2019 – The year of engaging with Landscape Approach initiatives

“How can we realize a positive impact and bring it to scale?” is a question that is frequently asked by senior leaders in business, civil society, and government institutions. Increasingly, this question is asked in connection to meeting the enormous social and environmental challenges faced by agricultural commodity sectors.

The benefits of sustainable production at scale include increased opportunities to grow businesses and portfolios, increased reputational value, and well-managed sourcing and business risks. Sustainable production at scale is possible. However, it requires us to define more effective ways of collaboration, empowerment, and commitment. This is where taking a Landscape Approach comes in.

Landscapes are patchworks of natural and human-modified ecosystems. The Landscape Approach provides a way to optimize and balance the interconnected system of ecological, social, and economic values and functions. Adopting a ‘Landscape Approach’ in the context of agricultural commodities means tackling issues at the scale of a landscape and driving the transition of entire regions to sustainable production. It also includes strong ownership and empowerment of local stakeholders. In the Landscape Approach, local stakeholders have a significant role to play. They are part of solving the challenges in the region by identifying local priorities and supporting the strengthening and building of local assets, while also helping to create fair ownership of local issues.

Our Work on Landscape Approach

Overall, 2019 was a great year for the Landscape domain of NewForesight. We have worked with frontrunner organizations and engaged with individuals. All of whom share our passion for developing and applying this lens to support sustainable transformation. We highlight two examples of how NewForesight has advanced the concept of Landscape Approach.

Jurisdictional Approach to Certification,
through a collaboration with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)

The Jurisdictional Approach (JA) is an implementation of the Landscape Approach where geographical boundaries of the landscape are defined through political means (e.g. state, municipality). Seeing the scale of impact that the JA can bring, RSPO and NewForesight began to develop a way to apply the approach to RSPO certification. NewForesight facilitated the Jurisdictional Working Group to develop practical guidance on the application of the JA and identify crucial enabling elements still missing in the current standards certifcation system. 

In our approach, we gathered insights from local government officials, smallholder producer representatives, larger producers, environmental and social NGOs, traders, and manufacturers. The following key insights were distilled:

  • Step-wise approach
    Implementing a Landscape Approach means engaging with a large number of actors in a large geographical area. This process takes time because one has to reach out to all stakeholders in the region, build local networks, to get buy-in for sustainable and systemic changes, and realize initial results to communicate the value. Over time, creating local structures for coordination and decision making (e.g. the local Jurisdictional Entity) enables actors to plan practical and feasible actions to address regional issues they face. The time spent doing so also provides the opportunity to use data to continuously improve these actions. A crucial element in the step-wise approach is the identification of clear incentives for all stakeholders involved in order to drive progress.
  • Good governance
    Good governance is core to the success of any Landscape Approach. There are threecrucial components of good governance: the involvement of stakeholders in the decision-making process, a well-functioning internal management system, and a mechanism to guard impartiality.
    Stakeholders frequently have different perspectives, interests, and ambitions. Therefore, as the first step for good governance, it is imperative to ensure that these are represented fairly throughout the decision-making process. Second, a well-functioning internal management system needs to be in place to enable proper evaluation and implementation of decisions and commitment made by the stakeholders. Finally, a mechanism to guard impartiality is necessary to ensure the credibility of the implementation of the approach.

Currently, RSPO is continuing the process of designing and enabling the implementation of the approach to RSPO certification.

Verified Sourcing Area (VSA),
through a collaboration with IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative 

Starting from January 2019, NewForesight has strategically supported IDH and a group of global stakeholders in landscape approaches to continuously develop and refine the concept of Verified Sourcing Areas (VSA). The VSA is a market mechanism that allows sourcing from sustainable landscapes. It aims to provide large volumes of commodities with specific sustainability requirements at a competitive scale and price while improving the base level of sustainability in producing regions.

As the innovative concept of the VSA is still developing, it is important to have a solid basis for the concept to grow and be able to address the needs of its stakeholders. In the early stages of the project, NewForesight helped to establish a solid foundation of the VSA concept by re-examining its Theory of Change and value propositions. Furthermore, the required elements to implement the concept are identified. These elements include commitments from local government and actors, necessary support and commitment from the market, and the roles of the supply-chain actors.

By examining the Theory of Change, it became clear that support and commitment from both the public and private sectors are necessary. They are crucial to ensure progress in the producing regions is rewarded and enable continuous improvement. The VSA model provides a mechanism to channel support from both sectors into the producing regions and make them complementary in addressing sustainability issues. Furthermore, the VSA enables the public and private sector to assess and communicate the impacts realized due to their support. Currently, NewForesight is working with IDH and the Global Steering Committee to develop a full overview of the VSA Model as well as a go-to-market strategy.

The topic of Landscape Approach is still in development, as such, many challenges (especially in long-term implementation) lie ahead. By drawing from our experience, we are taking this concept one step further; working on developing a Sustainable Sourcing Landscapes (SSL) approach that differs from traditional Landscape Approaches. The SSL concept considers from the start of how regional and international supply chains factor into the landscape level approach, and how their influence can be leveraged for structural change. A white paper regarding this concept will be published soon. So, make sure you keep an eye on our website and subscribe to our newsletter.

Exciting times lie ahead and we are looking forward to supporting many more landscape initiatives in the near future!

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