC’s Climate-Based Seed Transfer working group to develop policy and tools that will help guide professionals in climate change forest management decisions.
Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy
As a producer of carbon-friendly products, the transition to a low-carbon economy represents a significant opportunity for us. At the same time, with the transition to a low-carbon economy, we expect a range of policy, legal, market, and technology changes. For example, technological advances in energy production and future increases of the Canadian federal carbon tax, will both incentivize companies such as Interfor to reduce fossil fuel consumption.
In addition to our efforts to modernize our operations, reduce energy consumption, and lower GHG emissions, some of the things Interfor is currently doing to contribute to, as well as mitigate risk from, the transition to a low-carbon economy include:
- staying abreast of government strategies that apply to public forested lands managed by Interfor including the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Climate Change Strategy 2015-2020;
- contributing as an active participant in innovative land-use policy discussions in Canada through the BC Forest Sector Competitiveness Strategy, which recognizes climate change as both a risk and opportunity for the sector;
- engaging with peers and customers to improve consistency in accounting and reporting on climate-related metrics; and
- implementing a carbon accounting project to determine options for enhancing our current GHG tracking and reporting process.
In 2020, we worked with one of our byproduct customers, Mercer Celgar, on an emissions tracking pilot project. Through this project we helped provide estimates and metrics on our Scope 1, 2, and 3 GHG emissions that Mercer Celgar is using to understand and measure the supply chain emissions associated with their products. As part of the pilot we are continuing to work together to refine our accounting and build consistency in our calculation methodology.
While climate change may result in the acute, chronic and transition risks discussed earlier, opportunities related to climate change also exist for Interfor, including:
Carbon capture: The public forest lands managed by Interfor play a significant role in carbon sequestration. Lumber stores carbon in long-lived building materials before it can be released into the atmosphere to complete the carbon cycle. There may be an opportunity for forest managers to accelerate or augment carbon capture by forests through sustainable forest practices including: salvage harvesting and planting after forest fires or insect outbreaks, as well as stand tending such as thinning, brushing or fertilizing.
Market opportunities: Wood is a sustainable and renewable material, and research shows that it has positive environmental impacts compared to building materials such as steel and concrete (CORRIM 2019). Wood takes less energy to manufacture and using it in construction reduces water and material consumption and GHG emissions.
Through the Softwood Lumber Board, Interfor promotes the environmental and climate-related benefits of building with wood, and we are actively supporting the Georgia Forestry Association in the establishment of a state carbon registry intended to encourage mass timber construction as a sustainable development solution in Georgia.
Production of biofuels from lumber manufacturing residuals is another expanding market opportunity. With the transition to a low-carbon economy comes a demand for low-emission renewable energy sources such as biofuels. Interfor currently uses and sells sawmill residuals for green energy production. Throughout our operations we have been forming relationships with renewable energy producers and facilitating an efficient supply chain. We also are exploring opportunities to increase the use of bush residuals for energy production. In our US South region we have had success chipping and selling logging debris from stumpage tracts for use as biomass fuel. For more information on how we use mill residuals see Optimizing Material Use on page 29.
Productivity: In contrast to drought and forest health risks from climate change, changes in temperature, rainfall and growing seasons may result in improved site conditions in some areas. Improved forest productivity can in turn translate into reduced rotation times for log supply. Interfor reforests every hectare it harvests with ecologically suitable species that are native to the area of harvest. Our planting program is based on utilizing seedlings that will be climate-change resilient/adaptable. The research that we support at Clemson University through our US South operations is focused on how various forest management practices can improve tree seedling survival, growth and productivity.
