Avrim Lazar, Former President FPAC will speak May 28
The relationship between the environmental community and the Canadian forest industry had been adversarial for many years. The battle was seen as a fight between competing values: saving jobs and saving forests. The green groups fought to halt logging but rarely succeeded. The industry fought to maintain its good name but its reputation suffered because of the claims of the green groups. No one was winning.
A shared commitment to find solutions
The forest industry association in Canada, FPAC initiated quiet conversations with the green groups. The objective was to move away from an adversarial relationship to a shared commitment to find solutions. Both sides agreed that solutions must work for both sets of values: jobs and nature conservation. While this was not easy, both sides came to understand that practical solutions for specific problems are easier to find than theoretical solutions to general problems. The two groups also discovered that their collective intelligence often found solutions that would not have occurred to one group working in isolation.
21 large forest companies and nine ENGOs
The result was the Canadian Boreal Forest agreement signed between 21 large forest companies and nine aggressive ENGOs including green peace canopy and forest ethics. The agreement sets out an ambitious detailed schedule for working together on issues such as forest certification. Protected paces and species and climate change. The agreement has been in place for two years and progress has been slow but the constructive engagement has been maintained, problems are being solved, conservation is being supported and reputation of the participating companies has been greatly enhanced.
The lessons are many
The lessons from this experience are many. First it can be done! Second the cultural and historical obstacles to constructive engagement are far more difficult than the actual problems that need to be solved. And third working effectively in a solution oriented process is a highly skilled endeavour and the needed skills must be taught and supported
Text: Avrim Lazar, Former President and CEO of FPAC