Thank you very much and good morning. Thank you to the committee for inviting us today. I certainly hope that we can be of service to you.
I'm Jennifer O'Connor and I'm the president of the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute. I'm joined here by my colleague, Jamie Meil, who's our research principal.
I want to take a moment to tell you a little bit about the Athena Institute to help frame the questions later. We are a non-profit research and advocacy group in life-cycle assessment, or LCA. Our mandate is to advance LCA for a more sustainable built environment.
I just want to give you a little glimpse of our history. The organization started about 30 years ago as a research project at an organization called Forintek, Canada's wood products research lab. It's now known as FPInnovations. The work started because there was an interest there in broadening the dialogue, the environmental conversation, about wood products. That led to life-cycle assessment, and that led to gathering up representatives from across different material industries. It eventually became quite clear that, if that work was going to gain acceptance, advance, and be seen as credible, it would have to leave the wood industry, so 21 years ago the Athena Institute was launched as an independent non-profit research institute. Over that time, those 21 years, we have built a substantial reputation. We're seen as an international leader and pioneer in life-cycle assessment applied to the built environment. Our work has directly enabled the uptake of LCA in practice and policy in North America.
One of the key reasons I think that we've been effective and so successful is our ability to put together multi-stakeholder collaborations, to get multi-stakeholder engagement. It's really key to our credibility. It's key to our objectivity. You can see that on our board of directors, where we have representation from across material industries, and these groups are then coming together on our board helping to move the agenda forward, because they all want to be part of the solution in reducing environmental impacts of the built environment.
Just to tell you a little bit more about myself and Jamie, Jamie's bringing here deep expertise in LCA and in materials manufacturing. I'm bringing to you a background in architecture and engineering, and also a very deep background in wood product sustainability and market research, because I spent a good piece of my career at FPInnovations.
The scope of our remarks today will be limited. I note that the bill has two objectives, one of which is to support the wood products industry and promote more wood construction. We are not going to focus on that part of the bill. Our comments are focused on the part of the bill that references reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, GHGs. I would like to share remarks with you that are building on what you have already heard here in committee, what you've already discussed. I'd like to summarize and support that. I've read the transcripts. I'm impressed at the committee's interest in reducing the embodied impacts of construction.
I know you've heard from the wood industry. I appreciate that they've talked to you about embodied impacts. They've talked to you about LCA already. That industry is a long-time champion of cradle-to-grave scientific accounting of GHGs. You heard from them about the value of performance-based policy versus prescriptive policy. You heard from them about the value of using data to ensure that intended GHG reductions actually happen. What I'd like to do is take those messages and share with you how those are reflected in some leading-edge policy today.
Right here, in our own federal government, we've seen a lot of movement over the last couple of years towards evidence-based policy, towards data-driven policy, and life-cycle thinking. We've just seen in January the announcement from the Treasury Board Secretariat that greening government strategy has a strong emphasis on cradle-to-grave, full-scope LCA, and over the past couple of years, there's been some interest in greening infrastructure.
We had MP Andy Fillmore’s motion 45 a couple of years back and we had Joyce Murray’s accountable green lens initiative. Both of those were about bringing GHG accounting to infrastructure spending. A number of initiatives at the provincial and municipal levels are happening along these lines. Overseas, particularly in northern Europe, there's some policy already there.
The question is this: how do you implement an accountable green lens, or the carbon test that you've been referencing here, in policy? How do you go about doing that? We certainly agree that a carbon test is critical, but how do you do that in way that achieves the objectives?
I would like to encourage you to step back and consider this the way that we've been thinking about it—that is, what sort of policy gets put in place to encourage the sorts of actions that have verifiable GHG reductions? You might want to see an encouraging of product improvements across the board, including wood products. You'd want to encourage innovation in industry and in design. You'd like to encourage the reduction in the use of materials. The idea is to optimize, not maximize, material use. You'd want to be sure you had a robust, fair, and transparent system for doing the accounting, with stakeholder buy-in for credibility and acceptance. That requires a really strong technical foundation.
We have a number of ideas about what constitutes that foundation. It involves really good data. It involves standard methods so that we all follow the same rules. It involves tools and all that. I've captured a summary of those comments in a briefing note that I hope you've had a chance to see.
That concludes my remarks, Mr. Chairman.