Our methodology protects High Conservation Values from the impacts of land-use change.
According to the United Nations, the world’s population is projected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030. This means there will be even greater demand for food which is likely to be met at the expense of natural ecosystems. Clearing natural ecosystems to establish farms and plantations is the fourth largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. Many areas designated for commodity production are home to indigenous peoples and local communities, plants and animals, water resources, and forests and other ecosystems. These natural and social systems play a critical role in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, meeting the Paris Agreement, and implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework.
Protected areas cover just over 15% of the planet’s land surface and roughly 7% of marine areas. Though these areas are incredibly important to conservation – the HCV Network focuses on the billions of hectares worldwide which are current or potential future sites for commodity production (e.g., wood, pulp and paper, oil palm, sugarcane, cotton, rubber, and cocoa) – in other words – those areas which still harbor important values which may be at risk from land-use change.
The HCV Approach is a 20-year methodology that pragmatically identifies and protects High Conservation Values (HCVs) from the impacts of land-use change. It is globally applicable, works across a wide range of scales (large landscapes or jurisdictions, farms, plantations, management units, smallholdings), ecosystems (from forests to grasslands and aquatic systems) and productive systems.
Our methodology works by:
Using the best available science to identify what HCVs are present, potentially present, or absent in a development scenario.
Involving stakeholders (such as Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities) in identifying and co-managing HCVs.
Considering interconnections between the wider ecological landscape and the local social context.
Monitoring the effectiveness of management actions to ensure the long-term protection of HCVs.
Who uses it?
Users of our methodology are divided into two broad categories:
Those who implement (identify, manage and monitor) the HCV Approach on the ground. Examples include:
- HCV professionals and their teams.
- Technical organizations that support identification and protection of HCVs.
- Commodity producers or growers who have vouched to protect HCVs through company policies and commitments, who follow certification, or commit to wider sector initiatives.
- Local actors (such as local NGOs) who support management and monitoring of HCVs.
Those who drive ground-level implementation through high-level actions and commitments. Examples include:
- Voluntary Sustainability Standards that require HCV protection as a condition for obtaining and maintaining certification.
- Financial institutions such as commercial banks, use it to ensure their investments (in agribusiness or other) do not have negative impacts on HCVs.
- Civil society initiatives, such as the Accountability Framework Initiative.
- Industry and private sector initiatives such as the Consumer Goods Forum.
- Governments and multilateral organizations as part of efforts to identify areas suitable for agriculture, conservation, and other activities.
The six High Conservation Values
An HCV is a biological, ecological, social, or cultural value of outstanding significance or critical importance. The six categories of HCVs are:
HCV 1: Species Diversity
Concentrations of biological diversity including endemic species, and rare, threatened or endangered species, that are significant at global, regional or national levels.
HCV 2: Landscape-level ecosystems, ecosystem mosaics and IFL
Large landscape-level ecosystems, ecosystem mosaics and Intact Forest Landscapes (IFL) that are significant at global, regional or national levels, and that contain viable populations of the great majority of the naturally occurring species in natural patterns of distribution and abundance.
HCV 3: Ecosystems & Habitats
Rare, threatened, or endangered ecosystems, habitats or refugia.
HCV 4: Ecosystem Services
Basic ecosystem services in critical situations, including protection of water catchments and control of erosion of vulnerable soils and slopes.
HCV 5: Community Needs
Sites and resources fundamental for satisfying the basic necessities of local communities or indigenous peoples (for livelihoods, health, nutrition, water, etc...), identified through engagement with these communities or indigenous peoples.
HCV 6: Cultural Values
Sites, resources, habitats and landscapes of global or national cultural, archaeological or historical significance, and/or of critical cultural, ecological, economic or religious/sacred importance for the traditional cultures of local communities or indigenous peoples, identified through engagement with these local communities or indigenous peoples.
In April 2022, FEMEXPALMA and the HCV Network signed a 5-year cooperation agreement to promote sustainable production of palm oil in Mexico. FEMEXPALMA is a Mexican independent entity that represents palm production at the national level and promotes the increase of productivity in a sustainable way.
With global markets becoming stricter, for Mexican producers to be able to export to key markets such as the European Union, they must meet strict requirements such as certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). To be certified by RSPO, the HCV Approach must be applied prior to the establishment of any new oil palm plantations. With this cooperation agreement, the HCV Network will support FEMEXPALMA’s members and allies to design better strategies to identify, manage and monitor High Conservation Values and support smallholders to achieve RSPO certification and implement good agricultural practices.
