In mid-September, German MP Georg Schirmbeck and senior civil servants from Angela Merkel’s government visited Canada to explore the status of forestry practices and markets. Hosted by the Canadian Model Forest Network and Ecotrust Canada in BC, the Germans met up with several members of the forest sector, including BC Wood, Forestry Innovation Investment, Canadian Overseas, Mainland Sawmill, and the Cheakamus Community Forest.

The recent commitment by Germany to wean off nuclear power by 2020 has their politicians and ministries searching to secure sustainable energy supplies with low ecological, carbon, and financial footprints. Undoubtedly, German citizens are demanding the best alternatives, and their leaders want to make sure future energy supplies have a net benefit for both people and the planet.

As part of this initiative, the delegation showed interest in the trade for pellets produced from Canada’s forests as a heating source alternative. The Germans pointed out that if we were to grow trade in pellets between the two countries, there needs to be assurance that Canadian forests are being well-managed from forest to market.

During the visit to BC, the delegates were surprised by the vastness of our forests and impressed by our forest management systems and policies. As Mr. Schirmbeck noted: “In Germany we have a lot of private forests and care for the land. We almost know all our trees by name! That care seems to exist in Canada, but now I understand how lucky you are with the vastness of your forests and the opportunities associated with it. With that wealth comes great responsibility.”

Later, at a dinner hosted by Ecotrust board member Jacqueline Koerner, the delegation also had a chance to learn about Ecotrust’ certification and traceability programs, including FSC, Thisfish and Thisforest, which all foster more transparency and guarantees along the supply chain. From a consumer protection point of view, the delegates stated that traceability is now a new must for many supply chains; there is too much at stake in terms of re-assuring consumers they are making responsible purchases, as well as suppress illegal trade which is a big driver of deforestation and fish depletion worldwide.

They expressed that Thisfish and Thisforest were very interesting and innovative initiatives, but also thought Ecotrust would need to be vigilant to ensure our approach supports sustainable practices, especially if deployed in other countries. The delegates stressed that initiatives like these could be hijacked in illegal markets if the verification systems are not extremely robust and anticipating of possible fraud.

Overall, there was a lot learned and taught on both sides of this visit. Germany and Canada remain critical players in leading global forest policies, starting with sustainable forest management, to certification, to international policy efforts and funding thereof. As the delegation interacted with leaders and representatives from the sector in BC, it was evident how important collaboration and knowledge exchange are. From pellets, to wood product manufacturing, to traceability, to the sun-setting of nuclear capacity, the future of all forests and responsible purchasing policies are now tied at the hip.

Daniel Arbour, Project Manager, Ecotrust Canada