Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for this opportunity to appear today on behalf of Domtar.
The folks of this committee might know that Domtar is a world-leading provider of fibre-based products including various paper grades, market pulp, and absorbent hygiene products. We have annual sales that exceed $5 billion and approximately 10,000 employees operating in over 50 countries around the world. Domtar is driven by commitments to convert sustainable wood fibre into useful products that people rely on every day. Our company's origins lie very deep in Canada reaching back to the 19th century. Domtar is an acronym for Dominion Tar Company. Today approximately 25% of Domtar's manufacturing facilities are based in Canada, primarily in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. We employ over 2,500 people in these three provinces. Our pulp and paper division, which is the group that I represent, operates 13 pulp and paper mills across Canada and the United States. Four of these mills are in Canada, as I mentioned, in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.
We have a strong interest in the low-carbon bioeconomy. We understand and agree that building an economy based upon our abundant and renewable forest and agricultural by-products is a very good thing for Canada and for Canadian workers in rural areas. The bioeconomy will lower the country's carbon footprint, provide sustainable products to the global marketplace, and offer leadership in global sustainability. Beyond that, of course, at a company level, we feel that the growth and enabling conditions of the bioeconomy support a positive future for Domtar and support our strong business imperative for renewal.
Allow me to explain.
With over 150 years of history, Domtar knows how to reinvent itself as the markets change, so, as digital technology gradually reduces the demand for communication papers, which is one of our core products, we have begun to redeploy our assets for other fibre-based markets. This process has been ongoing for at least 15 years. I have worked in this context for the last 10 from a technology development point of view, speaking for myself.
At the same time that all of this is happening, we also feel the constant pressure of competitive forces from other forest product jurisdictions, so we're working in a very competitive environment. I'm happy to say that Domtar has been successful in the 10 years that I have been a part of it and, of course, successful all the while.
Some of our products such as communication papers have been operating with long-term secular market declines of between 2% and 3%. This has been happening for, as I mentioned, 10 years here, but for probably 15 years, we have seen the market for uncoated freesheet, for example, which is printing and writing paper that we all use, decline by over 60% from its peak. These macroeconomic factors have resulted in significant industry-wide pulp and paper capacity removal and repurposing. At Domtar we have not been immune to this. We have closed numerous facilities both in Canada and in the United States and have been very busy repurposing other mills for the future.
In spite of these challenges, Domtar sees great opportunity for renewal through innovation. We are committed to developing and maintaining a world-leading role for ourselves in the new global bioeconomy. Our approach in this development is to focus on the creation of biorefineries co-located with our existing pulp and paper mills; in other words, to take advantage of the existing infrastructure and supply chain and leverage that. That supply chain is one of our core assets.
Like an oil refinery, the biorefinery refers to manufacturing systems capable of producing a portfolio of products in support of a variety of market needs that will change with time and that must, therefore, be flexible and adaptable. So, there are not just the fibre and paper products that we currently produce but also a wide array of bioproducts, namely, biomaterials, biofuels, biochemicals, all derived from the renewable sustainable source, Canadian forests.
Our journey is well under way. As I mentioned, I have been working on this specific activity for 10 years. It has been my primary focus.
Across our company, besides my group, Domtar is working on the development, with several missions, of value-added bioproducts, their application, and their markets. One of the challenges in what we do here is that we're simultaneously trying to ride a bike and build it. We're trying to create these markets as we start to produce the products.
Our program is organized along five major product platforms. I won't go into details, but these platforms are essentially all of the components of the wood biomass that we use as the basic feedstock of our supply chain. We believe that these products exhibit market and transformational promise for the future. Our basic approach can be summarized according to four key strategic elements.
First, we understand the critical role of innovation in creating this bioeconomy. At Domtar, the way we approach this is with an open innovation methodology. We actively develop collaborative partnerships that include end-users, technology suppliers, universities, research institutions, government agencies, start-up companies, and government sponsors—all critical parts in advancing our innovation platform.
Second, along with open innovation, we actively engage in the advancements of technology through the operation of pilot and demonstration plants. I'm very proud of the fact that Domtar has been a world leader in this regard as it relates to demonstration of new bioproducts in association with existing pulp and paper industries.
