The 29th annual PwC Global Forest, Paper & Packaging Industry Conference, with the theme Transformation through innovation - opportunities for people, products and processes brought together several hundred CEOs, senior executives, customers, suppliers, financial analysts, government representatives and other stakeholders in Vancouver, Canada on May 4, 2016. Through a series of interconnected presentations and discussions, conference speakers and panelists looked at a role of innovation in general terms, as well as specifically in relation to forest industry, global and regional factors that influence and effect sector’s financial performance, workforce related challenges and opportunities faced by the industry today, and importance and potential of the forestry sector in combating climate change. Additionally, an in depth analysis of the high-quality paper packaging provided an opportunity for a close look into this forest industry section.
Google’s Global Head of Manufacturing Industry, Michael Walton, opened the conference. Mr. Walton’s presentation explored the importance of innovation and its lasting impacts on human society. His message that companies stagnate, decay and disappear if innovation is absent was highlighted through a number of different examples. Mr. Walton explored roadblocks to innovation and how to overcome it through Google’s experience that aims to create positive environment for innovation, motivate people to press forward, and celebrate rather than punish failing attempts to innovate and improve.
The conference financial performance and market outlook panel looked into the global, North American and regional factors having impact on the forest and paper industry. Kevin Peacock of Business Council of BC explored reasons of industry’s underperformance at a global level. Brendan Lowney presentation similarly focused on several factors affecting the industry including currency fluctuations, specifically the weakening of Canadian dollar and Russian rubble in relation to US dollar and its impacts on US and Chinese markets. RBC’s Paul Quinn offered his view of macroeconomic factors that are most significantly shaping financial performance and long term outlook of the industry. US housing, GDP and population outlooks in US and Canada, as well as reasons for seasonality of lumber and OSB prices have been presented and analysed. At the end the panel answered a number of interesting questions including possible outcomes related to the renegotiation of the US/Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement.
Innovation in the pulp and paper industry, international innovation initiatives, new technologies and material, and a role that venture capital can play in innovation were the focus of the innovation opportunities for the forest industry panel. Carlo Dal Monte, Director of Energy at Catalyst Paper explored importance of innovation for pulp and paper industry, and the role of innovation networks. Dr. Jack Saddler from the University of British Columbia focused on international innovation initiatives, lessons learned from the past, and a role of industrial clusters of innovation. Gurminder Minhas of Performance BioFilaments Inc. spoke about industry’s new technologies and new products such as nanocellulose. New products made from forest fibre are already with us making significant impacts on the range of conventional products, from cars to high strength concrete. Dr. Alfred Lam from Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital spoke about the role of venture capital in innovation, linking different players and providing capital to unconventional projects.
The embracing workforce change panel talked about common workforce challenges faced by an organization today, for example: technology shift, aging workforce, loss in organizational skills at the leadership level affect all companies regardless of industry they belong to, size, structure or region of operation. Jan Marston of TimberWest, Nigel Banks of Norbord and Janelle Aaker of lululemon athletica presented their own experience and problem solutions. Close cooperation with educational institutions, availability of sufficient data, and social media all play an important role in successfully managing the workforce challenge.
The trends in high-quality paper packaging panel presented an in depth analysis of the high-quality paper packaging segment of the industry. The panel speakers discussed a wide range of important topics; characteristics of North American paperboard market, market trends, sustainable development goals, certification, a role of e-commerce and its impact on the industry. The panel concluded that a niche opportunity for high quality packaging in global commerce exists and will continue to grow in the future.
Closing the 2016 conference was the executive perspectives panel that included Joe Nemeth, President and CEO of Catalyst Paper, James Gorman, VP of West Fraser Timber Co., Mike Harkies, Executive VP of Tolko Industries, and Denis Fraser, President of Goodfellow Inc. The panel offered unique insight into key drivers of change for the industry such as declining fibre sources, and declining demographics. Cost competitiveness, product diversification and talent retention that offer a path forward have been discussed and analysed.
The PwC Conference was part of the week-long Global Forest Products Leadership Summit 2016, a five day series of events and conferences focused on the global pulp, paper, wood products and fibre-based packaging industries. The PwC Conference was part of the week-long Global Forest Products Leadership Summit 2016, a five day series of events and conferences focused on the global pulp, paper, wood products and fibre-based packaging industries.
Save the date for the 30th Annual PwC Global Forest, Paper & Packaging Industry Conference taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on May 10, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver.
To view presentations from the conference, please click on each panel above.