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HCSA Integrated Conservation Land Use Plan Guidance & Trials

The HCSA has published Interim Guidance on the development and implementation of Integrated Conservation and Land Use Plans (ICLUP). An ICLUP, one of the main outputs from the application of the HCS Approach, builds on the results of an HCV-HCSA (or HCSA) assessment to formalise plans that optimise conservation, livelihoods, and commercial production where there is Free, Prior and Informed Consent to development proceeding, and to respect the rights of local communities that have said no to development on their lands. Developing an ICLUP is intended to avoid and mitigate conflicts with local communities by formalising community validation of, and agreement to, final land use plans before operations begin. Validation of an ICLUP ensures that the Organisation or developer and all affected communities have a shared understanding of different land uses, management and monitoring activities, and the rights, roles, and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the concession and surrounding landscape.

The document provides guidance for Organisations developing land for commodity production on how to develop and implement an HCSA ICLUP with a focus on: Stage 3 Negotiation and Stage 4 Operations of the HCS Approach. The guidance relates to both: 1) How to fulfil mandatory requirements and 2) ‘Good practice’ recommendations. The guidance is aimed primarily at the Organisation’s staff and is also relevant for service providers who may assist in the development and/or implementation of the ICLUP on behalf of the Organisation. The publication of the Interim Guidance ensures that can be accessed and inform other stakeholders involved in the HCS Approach, including civil society organisations working with affected communities and rightsholders, and government agencies.

The document has been approved by the HCSA Steering Group and Executive Committee as Interim Guidance, with a plan for the document to be finalised and re-published in early 2022. During the interim period, it is intended that the guidance will be trialled by HCSA members, and the HCSA will develop a quality assurance process to provide oversight and determine if ICLUP’s are developed in accordance with the HCSA’s requirements and guidance. The HCSA welcomes any input on this document. If you have feedback that you would like to share, please contact the HCSA Secretariat at info@highcarbonstock.org.


Call for Expression of Interest: Study on Documenting the Economic Values of Micro and Small-scale Oil Palm Processing in Central and West Africa

In 2018, the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) was incorporated into the RSPO Principles & Criteria (P&C 2018). Indicator 7.12.3 of the P&C 2018 states, “In High Forest Cover Landscapes (HFCLs) within HFCCs, a specific procedure will apply for legacy cases and development by Indigenous Peoples and local communities with legal or customary rights, taking into consideration regional and national multi-stakeholder processes. Until this procedure is developed and endorsed, 7.12.2 applies.” The No Deforestation Joint Steering Group (NDJSG) was mandated to discuss and develop the ‘specific procedures’ for legacy cases and development by Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and Iocal communities (LCs).

In line with the efforts to support the development of this procedure by the NDJSG, RSPO is calling a tender for a study on documenting the economic values of micro and small-scale oil palm processing in Central and West Africa. This study aims to provide the NDJSG with relevant information on the existing small and micro scale oil palm development suited for development by IPs and LCs and explore their relationships/arrangements with mills. The information from this study shall guide the development works of the NDJSG. Further details of the study are outlined in the Terms of Reference here.

If you are interested in conducting this study, please submit your proposal to tender@rspo.org and the closing date to submit proposals will be 6 June 2021 at 6:00 p.m. (MYT).

For any enquiries relating to this tender, please contact amir.afham@rspo.org

Launch of the High Carbon Stock Approach 2021 – 2025 Strategic Business Plan (SBP)

24th March  – The High Carbon Stock Approach is pleased to announce that its 2021 – 2025 Strategic Business Plan (SBP) was launched today at its bi-annual Steering Group virtual meeting.  The plan will work towards fulfilling HCSA’s Mission and Vision:

Mission: End commodity-driven tropical deforestation by providing land managers with practical, credible, and inclusive tools for land use planning.  

Vision: Natural forests linked to commodity production and consumption are conserved and restored throughout the tropics in cooperation with indigenous peoples and local communities.

By working with HCSA members, land use managers, communities, partners, and other stakeholders the HCSA aims to achieve its 2025 goal of conserving 5 million hectares of forests through scaling up the use of the HCS Approach methodologies.  These efforts will be employed through three main strategies:

  • Strategy 1: Ensuring successful implementation within commodity certification and verification schemes, and support initiatives, using the palm oil sector as a springboard for other commodities.
  • Strategy 2: Integrating HCSA with landscape and jurisdictional approaches and independent smallholder/farmer support initiatives that present the greatest impact potential.
  • Strategy 3: Advocating and facilitating the connection of active and prospective HCSA Toolkit users (supply chain actors: growers, smallholders, mills, commodity users etc.) to technical partners with comprehensive HCS-HCV (High Conservation Value) and community rights mapping capabilities.

