The HCV Approach
High Conservation Values (HCVs) are biological, ecological, social or cultural values which are considered outstandingly significant or critically important, at the national, regional or global level.
All natural habitats possess some inherent conservation values, including the presence of rare or endemic species, provision of ecosystem services, sacred sites, or resources harvested by local residents. However, some values are more significant or critical than others, and it is the HCV approach which offers an objective way of identifying those values to be maintained or enhanced.
The six High Conservation Values cover a broad array of conservation priorities shared by a wide range of stakeholder groups. In any management plan, from forest management to agricultural plantation site selection and design or freshwater resources management, it is these values that need to be maintained or enhanced.
The HCV approach was developed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in the context of sustainable forest management. However, it is now used to define the highest level of safeguards needed across a broad range of production systems and resources uses, including grasslands, freshwater systems or landscape-level mosaic ecosystems.
The HCV approach is used in a wide range of processes:
- Maintaining HCVs is a keystone principle of major sustainability and certification standards in forestry, palm oil, sugarcane and soy production, as well as in biofuels and bioenergy standards, ecosystem carbon management and aquacultural production.
- The HCV concept is integrated in the purchasing and investment policies of many companies including global retailers, banks and processors and distributors of wood, paper and vegetable oils.
- The HCV approach is used as a landscape planning instrument in a range of contexts to ensure responsible land and water management.
- HCVs are used by major international NGOs as a conservation advocacy tool.
The HCV process is a practical tool which comprises three main stages:
- Identify: Identify whether any HCVs are present, and if so where. This can be done via an HCV assessment which determines the presence or absence of each HCV through desk-based research, data collection and field visits and stakeholder consultation.
- Manage: If HCVs are present, develop a management plan on how these HCVs and the HCV area in which they are present will be maintained or enhanced.
- Monitor: make sure that the implementation of the management plan is effective in maintaining or enhancing the HCVs.