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British Columbia Forestry Innovation

British Columbia is really, really big. The province is bigger than France and Germany combined and about double the size of California. Almost 64% of the province (about 60 million hectares) is forested, yet less than one-third of one percent is harvested annually. And we still manage to export millions of tonnes of wood products each year, because it is such an abundant resource.

British Columbia provides a business-friendly environment and a versatile natural resource that lends itself to innovative, sustainable purposes.  The Province is committed to a Mass Timber action plan. Mass timber supports CleanBC goals by lowering the GHG emissions of the built environment in BC.


British Columbia’s forestry sector isn’t new to change – innovation and adaptation have a long history in the sector and the province continues to be at the forefront of new wood products and building systems. Local building codes recognize wood’s safety and structural performance by expanding its use in a wide range of building types.

B.C. is home to one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world: the 18-storey Brock Commons at the University of British Columbia. The carbon benefit from the wood used in the building is equivalent to removing 511 cars off the road for a year. To help increase market demand for value-added production – and as part of the CleanBC plan to reduce climate pollution – government announced earlier this year that it was changing the building code to encourage mass timber construction up to 12 storeys using fire-resistant engineered wood. The Province has committed $20 billion in public infrastructure over the next three years and is requiring engineered wood be used wherever possible.

B.C. is at the cutting edge of forest sector innovation, as companies seek new ways to conduct operations to make full use of a harvested tree and use wood in our built environment. Some initiatives include using remote sensing technologies for forest resource management; conducting 3D and x-ray scanning of logs before they are milled; and using mill residue to create bioproducts for textiles, plastics and rubbers.

For example, local virtual reality company LlamaZOO created TimberOps, which reduces costs by helping forestry companies better understand the topographic challenges when planning timber harvesting. Two companies are applying LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technologies to the forestry industry. Indro Robotics develops aerial robotics and drones to facilitate forestry operations, training, data collection and other services. 3VGeomatics provides near real-time information based on satellite images to help industries plan projects and use actionable intelligence to make business decisions.

FPInnovations, a B.C. research institute, has developed cellulose filament technology, a flexible, wood-fibre based additive that can be mixed with other materials to improve the quality of a range of products. Engineered wood products like cross-laminated timber panels offer new opportunities to construct taller and larger buildings that afford seismic safety and a low carbon footprint.

The ability to innovate and adapt is an industry strength that will keep British Columbia’s forestry sector able to address whatever challenges arise.


British Columbia prides itself on being a world leader in sustainable forest management. Since reforestation programs began in the 1930s, over 7.5 billion trees have been planted. Through this and other measures, the B.C. forest industry has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% since 1990. These and other sustainable forestry practices ensure the continued abundance of B.C.’s forest resource.

Competitive and Dynamic

Renewable B.C. wood is in demand, providing carbon-friendly building solutions for the world. British Columbia producers have been supplying high-quality forest products to countries across the globe for more than 100 years. We have built and nurtured strong trading relationships in the U.S., China, Japan, and Europe and are growing our presence in South Korea, India and Southeast Asia.

Free Trade Agreements

British Columbia’s reputation for being business-friendly is backed up by free trade agreements as well. The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) entered into force on July 1, 2020, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). CUSMA preserves B.C. companies’ important preferential access to the United States and Mexico, including duty-free access for almost all goods.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) includes clauses specific to forestry products that open markets further in Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and in Japan over time.

While most B.C. forest products were already entering the EU duty-free, under CETA, all Canadian forestry products enjoy duty-free, quota-free market access to the EU. Pre-CETA EU tariffs for forest products ranged from 2% to 10%. B.C. companies can also benefit from provisions in CETA related to regulatory cooperation, government procurement, temporary entry and trade in services. B.C. companies now have a preferential advantage with the EU that many competitors do not enjoy.

Most of B.C.’s forest product exports have been eligible to enter South Korea duty-free since 2017 under the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA) and South Korea will eliminate all tariffs for Canadian products in this sector by 2024. Coupled with increasing interest in wood frame and mass timber construction in South Korea, the CKFTA provides an opportunity for B.C. forest product export expansion and diversification.

Diverse market access helps support the B.C. forestry industry.

Global Access

We are strategically located on Canada’s Pacific coast, with easy access to key markets in Asia, Europe, and North America. Our forest industry is fully integrated with extensive port, rail and road transportation systems.

The Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest port and the third largest in North America in terms of total tonnes of cargo. In 2019, cargo volumes were 144 million tonnes, just under the 2018 record of 147 million. The Port of Prince Rupert is North America’s closest port to Asia by up to three days’ sailing – it’s 36 hours closer to Shanghai than Vancouver and over 68 hours closer than Los Angeles. In 2019, the port saw a 12% growth in port-wide volume to a record 29.79 million tonnes.

Shipping volumes at Port Alberni have been contingent on the strength of the local forest sector. The port is a mixed forest products facility, handling lumber, pulp, newsprint, plywood and timber.

Squamish Terminals also move a lot of forestry products, as does the Port of Nanaimo, which moved over 1.7 million metric tonnes of forest products and almost 1.9 million metric tonnes of logs in 2019.
Fibreco operates one the largest wood biomass handling terminals in the world and has efficient rail access within Canada and marine access to international markets.

Business-friendly Environment

Revitalizing the forest sector is a shared priority with the B.C. Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement. The cost of doing business in British Columbia is low, with an abundance of affordable, sustainable hydroelectricity and a variety of tax credits and exemptions, including a logging tax credit.

Looking to invest in British Columbia’s forestry sector? We can help. You can also contact Forestry Innovation Investment to explore world-class environmentally friendly forest products and opportunities for investment.

Find the best location for your next forestry venture by reading through our blog series on the regions of British Columbia or exploring our communities section. Stay informed on sector developments and highlights by following us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

We Can Help

Trade and Invest BC helps facilitate foreign direct investment and has Trade and Investment Representatives in markets around the world. Contact the representative nearest you for support in investing in British Columbia.