Over the past two decades, the High Conservation Value (HCV) Approach has proven to be an effective way to identify, manage and monitor environmental and social values in plantations, farms, and landscapes.

The HCV Approach is included in over 20 voluntary sustainability standards, in company and bank sustainability and due diligence policies and in landscape or jurisdictional initiatives to protect important environmental and social features that could be at risk from oil palm, natural rubber, timber, cocoa and other types of commodity production.

To ensure that High Conservation Values (HCVs) such as endangered species and rare ecosystems are protected over time, there must be a way to ensure that protection and management are based on current and robust information.

The HCV identification or assessment process is a relatively rapid, one-off exercise, whereas management and monitoring and protection of HCVs is a long-term process. To ensure good management and monitoring of environmental and social values, it is necessary to consider changing circumstances or new information that may come to light since an HCV assessment first took place. It can be complex to define changes in High Conservation Values and to know who has the authority to make and decide on the validity of changes.

Managers, auditors, community members and others have encountered such challenges over the past two decades, however, there is not currently a credible system in place for the recognition of such updates or amendments to HCV information. There is a need for a transparent and credible process – for how e.g., land managers and companies can update HCV information, how local communities can request changes to HCV status, how NGOs can see what the reasons are for HCV changes (legitimate or not), and how the HCV Network can track the changing status of HCVs.

Given this challenge, the HCV Network Secretariat has drafted a new discussion paper to raise awareness about this topic and to serve as a starting point for practical solutions. The paper is based on discussions with companies and with members of the HCV Network more broadly. In this paper, we look at a variety of examples of why values such as biodiversity, ecosystem services, and livelihood needs may change over time and how new information can affect the status of HCVs. Though the list of reasons is not exhaustive, it is a good starting point as it includes several of the implementation challenges that growers face and concerns from NGOs.

This work is part of the HCV Network’s Management and Monitoring workstream and is consistent with our 2030 Roadmap – which serves as a guide for how the Network can contribute to global conservation and sustainability goals through long-term protection of HCVs.

The Network Secretariat welcomes feedback on this paper as we progress with the development of more HCV management and monitoring measures.

If you are interested in contributing, please contact secretariat@hcvnetwork.org

Photo: CIFOR