25th Annual Forest & Paper Industry Conference
Date: May 10, 2012
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
The 25th annual PwC Global Forest & Paper Industry Conference, with the theme of Delivering value, innovation and growth in a volatile world brought together 400 CEOs, senior executives, customers, suppliers, financial analysts, government representatives and other stakeholders in Vancouver, Canada on 10 May 2012. Through a series of interconnected presentations and discussions, conference speakers and panellists looked at the macro and micro influences affecting the forest and paper industry, providing insight on everything from geopolitical forces present in the world today, to discussions on sustainability practices and the influence of digitization on paper production.
A common theme throughout the day was the continued demand from customers that the forest and paper products industry embrace sustainable environmental practices and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Another key theme was that the industry must work to secure a smart, youthful work force to keep pace with changes in technology and provide the innovation necessary to support the industry’s future growth.
The conference opened with an engaging presentation by Eurasia Group’s Willis Sparks. Mr. Sparks’ wide ranging discussion focused on global political risk, but also touched on Venezuelan energy policy, recent political developments in the United States, the future of the European Union and rapidly increasing labour costs in China.
The conference financial performance panel was cautiously optimistic that the markets for forest and paper products are improving. Housing starts in the United States have shown incremental improvements over the past year, although are still well off historical average levels. Investors continue to demand growth and green energy could be the potential growth technology to attract new investment to the sector. In the near term, investors can expect continuing volatility in both earnings and growth.
Delegates were treated to a revealing in-depth discussion by three of Canada’s most prominent newspaper and media industry executives, who discussed demographics of readership and the ways that consumers access their media content. The media industry, despite the constant state of disruption caused by new digital technology, continues to maintain a healthy appetite for new and high quality paper products. The panel made a unanimous call to paper producers to work together with the print media industry to find ways to maintain a sustainable product delivery model that will be of benefit to both sides.
A clear message from a panel discussing market outlooks was that the forest and paper industry must look toward consolidation, sustainable business practices and supply chain management in order to see sustainable growth and profit in the near and long term. Accessing emerging markets was once again a focus of the discussion, with particular focus on China and the surrounding Asian markets. Building products markets are slowly recovering and should provide future opportunities. Pulp markets have come off the recent high points and are expected to recover more slowly with weak European paper demand forecasted.
Closing the 2012 conference was a panel of CEO’s that included John Williams, CEO of Domtar, Ken Shields, CEO of Conifex and John Cruickshank, Publisher of the Toronto Star. The CEO’s offered unique insight into the markets for their products and the business strategies they will employ to achieve long term sustainable growth.
The PwC Conference was part of the week-long Global Forest Products Leadership Summit 2012, a five day series of events and conferences focused on the global pulp, paper, wood products and fibre-based packaging industries. Organisations participating in Summit 2012 included The Pulp and Paper Products Council (PPPC) and International WOOD Markets Group.