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The link between production standards, the private sector and a landscape approach

By Gabrielle Kissinger, Lexeme Consulting

Production standards and certification such as FairTrade and Rainforest Alliance coffee, Forest Stewardship Council certified lumber, and others provide a means for manufacturers and consumers to have confidence in how raw materials are produced.

Brewery operated by SABMiller’s Colombian subsidiary, Bavaria, in the Chingaza watershed outside Bogotá. Photo: Rudolf, BogotáYet, production standards alone are insufficient tools to address all production risks, such as biodiversity loss, water scarcity, climate change impacts, labour issues, and community and livelihood needs in surrounding areas, among others.  Companies confronting these risks recognize the impacts on business performance, and are increasingly piloting interventions beyond the ‘production unit,’ through landscape initiatives. Often, this is in conjunction with production standards and certification processes.

In Brazil, a group of smallholders united under the Cooperative Central Association of Family Farmers (COOPAFI), who make their living in mixed farming systems, but are reliant on soy as their main cash crop, obtained certification through the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) in 2013.  This enabled the farmers to attract international buyers such as Unilever and the Body Shop, while at the same time maintaining the native vegetation and biodiversity in regions surrounding their farms. 

To ensure that the soy certification standards were met, relevant partners including the Municipality of Capanema in Paraná, worked with the farmers to ensure continuous land management improvement that met existing Brazilian federal laws and the RTRS standard, zero-tillage systems and reduced agrochemical use, restriction on expansion of soy farms into native forests, and linking the soy to frontrunner companies seeking certified products.  

This is one example of seven in the chapter, “Private sector investment in landscape approaches: the role of production standards and certification,” in the book Climate-smart landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice.  In his foreward to the book, Jeffrey Sayer of James Cook University notes, “The landscape approach considers how interconnected components of the landscape can be managed to reap multiple benefits and balance commercial, social and environmental concerns.”

Private sector investment in and commercial motivation to pursue landscape approaches is not well documented.  Production standards and certification appear to be an important entry point for companies to think beyond their production unit, and consider risks beyond. 

Often, it is pressure from brand manufacturers and consumers that push producers to demonstrate that raw materials were produced sustainably and multiple benefits achieved.  One such example is the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) that seeks to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. It is comprised of more than 400 retail and brand manufacturers globally, with total combined sales of €2.5 trillion. Unilever aims for 50% of its agricultural raw materials to be sustainably sourced by 2015 and 100% sustainably sourced by 2020.  Similarly, Nestlé, Mars, Tesco, McDonald's, Walmart and other brand manufacturers and retailers have made sustainability purchasing commitments for agricultural products.  

The challenge with production standards is that while some contain criteria and indicators that require producers to go beyond the production unit to demonstrate sustainability, most provide little or no guidance to do so.  Rather, the decision falls on the producer to incorporate better management practices or create partnerships beyond their production unit in order to avert risks.

Nevertheless, the case examples reviewed in the new book chapter demonstrate a willingness by companies and their civil society or government partners to define project parameters that seek integrated landscape management.

While private sector engagement in integrated landscape initiatives appears to be increasing, more assessment of the long-term benefits beyond the production unit and concession-scale is needed and also to determine whether companies stick to the commitments and invest over the long-term. Similarly, there is a need for more evidence of effective coordination between government and private sector actors to support long-term commitment to landscape initiatives. 

More understanding is also needed of how certification bodies are incorporating a landscape lens into criteria and indicators for certification and measuring that performance over landscape spatial and temporal scales.  This is particularly important for fast-expanding commodities such as oil palm, sugarcane, and soy, all of which can place strong pressures on land and water resources. 

Source: This blog is based on Chapter 19: Private sector investment in landscape approaches: the role of production standards and certification of the new book: Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice

Citation: Kissinger, G., Moroge, M., & Noponen, M. (2015). Private sector investment in landscape approaches: the role of production standards and certification. In Minang, P.A., van Noordwijk, M., Freeman, O. E., Mbow, C., de Leeuw, J., & Catacutan, D. (Eds.) Climate-Smart Landscapes: Multifunctionality in Practice, 277-293. Nairobi, Kenya: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

 

About the author

Gabrielle has worked for 20 years at the interface between government policy, markets and land use pressures, from local to national and international scales, and with a range of comapnies, investors, major donors and NGOs. Consulting services and research focus on reducing GHG emissions from land-use in the agriculture and forestry sectors, policy and government affairs, innovative financing for sustainable land management and private sector engagement. Learn more

The ASB Partnership turns 20!

