Facebook Pixel

By David Coletto

Everyday, Canadians interact or use products produced by Canada’s forestry sector. Yet, despite this, few really understand how the sector works. That’s not surprising considering that more than 80% of Canadians live in or near a city, far from the managed forests that are the source of so many of the essential products they use every day.

But as the public’s focus on climate change and sustainability sharpen and the pandemic and geo-political events disturb supply chains, understanding what the public knows and doesn’t know about forestry is critical to policy makers, elected officials, and others who want to see Canada’s forestry sector thrive and grow.

Earlier this year, Abacus Data was commissioned by the Forest Products Association of Canada to conduct a national public opinion survey to understand what Canadians know about Canada’s forestry sector and how they feel about it.

Here is what we found:

CANADIANS WANT TO SEE A TRANSITION IN HOW OUR ECONOMY WORKS.

A clear majority of Canadians say it is very important or important to them that we transition the economy and grow green economy jobs, that we help companies and sectors reduce their carbon footprint, and that we meet our 2050 emission targets as set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.

These views colour how most Canadians view industries today, and forestry is not excluded.

POSITIVE IMPRESSIONS OF CANADA’S FORESTRY SECTOR HAVE IMPROVED SIGNIFICANTLY OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS AS SECTOR AWARENESS INCREASED.

Today, 46% of Canadians have a positive impression of Canada’s forestry sector while 16% have a negative view. The remaining 39% say they don’t know enough about the sector to have an opinion. The reputation of the sector has improved markedly over the past two years with positive opinion increasing by 8-points since last year and 14-points since 2020.

Impressions of the sector don’t vary much by region or demographic group. At least 41% of Canadians living in every region of the country have a positive impression of the sector with those in BC (53%), Alberta (51%), and Atlantic Canada (47%) being more likely to have a positive impression.

We also don’t see much variation across the political spectrum. Views about the forestry sector are fairly consistent among those who would vote Liberal, Conservative, BQ or the People’s Party of Canada. NDP supporters are less likely to have a favourable view of the industry – but more have a positive view (38%) than a negative one (27%).

At the same time, when asked whether their impressions of the industry are getting better, getting worse, or not really changing, 30% of Canadians report their views of forestry getting better compared with 22% who say their views are getting worse. This is the best net favourable score (+8) that we have measured since 2018.

When asked to rate the industry’s performance on several measures, most Canadians feel the industry is doing well or acceptably on all, including:

  • 75% who think the sector does well or acceptably “providing Canadians with essential and environmentally friendly products”.
  • 72% who think the sector does well or acceptably “responsibly producing paper and lumber products”.
  • 68% who think the sector does well or acceptably “sustainably managing our forests”.
  • 61% who think the sector does well or acceptably “mitigating the impacts of climate change”.
  • 56% who think the sector does well or acceptably “partnering with Indigenous communities”.

PERCEIVED UNDERSTANDING OF THE FORESTRY SECTOR HAS INCREASED, AS HAS KNOWLEDGE ABOUT SPECIFIC FACTS ABOUT THE INDUSTRY.

Today, 80% of Canadians say they have at least a limited understanding of the forestry sector, an 8-point increase from 2021 and a 11-point increase from 2020. While few Canadians say they have a really good understanding of how the forestry sector in Canada works, perceived understanding across all categories has grown. Overall, 36% say they have either a really good understanding or a pretty good understanding of how the sector operates.

Among those who feel they know more about the sector, 72% have a positive impression of it, 18% negative, while 11% say they don’t know enough to have an opinion. Clearly as more people become aware of the industry, impressions improve.

The survey also explored whether Canadians were aware of certain facts about forestry in Canada, and if they were not aware, whether the information surprised them. Across all items, we see an increase in awareness of 3 to 6-percentage points from the 2021 survey, but awareness about the industry remains quite low. For example:

  • 62% are aware that “by law, foresters are required to replant and replace what they cut down or harvest” up 5-points since 2021.
  • Only 28% were aware that Canada leads the world in third-party certification, with more than two times the number of certified forests than any other country.”
  • Only 26% were aware that “when we build with wood, construction can be completed 25% faster, reducing carbon pollution during construction by 25% to 45%.”
  • Only 24% were aware that “Canada has retained more than 90% of its original forest cover.”
  • Only 23% were aware that “by building with wood, we can increase the amount of carbon stored in cities to a level that equals some of the most carbon-rich forests on the planet.”

MOST CANADIANS THINK CANADA IS NOT A WORLD LEADER WHEN IT COMES TO HOW IT MANAGES ITS FOREST.

Despite the growing awareness of how forestry in Canada works and the generally positive impression Canadians have of the sector, most Canadians aren’t ready to say that Canada is a world leader when it comes to how it manages its forests. Today, 31% think Canada is a world leader (up 3 points since last year), while 60% think Canada is about average, and 9% think Canada is below average.

UPSHOT

Over a short period of time, impressions of Canada’s forestry sector have improved substantially. Today, more Canadians have a positive impression of the sector, more say they have at least a limited understanding of how it works, and more aware of some key facts about it. Despite this, most remain unconvinced that Canada is a global leader in how it manages it forests – despite clear evidence to the contrary.

While these polling results are positive, they aren’t surprising. At a time when the next generation of Canadians are looking for renewable and sustainable answers to economic questions, Canada’s forestry sector stands out because of its considerable potential.

As the public’s concern about climate change and sustainable grows, so too will its demand for sustainable building materials. Canada’s forest products sector is well positioned to respond. I suspect its reputation will continue to improve as more Canadians learn about what the sector is doing to meet the climate crisis head-on.

METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from February 23 to March 1, 2022. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.%, 19 times out of 20.  The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

The survey was paid for by the Forest Products Association of Canada.

ABOUT ABACUS DATA

We are the only research and strategy firm that helps organizations respond to the disruptive risks and opportunities in a world where demographics and technology are changing more quickly than ever.

We are an innovative, fast-growing public opinion and marketing research consultancy. We use the latest technology, sound science, and deep experience to generate top-flight research-based advice to our clients. We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail and exceptional value.

We were one of the most accurate pollsters conducting research during the 2021 Canadian election following up on our outstanding record in 2019.

Contact us with any questions.

Find out more about how we can help your organization by downloading our corporate profile and service offering.

Don't miss any of our research and analysis, sign up for our weekly newsletter.

 

 

Good Decisions Require Good Data.