High Carbon Stock Approach
The High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) is an integrated conservation land use planning tool to distinguish forest areas in the humid tropics for conservation, while ensuring local peoples’ rights and livelihoods are respected.
In September 2020, HCV Network and the HCSA Steering Group signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen their collaboration to conserve forests and uphold community rights in tropical forests. The HCS and HCV Approaches are cornerstones of corporate no deforestation and conservation commitments, and increasingly for actors working at different scales. The collaboration aims to further support effective implementation of these commitments through increased uptake of the HCV and HCS tools.
Through this MoU, HCSA and HCVRN are pursuing two main strategic goals:
- Strive to promote the application of the two approaches in tropical moist forest landscapes and explore further opportunities for collaboration.
- Ensure that, where the two approaches are applied together, this happens in a coordinated, robust, credible, and efficient manner, so that HCS forests and HCVs are conserved, and local peoples’ rights are respected.
World Benchmarking Alliance
From May 2022, the HCV Network is an ally at the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA). WBA is building a diverse and inclusive movement of global actors committed to using benchmarks to incentivise, measure, and monitor corporate performance on the SDGs, and will assess and rank the performance of 2,000 of the world’s most influential companies against seven systems of transformation by 2023.
The scope of WBA’s circular transformation was expanded to cover nature and biodiversity as recognition of the need for greater understanding, transparency and accountability of business impact on our environment. The WBA Nature Benchmark was launched in April 2022, which will be used to rank keystone companies on their efforts to protect our environment and its biodiversity. As HCV Areas are recognised as key areas important for biodiversity, companies that publicly disclose their actions to identify and protect HCVs will contribute to the assessment of their performance against the benchmark.
Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures - TNFD
The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) is a global, market-led initiative, established with the mission to develop and deliver a risk management and disclosure framework for organizations to report and act on evolving nature-related risks, with the aim of supporting a shift in global financial flows away from nature-negative outcomes and toward nature-positive outcomes.
In April 2022, the HCV Network joined the TNFD Forum. The TNFD Forum, composed of over 400 members, is a world-wide and multi-disciplinary consultative network of institutional supporters who share the vision and mission of the task force.
By participating in the Forum, the HCV Network contributes to the work and mission of the taskforce and help co-create the TNFD Framework which aims to provide recommendations and advice on nature-related risks and opportunities relevant to a wide range of market participants, including investors, analysts, corporate executives and boards, regulators, stock exchanges and accounting firms.
Aquaculture Stewardship Council
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is the world’s leading certification scheme for farmed seafood – known as aquaculture – and the ASC label only appears on food from farms that have been independently assessed and certified as being environmentally and socially responsible. In 2021, the HCV Network and ASC formalised their collaboration through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU represents the first step in a fruitful relationship aimed at conserving HCVs in aquaculture. Although, existing guidance on the use of the HCV Approach currently focuses mainly on forestry and agriculture, the HCV Approach is however generic, and in principle also applicable to aquatic production systems. Through this MoU, this is recognised by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) in their ASC farm standard, in which the protection of HCV areas is mentioned in the context of expansion
Accountability Framework Initiative
The Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) is a collaborative effort to build and scale up ethical supply chains for agricultural and forestry products. Led by a diverse global coalition of environmental and human rights organizations, the AFi works to create a “new normal” where commodity production and trade are fully protective of natural ecosystems and human rights. To pursue this goal, the coalition supports companies and other stakeholders in setting strong supply chain goals, taking effective action, and tracking progress to create clear accountability and incentivize rapid improvement. In July 2022, the HCV Network joined AFi as a Supporting Partner. AFi Supporting Partners extend the reach and positive impact of the AFi by promoting use of the Accountability Framework by companies, industry groups, financial institutions, governments, and other sustainability initiatives, both globally and in commodity-producing countries.
Biodiversity Credit Alliance
The Biodiversity Credit Alliance (BCA) is a global multi-disciplinary advisory group formed in late 2022. Its mission is to bring clarity and guidance on the formulation of a credible and scalable biodiversity credit market under global biodiversity credit principles. Under these principles, the BCA seeks to mobilize financial flows towards biodiversity custodians while recognising local knowledge and contexts.
The HCVN joined the BCA Forum in August 2023 to learn more from the many organizations already coming together to find effective pathways to opening up credit-based approaches, and how to contribute our knowledge and experience of years of working in a practical way, often with global sustainability standards and their certified producers, to protect what matters most to nature and people.
The Network is always looking for partners who are interested in supporting our work, for talented professionals who can join the growing Secretariat team, and for professionals who can lead assessments globally.Get Involved