sustainability priorities

mitigating climate change

Mitigating 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.

At Interfor, we do our part to help combat climate change by improving energy use in manufacturing processes, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adopting sustainable forest management practices. Some of our key initiatives include:

  • Sustainable forest management: The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognizes that in the long term a sustainable forest management strategy, aimed at maintaining or increasing carbon stocks while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, will generate a significant mitigation benefit. In 2019, Interfor planted 10.6 million trees and the wood products we sold had between 3.5 and 4 million tonnes* of carbon stored in them.
  • Transition to renewable energy sources: Interfor has prioritized transitioning the most energy-intensive portion of our facilities to renewables. More than 80% of our kiln-drying operations use a renewable biogenic energy source for heat and power.
  • Modernization: Interfor’s modernization projects include energy efficiency efforts in Canada and the US. For more information, see Investing in Infrastructure & Technology.
  • Strategic energy management: We work with electricity companies to monitor and track our energy use, and install energy-efficient hardware when we perform upgrades. For example, we recently upgraded air compressors at our Gilchrist and Longview mills. Interfor’s Canadian operations are a participant in the BC Hydro Energy Manager Program. Through this program we have identified opportunities to reduce energy consumption and completed lighting and compressor improvement projects.
  • Emissions targets: 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.

Clean Air

Our Perry, Baxley and Thomaston mills each use an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) on their sawdust boiler. The ESP is a pollution control device that uses electricity to remove particulate matter in the exhaust system of the boiler.


Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Interfor is well positioned in mitigating climate change. In 2019, all of our sawmills combined produced less than 410,393 tonnes* (CO2e) of GHG emissions, whereas there were between 3.5 and 4 million tonnes** of carbon stored in the lumber we sold in 2019.

We operate in the following jurisdictions and report our GHG emissions based on the applicable reporting thresholds:

Interfor’s facilities are low GHG emitters, with only four our sawmills meeting the minimum reporting threshold for GHG emissions in their respective jurisdictions. Our remaining 13 sawmills do not emit enough GHG emissions to meet the reporting thresholds in the regions where we operate.

* Reflects actual emissions for four sawmills that exceed reporting thresholds (Grand Forks, Port Angeles, Gilchrist and Molalla) and assumes reporting threshold levels for the remaining 13 sawmills the emitted below the reporting thresholds for their respective jurisdictions.
** Estimate determined using the Canadian Wood Council Carbon Calculator.

Climate Risks

Our governance processes include an evaluation of risks. 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 these 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 Canada.

Extreme Weather, Wildfire and Forest Health

Increased frequency of extreme storms poses a risk to our business. In areas where there is the potential for hurricanes and tornadoes, our US South operations have emergency response and preparedness plans in place to ensure employee safety covering:

  • procedures for severe weather;
  • severe weather alarms;
  • notification systems for when operations are closed 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;
  • 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, most recently in our BC Interior operations. With drought comes increased likelihood of catastrophic wildfires. 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 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 2019, our BC Woodlands had three operational fires. All were acted upon immediately by our contractors with the fire suppression resources they had on-site and were fully extinguished on the day of discovery. We commend our staff and contractors for upholding our high standards of awareness, preparation and preventive measures (including shutdown) to avoid industrial fires.

Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy

With the transition to a low-carbon economy, we expect a range of policy, legal, market and technology changes. For example, changes  in land-use policy may reduce the available timber harvesting land base and constrain log supply, while technological advances in energy production may create an imperative to update infrastructure sooner than anticipated. 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; and
  • implementing a carbon accounting project to determine options for enhancing our current GHG tracking and reporting process.
Taking Action in Response to Climate Change

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 forest pests including 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 the actions that Interfor is directly involved in 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, with 11 commercial species used in our 2019 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.

Climate Opportunities

In addition to the acute, chronic and transition risks discussed earlier, opportunities related to climate change also exist for Interfor:

Carbon capture: The public forest lands managed by Interfor will continue to play a significant role in carbon sequestration. Lumber made from forests continues to store carbon in long-lived building materials before being 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. Wood takes less energy to manufacture and using it in construction reduces water, materials and GHG emissions. Through the Softwood Lumber Board, Interfor promotes the environmental and climate-related benefits of building with wood.

Production of biofuels from lumber manufacturing residuals is another potential market opportunity. With the transition to a low-carbon economy comes a demand for low-emission renewable energy sources such as biofuels. While Interfor currently uses and sells sawmill residuals for green energy production, there may be a future opportunity to increase the use of bush residuals for energy production.

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 BC. Our planting program is based on utilizing seedlings that will be climate-change resilient/adaptable.

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 can capture and store 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 well-being. 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: Wood & Human Health).

Green Logistics

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; and
  • establishing targets to increase rail utilization from mills in the US South.

Fleet efficiency: Interfor is actively phasing out older, less efficient vehicles which has the effect of reducing fossil fuel consumption and improving emissions.

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 make 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 consumes some residuals as a renewable heat and power source for drying lumber in our own kilns.

We also grind up log processing residuals from one of our main woodlands operations, and it is 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 in the bush and 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. 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.