The third element of our approach is that we seek to position ourselves as the enabler of choice. By that we mean that since we are big believers in, and in fact dependent on, open innovation, we want to be very good at open innovation. We want to create an environment where people come to us first with their ideas. The way we do that is first and foremost by being quick to make decisions, and based upon our reputation, we're actually doing projects rather than studying them, and doing them quickly and efficiently. We don't say yes to every proposal that's presented to us, but we will give a very quick and responsive assessment of whether or not we're interested.
The fourth tenet is that we ensure sustainability of third party certification of our feedstock supply. As pulp and paper operations, we primarily utilize residual from other forest product operations, namely sawmills. Whether through our own forest management practices or those of our residual suppliers, we believe that the sustainability of our forests is a fundamental tenet of bio-economy success. For those of you who have the meeting notes, they are printed on Domtar FSC certified uncoated freesheet.
There are several examples that we could discuss. Rather than go into great detail, I'll just mention them. For the most part, these are successful examples of world-leading projects that Domtar has executed. We've had several very high-profile failures as well. Since I'm responsible for those, I try to avoid discussing them. The key point here is that when you're attempting transformative innovation, it is a high-risk proposition with a high degree of uncertainty. A positive way of saying it is that there's a relatively low success rate connected to it. You have to be willing to accept that in going into this.
The examples include, first of all, the NCC commercial demonstration plant at our Windsor, Quebec mill, the first of its kind in the world for the manufacture of nanocrystalline cellulose. This was a joint project and partnership with FPInnovations to form a joint venture called CelluForce, which I understand you'll be hearing from as well. Of course, the facility was built with very strong support from NRCan and from provincial sources.
A second Canadian example is the successful development and commercial deployment of a proprietary, strength-enhancing, specialty pulp fibre developed by Domtar working in collaboration with the University of British Columbia and a community college, CEGEP, in Quebec. The facility is called Innofibre, in Trois-Rivières. This unique and valuable material was first commercially deployed in our Windsor, Quebec mill. It has since been rolled out in our entire manufacturing system, and we're trying to license the technology externally now. This is a really high-impact success story that started in Canada and was demonstrated and deployed in Canada.
We're also working on three additional groundbreaking demonstration projects in our Canadian system, all of which are supported by NRCan and by NSERC in collaboration with three Canadian universities and two federal research laboratories.
These involve the valorization of lignin by compounding it with thermoplastics and making lignin thermoplastic products, the integration of a fast pyrolysis system and gasification technologies integrated with our existing pulp mills for the generation of biofuels and value-added bioproducts, and, finally, the potential use of underutilized woody biomass for the generation and conversion of fermentable sugars.
Perhaps most importantly, here's what we're doing in terms of looking forward. Domtar and my team—this is a bit of a plug on my part—are in the project development stage for a world-leading multi-component, integrated biorefinery park at our flagship Windsor mill. This project would involve numerous first-in-kind innovations leading to several new bioproducts. It would establish a unique, market-adaptive, and flexible biorefinery park. This park would consist of interchangeable, forward-adaptable unit operations that can be reconfigured and used for early commercial scale deployment of new bioproducts. This would be the next part of the innovation chain after pilot demonstration. It would be actual early-stage commercial deployment, which is the big weakness in the innovation chain right now. Our hope is that the biorefinery park would significantly enhance our reputation as an enabler of choice and give Domtar a global competitive advantage in attracting and capitalizing on transformative technology opportunities.
The last area I would like to speak to is the innovation system within Canada. As a forest products company, Domtar has had access to the Canadian innovation system. I'd like to very briefly comment that we enjoy working in Canada. We have 25% of our footprint in Canada, but over 75% of our R and D activities are in Canada. That's because of the existing infrastructure, public policy, and sponsorship programs. Domtar supports, has been supported by, and makes extensive use of both the provincial and federal programs for activities across the innovation spectrum. There are many examples. The ones I'd really like to point out are NRCan, NSERC programs; collaborations with federal laboratories such as NRC and Canmet; and of course the universities. The universities in Canada are generating excellent people of whom we have a desperate need and have started to employ in significant numbers compared to the recent past.
In closing, we at Domtar believe in the low-carbon bioeconomy, and we are actively pursuing the innovation and renewal necessary for Domtar to further its growth. We look forward to continuing to work with all you in this journey.