In pursuit of these three strategies, HCSA will evolve into a centre of excellence for halting tropical deforestation supported by a significant scaling up of the HCSA Secretariat’s technical, outreach, and awareness building capabilities.  This will be done in conjunction with HCSA technology, revenue, and member benefit enhancements amongst other advancements.

In addition to the 2025 goal of achieving 5 million hectares of forest conservation through scaling up the use of the HCS Approach methodologies, the SBP contains ten-core metrics linked to financial, organisation, HCSA Toolkit users, and Toolkit impacts/performance targets that will be used to also track and report the success of the implementation of the SBP.

The 2021 – 2025 Strategic Business Plan, and the ambitious growth targets detailed within it, was developed based on input from a performance assessment of the HCSA conducted in 2020, and feedback provided by HCSA Steering Group members, secretariat staff, and external stakeholders at each stage of the development process.  HCSA’s SBP ambition is aligned with the critical need for urgent and accelerated action to end commodity-driven deforestation and achieve tropical forest conservation.  The implementation of the plan will further position the High Carbon Stock Approach as a credible multi-stakeholder initiative with a leading role in driving forward nature-based solutions to mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity and advance actions in cooperation with indigenous peoples and local communities to uphold their rights and livelihoods.

HCSA Steering Group Statement on Valid HCSA and HCV-HCSA Assessments

The HCSA has an established HCSA Quality Review Process for stand-alone HCSA assessments, in addition to quality assurance processes undertaken by the High Conservation Value Network (HCVN) ALS system for HCV-HCSA Assessments, to ensure assessments are credible and transparent. [1]

The HCSA Toolkit is open access but requires companies to register planned HCSA assessments and work with Registered HCS Approach Practitioners and HCVN ALS Licensed Assessors to undertake and submit the assessment(s) for independent review. [2] These requirements are in place to ensure quality of assessments is in accordance with the HCSA Toolkit and/or HCV-HCSA Assessment Manual. These quality assurance processes also assist in ensuring that any claims made by land managers are supported by published registrations and results of the quality review processes.

HCSA or HCV-HCSA assessment will only be recognised as a valid assessment if the HCSA Quality Assurance or HCVN ALS system requirements are complied with and assessments are published.[3]

We strongly encourage organisations that have not yet registered and/or submitted HCSA stand-alone or HCV-HCSA assessments for quality assurance to do so to obtain recognition of a valid assessment.

Also see the HCSA Communication and Claims Guide for claims that can be made when referring to the use of the HCSA Toolkit when implementing the HCS Approach or HCV-HCS Approach that adhere to the recognised quality assurance processes.


[1] The HCSA Quality Review Process is a quality assurance process to be followed by HCSA’s members of the Steering Group members’ operations from 7th December, 2015 (HCS Approach Quality Review Process) and for their supply chain and investment holdings from 20th December 2016 (HCS Approach SG Membership Document Version 2, Final).  For other users of the HCSA Toolkit the quality assurance process was expected to be followed from the launch of Toolkit Version 2.0 from 3rd May 2017 onwards or earlier if a review was requested.

After November 2017, companies are required to conduct/commission HCV-HCSA Assessments which are evaluated by the HCVN ALS.  HCV-HCSA assessments are evaluated by a Quality Panel through the HCVN’s Assessor Licensing Scheme. For more details on the two quality assurance processes see this link.

[2] HCSA assessments are registered on HCSA’s website here.  HCSA members are required to register both HCSA stand-alone and HCV-HCSA assessments with the HCSA secretariat. Non-member are required to register HCSA stand-alone assessment as part of the HCSA QA process and encouraged to register HCV-HCSA assessments with the HCSA secretariat even though the QA process will be conducted by HCVN ALS. 

[3] After the First Round of Peer Review the company can address the findings and recommendations and provide responses to them and may also update their HCSA report as a result.  Peer reviewers then finalise the findings and recommendations in a final Peer Review Report.  The company can also make an additional public response to the final report which is published on the HCSA website – see more details here. In the ALS, assessors submit reports for evaluation by the ALS Quality Panel, which gives a satisfactory or unsatisfactory outcome. If the evaluation has an unsatisfactory outcome, assessors can amend and resubmit reports for re-evaluation for a total of two times.  Peer reviewed HCSA stand-alone assessments are published here and ALS evaluated HCV-HCSA assessments are published here.  Additionally, through HCSA’s GFW Pro monitoring platform, conservation areas identified under HCSA stand-alone and HCV-HCSA assessments of HCSA Steering Group member’s operations, raw material suppliers, and investment operations will be monitored to ensure they are maintained.