In 2014, the ASB Partnership celebrates twenty years of high impact scientific research on options to combat deforestation while improving livelihoods in the tropical forest margins. It is a partnership that has consistently championed the issue of deforestation and has had far reaching effects and contributed to global debates and initiatives on environment, particularly on climate change. Over the years, ASB Partnership has worked with local communities, governments and scientists in finding compromise between livelihood needs, development and environmental conservation

More than 50 institutions through multidisciplinary and long-term co-location of research in benchmark sites across the humid tropics have published more than 1000 scientific publications, including articles, books and book chapters; as well as over 40 signature ASB policy briefs that have become popular with various audiences and especially policy and decision makers.

“The evolution of ASB can well be compared to the story of the phoenix bird that rises after earlier incarnations crashed and burned in the sense that the partnership has had to change and renew focus after challenging afresh old and existing theories,” says Dr Meine vanNoordwijk, Chief Scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre who was among pioneers of the ASB Partnership.

During phase I of the partnership, the hypothesis was to stop deforestation through agricultural intensification, maximizing on yields in available agricultural land in order to spare forests. With time however it was realized that this could actually lead to more deforestation as agriculture became more profitable. Phase II was an effort to explore whether intensification would work if integrated with appropriate policies, technology and institutional reforms through a win-win hypothesis. This approach encountered challenges on implementation particularly across scale from local to national government. This led to Phase III of incentives hypothesis where environment and development needs could be met with the right mix of incentives supported not just by the governments in developing countries but through global investments such as payments for ecosystem services.

The partnership is currently at Phase IV -sharing-sparing-caring hypothesis- where emphasis has been on a multifunctional landscape approach to emission reduction. Through the Reducing Emissions from All Land Uses project, ASB is among pioneer institutions to provide evidence on the need for a landscape approach to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), as it overcomes implementation challenges related to a narrow focus on forests. This has been picked up in various forums with negotiators at the last United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP 19) saying that a landscape approach is the next best alternative to REDD+. A global forum on landscapes was also held for the first time at the margins of COP 19.

“The success of the ASB Partnership lies in the diverse, dynamic, multidisciplinary team of scientists drawn from national and international research institutes, universities, community organizations, and farmer’s groups,” says Dr Peter Minang, ASB Partnership Global Coordinator.

The ASB approach provides the right mixes of disciplines to test various theories and working with communities informs their practicality and application on the ground.

“Going forward, ASB will continue to work on issues around the agriculture-forest interface,” says Dr Minang. “Shifting cultivation remains a huge challenge in the Congo Basin and more attention would thus be given to that part of the world. Overall, research will focus on promoting multi-functionality in landscapes along tropical forest margins in the context of green economic development.”

Over the next 20 years, ASB Partnership hopes to continue reporting positive impact on lives, livelihoods, forests and ecosystem services.

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Key highlights of the celebrations included the release of a new book Partnership in the Tropical Forest Margins: a 20-year Journey in Search of Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn which consolidates the ASB twenty year journey as documented in the ASB policy brief series. A video with a narration of the ASB story within the framework of a twenty-year timeline was also screened. 

In his opening statement, Prof Tony SimonA panel of ASB Partners and scientists who have worked with the Partnership over the 20 year period give their reflectionss, the ASB Partnership Chair and Director General at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) noted that, “There is no other single partnership agency that has stayed the cause in working with all of those issues at the agriculture –forestry interface in the tropical forest margins.”

In attendance at the celebrations were ASB partners, some who have been working with the partnership since its inception in 1994 and were part of even earlier discussions leading to its formation. These included: Dr Dennis Garrity, Senior Board Fellow at ICRAF and former ASB Chair; Dr Tatiana Sá, former Executive Director, Embrapa and now a senior researcher with the same institution; Prof Fahmudin Angus of the Indonesian Soil Research Institute (ISRI); Dr Vu Tan Phuong, the ASB Partnership national facilitator in Vietnam; Dr Jofel Feliciano, ASB national facilitator in the Philippines, working with The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development.

Dr Peter Minang, the current ASB Partnership Global Coordinator indulged them in a panel discussion on their work and reflections with the partnership over the years.

They acknowledged ASB’s impact over the years in shaping policies and debates both at national and international levels, training of farmers and government officials at local level and producing high impact scientific publications, manuals and other resources that have widely been used by decision makers. But they also mentioned some of the challenges and work areas within the Partnership’s mandate that still need to be tackled. “There still remains a need to explore options for sustainable agriculture among the poor farmers practicing shifting cultivation in the Congo basin,” said Dr Dennis Garrity. New Book: Partnership in the tropical forest margins: a 20-year Journey in Search of Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn released at the inaugural ASB 20th anniversary celebrations

The celebrations concluded with a virtual tour of the ASB benchmark sites in form of a poster session and an art gallery that illustrated various activities on shifting cultivation as practiced in Southeast Asia.

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