HCV Approach

Our methodology protects High Conservation Values from the impacts of land-use change.

The problem

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.

Our solution

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.

Our Partnerships

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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.

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