Interfor ensures its supply chain is aware of environmental impacts and minimizes waste. Examples of this include:
- optimizing configurations of log packages for towing to ensure both efficient and safe delivery;
- maximizing cubic volume or weight limitation of each shipment to ensure the greatest efficiency of available logistics capacity;
- utilizing technology to ensure overall freight distance is minimized in meeting customer obligations and on-time performance;
- aligning transportation mode preference to maximize economical efficiencies with rail being favored for most medium- and long-haul destinations in North America;
- establishing targets to increase rail utilization from mills in the US South; and
- implementing a Transport Management System in early 2020 that enables us to access and leverage truck transportation capacity and support better utilization of dedicated fleets.
Fleet efficiency: Interfor is actively phasing out older, less efficient vehicles which has the effect of reducing fossil fuel consumption and improving emissions.
In 2020 the Western United States experienced extensive wildfires with tragic and destructive consequences. Interfor’s Molalla Division was included in a widespread evacuation of the local community and the fire came within four kilometers of our site. The devastation caused by wildfires in recent years further highlights the critical importance of our rigorous fire prevention programs.
Species Used in Mixed Species Planting
In 2020, we planted 11.9 million trees in the woodlands of BC managed by Interfor. We prioritize mixed species planting and use only species that are native and ecologically suitable to the sites on which they are planted. We used the following 14 species in our 2020 planting operations.
Forest Management and Carbon Mitigation
Our commitment to sustainable forest management aligns with broader objectives to maintain and increase forest carbon stocks. See Conserving Forest Values for more detail on our certifications. Some on-the-ground initiatives that we have been involved in that relate directly to the forest carbon cycle include:
- working with loggers and other partners to minimize bush residuals and process or transport previously unused material for biomass fuel and pulp;
- participating in interface harvesting projects designed to reduce the risk of wildfire ignition and spread to communities;
- salvage harvesting after disturbance, facilitating prompt planting and regeneration;
- supporting research on forest management practices for tree survival, growth and productivity;
- incremental stand density and fertilization improvements that will increase carbon uptake; and
- mixed species planting for long-term resilience and productivity.
Benefits of Wood
The quality lumber we produce comes from sustainable sources and is the ultimate natural and renewable building product. Wood has incredible cellular strength, and captures and stores carbon.
Experts advocate the use of wood from sustainably managed forests to mitigate climate change, and the Interfor Wood Purchasing Guide reinforces many of the advantages of building with wood.
Using engineered wood products to increase the height and scale of buildings provides a low carbon alternative to concrete, brick and steel-based building systems.
More recently, wood is being recognized as a building material that promotes health and wellbeing. While some people may already relate to the intuitive draw of wood, a study by the University of British Columbia and FPInnovations found the presence of visual wood surfaces in a room lowered sympathetic nervous system activation—the system responsible for physiological stress responses in humans (FPInnovations 2011).
Optimizing Material Use
100% of every log delivered to our sawmills is used
Through the sawmilling process, we don’t just make lumber, we also produce chips, bark, shavings and sawdust. We have sales programs in place to maximize the use of these residuals which other companies turn into pulp, paper and green renewable energy including both wood pellets and biomass for power plants. A smaller portion of our residuals is consumed by soil and landscaping operations and medium-density fiberboard manufacturers. Interfor also uses residuals as a renewable heat and power source for drying lumber in our own kilns.
In addition to residuals, another byproduct of lumber production is short trim ends from sawn lumber. Trim ends are used or sold for energy as well as being remanufactured into trusses, pallets, finger-joint studs and parts for furniture and cabinets.
We also grind up log processing residuals from one of our main woodlands operations in BC so they can be used by pulp mills as a renewable energy source for running their boilers. We are exploring innovative tools with our loggers to minimize residuals left on harvesting sites and in BC we are currently working with several of our pulp mill partners to increase our use of bush residuals by processing unused material from our harvesting operations into hog fuel. In our US South region, we have chipped and sold residuals from harvesting operations on stumpage tracts for use as fuel. Residuals that are left in the bush continue to store carbon for the short term and as they decompose they return nutrients back into the soils.
Residuals Sold by Interfor
These residuals are used in a wide range of applications from renewable energy to pulp and paper and even landscaping.