As planned, there has been a change in the executive at B.C.’s leading forest industry association, the Council of Forest Industries (COFI). Linda Coady is the new president and CEO, having assumed the position in July 2022 after Susan Yurkovich stepped down from the dual role.
Before re-joining COFI—Coady actually began her career with the organization in 1981—she was an executive director of the Pembina Institute, a think tank focused on energy and climate issues.
Coady’s career has included other positions within the forest industry at MacMillan Bloedel and Weyerhaeuser; in academia and with NGOs like the World Wildlife Federation.
“While a lot has changed since I first joined COFI, one of my first observations after coming back was that there are still some similarities between then and now,” Coady told Logging and Sawmilling Journal. Coady says B.C. has always played a leadership role in sustainable forest management, but now there’s an opportunity for “climate-smart forestry” to play a role in the global fight against Climate Change. People are beginning to understand the role that forestry can play in that regard, she adds.
Indigenous participation in the forest sector is also gaining momentum, she says.
“But as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act is implemented in B.C., we’ll see strengthened shared governance and more indigenous ownership in all aspects of the sector,” said Coady. “That’s good for the sector. It’s good for B.C. And it’s good for Canada.”
Coady adopts an optimistic view of COFI’s continuing relationship with First Nations. “My experience has been that relationships are always a work in progress,” she said. “Some forest companies in B.C. have established solid relationships with First Nations in B.C., but all of the companies here know that there is more work to do.”
The relationships with First Nations include roles for licencees, and in joint ventures involving tenures and harvesting. As well, indigenous contractors provide supply and services to the sector including logging, road construction, fire fighting and silviculture. Coady anticipates more such partnerships developing as First Nations solidify their role in the natural resource sector. “COFI will be doing its part to enable our industry to seek more opportunities for partnership, collaboration and consensus building.”
Coady notes there are flashpoint issues that face the forest industry, but they create opportunities for people to work together to find creative solutions. She cites old growth conservation as an example. Coady also notes the issue coincides with structural shifts in the forest sector and a downward swing in lumber prices. “Providing B.C. producers with more predictability around access to fibre would certainly help alleviate some of those pressures,” she notes.
For years, COFI and its partners have consistently pursued a policy of encouraging the local and global use of wood products. The work is continuing. COFI was a participant in a successful recent trip to Japan as part of the first post-COVID forestry trade mission, says Coady. “It’s clear there are some exciting opportunities to deliver green building systems and solutions that support a low emissions future both here at home and abroad,” she explained.
Market growth and development hinges upon creating key partnerships. She cites partnerships with the B.C. and Canadian governments through B.C. Forest Innovation Investment and the Emerging Markets Opportunities Program respectively that are helping build product familiarity and the use of Canadian wood products and construction systems as better choices for the planet.
Coady suggests how COFI can help alter the ‘sunset industry’ label being applied to B.C.’s forest industry: “By participating vigorously and effectively in important discussions happening right now across B.C. with respect to the future of forestry and the need for innovation and diversification of the product mix B.C. is capable of providing locally and globally.”
She says B.C.’s forest industry can continue to provide the core values people want like healthy and resilient forests and good jobs. The world is changing but so is the forest industry, along with it, and that doesn’t mean the core values and outcomes are no longer achievable.
“What it does mean, however, is that people have to be willing to work together in new and different ways to make that future happen,” she says.
COFI headed to Prince George for this year’s convention
It’s always a special occasion when the British Columbia Council of Forest Industries (COFI) comes to Prince George for its annual convention.
The 2023 convention is scheduled for April 12 to14 at the city’s Civic Centre complex, and the theme this year is: Sustainability is Growing. It’s a positive, even inspiring-sounding concept which comes at a time when everyone can benefit from the perspective of a return to a more prosperous and responsible future.
The theme is designed to prompt questions. How is sustainability defined within a B.C. forest industry context, for example? And how best can it be measured and managed as it develops?
These types of questions are the tip of the iceberg of the issues and ideas to be presented and examined during the convention proceedings.
The COFI convention will probably be the largest gathering of the year for western Canada’s leading forest industry executives. Representatives from all levels of government and forest industry support and service suppliers will be in attendance—in other words, the key people whose combined skills help make the forest industry tick and because of that, play a pivotal role in influencing the growth, prosperity and future of the province.
The B.C. forest industry has had to weather another challenging year in 2022. Many of the influences affecting the forest industry have been beyond its control. Each passing year, the pervasive effects of a changing climate become more apparent. Russia’s act of aggression against Ukraine has galvanized western opposition and reaction. But traditional trading patterns have become more dislocated as a result. COVID meanwhile continues re-inventing itself with the threats from new variants.
Within the COFI organization, 2022 was marked by other types of change. One loyal spokesperson stepped aside while an old friend returned. Susan Yurkovich was at COFI’s helm for seven years as the association’s president and CEO. She also served as president of the B.C. Lumber Trade Council where much work was devoted to supporting the government of Canada in its objections to U.S. claims of unfair trade practices by Canada’s softwood lumber producers.
At press time, Yurkovich was continuing to liaise with the trade council. COFI’s new president and CEO is Linda Coady who assumed the dual role in July 2022. She actually started her career with COFI in 1981 and stayed with the organization until 1993 (see accompanying story on page 8).
It is change and its challenges which underscore what will be discussed at COFI’s 2023 convention. Its theme is a way for COFI to help steer delegates through the maze of uncertainties lying ahead. Guest speaker confirmations and other convention details were being finalized at the Logging & Sawmilling Journal’s deadline (the latest information including registration details are available at cofi.org).
The who’s-who of experts and commentators assembled at the convention can be relied upon to provide the information and insight needed by forest industry executives during these transitional times. But there’s more. For the hundreds of delegates expected to attend, the COFI convention also represents the social highlight of the provincial forest industry’s year.
But primarily, the COFI convention represents business. Additional time for it is built into COFI’s agenda. The trade show held in conjunction with the convention each year is an example. It’s always a quick sell-out because of the cross section of decision makers attracted by COFI’s annual convention.