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Industrial Update: West Fraser - Focusing on a sustainable future

Company name reflects start in the region with mills in Quesnel, Williams Lake
West Fraser Williams Lake Plywood. (John Wiege photo)

At West Fraser, sustainability is core to our business – in Williams Lake and beyond. Everything we do is predicated on maintaining healthy, productive forests for generations to come while the renewable building products we produce store carbon for the life of the products and have an integral part to play in the global effort to address climate change.

As a company, we are committed to leaving the world better than we found it by focusing on sustainable forest operations and minimizing the environmental footprint of our mills like Williams Lake Plywood and Williams Lake Sawmill, where we live and work.

This has been our approach for more than 65 years.

“Our company name, West Fraser, reflects our company’s start in this region, with mills in Quesnel and Williams Lake, all fed with timber from west of the Fraser River,” said Chad Swanson, Woodlands Manager.

“Over the decades our forestry practices have evolved. Our focus is on ensuring forests in the management areas we operate are diverse, thriving ecosystems reflecting a range of values from biodiversity and cultural use while also generating economic benefits including the 475 jobs for our Williams Lake employees,” said Swanson.

Less than one per cent of West Fraser’s managed forest area is harvested annually. Harvested areas are then restored by planting seedlings, directly seeding the area or by supporting natural regeneration of the native tree species. All of this adds up. By 2021, West Fraser celebrated its two billionth tree planted milestone which including approximately 13 million trees planted in local forest areas, just in the last year alone.

“West Fraser’s highly integrated business drives efficiency and waste reduction by using 99 per cent of each log,” said Sandor Buchi, General Manager, Williams Lake Sawmill. “This is achieved by using the chips, residuals and sawdust from our mills as feedstock for our pulp and paper operations and renewable energy plants.”

We are proud of where we are, but even more excited about where we are going.

Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond natural resource management with considerable effort focused on minimizing the carbon footprint of our mills. West Fraser recently announced a commitment to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our global operations by 2030 as part of the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).

These targets are based on the latest climate science and build on work underway to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Even at Williams Lake Plywood, which runs on renewable energy generated by biomass and hydro-electricity, there is more that can be done.

“Now we are exploring opportunities for switching liquid propane gas to electric for onsite vehicles including two forklifts arriving later this spring,” said Jason Foote, General Manager, Williams Lake Plywood. “In addition to delivering immediate GHG reductions, they will also deliver improvements in air quality and noise reduction, benefiting our employees and community.”

West Fraser believes inclusive, diverse teams build a more vibrant workforce, safer operations and a stronger company overall, and we strive to have a workforce that reflects the communities where we live and work. This includes locally focused forestry partnerships with communities and First Nations as a priority. In 2021, West Fraser took the initial steps to become fully certified in Progressive Aboriginal Relations and is committing to the prosperity of Aboriginal communities, businesses and individuals.

From our start in this region, West Fraser is now the world’s largest producer of renewable building products.

We believe our industry and our company are uniquely positioned to provide building products that consumers can feel good about…because they are sustainably sourced, they continue to store carbon and they come from a company that values the environment, our people, and our communities.

Thank you Williams Lake for having us as part of the community for over 65 years.

Chad Swanson is the Woodlands Manager, South Cariboo Woodlands, West Fraser.

READ MORE: West Fraser temporarily adopts three day work week at B.C. lumber mills

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