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Announcing the release of the HCV-HCSA Assessment Manual

Over the past year, the HCS Approach Steering Group has been working together with the HCV Resource Network (HCVRN) to develop integrated procedures that will support the identification of HCS forests alongside HCVs.

HCVRN and the HCS Approach Steering Group are now pleased to announce that the new HCV-HCSA Assessment Manual has been published, and is available for download on the HCVRN website at:
A Guidance for using the HCV-HCSA assessment report template is also available here. This document provides detailed guidance for preparing an HCV-HCSA assessment report according to Assessor Licensing Scheme (ALS) requirements.

The HCV-HCSA Assessment Manual is primarily targeted at guiding assessment teams through the HCV-HCSA assessment process. However, the manual is also useful for HCS Approach Steering Group member companies commissioning HCV-HCSA assessments.

The HCVRN has also prepared a leaflet to support HCS Approach Steering Group member companies and licensed assessors through the transition from the HCS Approach Quality Assurance system (peer review) to the HCV Assessor Licensing Scheme (ALS) Quality Assurance system. This leaflet can be downloaded here.

Should you have any questions about HCV-HCSA you may contact us at or the HCVRN Secretariat at

New research supports that protecting ‘high carbon’ rainforests also protects threatened wildlife

This week, a research paper titled ‘High carbon stock forests provide co-benefits for tropical biodiversity’ was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology. The research highlights that methodologies, such as the High Carbon Stock Approach, that identify and conserve forest areas containing large amounts of carbon, are beneficial for biodiversity conservation.

The study was carried out by a team of researchers from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent, who have been undertaking wildlife surveys in the forests of Borneo, in an area undergoing conversion to oil palm. Their findings revealed that when high-resolution maps were used to map forest and carbon resources, areas of high carbon were clearly seen to support the most mammal species. This relationship was driven by species of conservation concern such as orangutan and clouded leopards, suggesting that mammals vulnerable to deforestation and forest degradation will benefit the most from carbon policies.

The results have important implications for policymakers in business, government organisations and NGOs, by confirming that mechanisms like UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) Framework and HCS approaches to designate land for protection have strong potential for biodiversity conservation in the oil palm sector.

The paper was written by the University of Kent with support from the HCS Approach Steering Group, and can be accessed here.

Further information on the study’s release is available on the University of Kent’s website here.

This article was also covered by Mongabay. You can find a link to the post here.

Announcing the winners of the HCS Approach Blog Competition in Indonesia

In May 2017, the HCS Approach Steering Group opened up a blog competition to the Indonesian public, on the tails of the launch of the HCS Approach Toolkit Version 2.0 on the 3rd of May in Bali.

The competition ran from the 15th of May until the 16th of June, during which time participants submitted blog articles about the HCS Approach and the newly launched version of the toolkit as the unified global methodology for putting ‘No Deforestation’ into practice.

The competition was a great success, with a total of 32 submissions. The Steering Group is very pleased to announce the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners of the competition:

1st Place: – Akhmad Helmi Irfansah
Title: Lindungi Hutan Alam Dengan Metode HCS Approach Toolkit Versi 2.0
2nd place: Kopiah Putih – Abdur Rosyid
Title: HCS Approach Toolkit Versi 2.0: Penyelamat Hutan Indonesia
3rd place: – Muna Syaroh
Title: Metodologi Terbaru Penyelamatan Hutan

Winner selection was primarily based on:

  • Accuracy of information presented,
  • Adequate mention of the various links relating to the HCS Approach and Toolkit Version 2.0,
  • Creativity in aesthetics and in the angle/perspective provided on the HCS Approach Steering Group’s value, purpose, programme, and stakeholders,
  • And most importantly: the quality of content and understanding in relation to the HCS Approach, the Toolkit Version 2.0 and the launch.

The Steering Group congratulates the top three winners, and would also like to thank all participants for submitting their pieces to us and helping to spread the news on the methodology and the launch.

The full list of submissions for the blog competition can be accessed here.

More information on the HCS Approach Toolkit Version 2.0 and the launch in May can be found here.

HSBC Revises Agricultural Commodities Policy to Include Protection of HCS Forests and Peat

On 20 February 2017, British bank HSBC announced the release of their revised Agricultural Commodities Policy. HSBC has strengthened their policy for palm oil by expanding their prohibited businesses commitment, making it consistent with ‘No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation’ (NDPE) policies, which are increasingly being adopted by leading companies in the palm oil sector. The policy has now also been extended to refiners and traders.

The revision of the policy is considered a significant step in demonstrating commitment to breaking ties to destructive palm oil companies. HSBC customers will not only need to make a public commitment to protect high carbon stock (HCS) forests and peat areas by the end of June 2017, but will also be required to produce evidence of the independent verification of these commitments by the end of December 2018. While the policy does not specify a methodology for the implementation of HCS protection commitments, reference is made to the HCS Convergence Agreement of November 2016, and the common methodology defined in the agreement.

The HCS Approach Steering Group hopes that other banks and finance institutions will follow HSBC’s lead in revising their policies in support of HCS forest protection.

The official statement on the release and the revised policy is available on the HSBC website here.

The HCS Approach in 2016: Milestones & Highlights

Last year was marked by a number of significant events for the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach, characterised by progressive cross-collaborations between the HCS Approach Steering Group, various stakeholders, and other organisations and initiatives. Now at the start of a new year, we are pleased to present below the highlights and milestones for 2016, and thank all members, supporters and contributors for taking part in the efforts behind all of last year’s achievements. A more detailed update on the HCS Approach Steering Group’s latest activities can be found in the December issue of the HCS Approach Newsletter.

  • November 2016 celebrated a turning point for all stakeholders that have been pushing for or setting “no deforestation” commitments. Following 12 months of intensive work, the HCS Convergence Working Group announced on the 8th of November in Bangkok during the 14th Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT14) that they have reached agreement on convergence between the HCSA and HCS+ methodologies. The Convergence Agreement means that moving forward, there will be one methodology for putting ‘no deforestation’ into practice. The official agreement can be accessed here.
  • In March 2016, the Steering Group announced the commencement of the first revision of the HCS Approach Methodology and Toolkit since its public release in 2015. In the months that followed, the revision process was in full swing with consultations taking place at various points to collect feedback on version one of the Toolkit, and to obtain input on the proposals for the revised or additional content in version two. Consultations have involved the participation of key stakeholders such as commodity companies, the scientific community, and practitioners implementing the HCS Approach. Most notably, the fundamental elements agreed from the HCS Convergence process will be reflected in the revised Toolkit, which is expected to be completed in early 2017.
  • Another important milestone is the agreement on collaboration between the HCV Resource Network and the HCS Approach Steering Group that took place in April 2016. Recognising the potential for significant efficiency gains for companies, communities and practitioners alike, both groups agreed on steps towards integrating the governance and quality assurance of the HCV and HCS approaches. The subsequent work in 2016 has focused on specifically mapping out how these goals and steps will be achieved, preparations for merging the quality assurance processes, and developing integrated guidance on how to conduct joint HCV-HCS assessments in a range of situations (led by the HCV Resource Network). Further information on the agreement for collaboration can be found here.
  • We are also excited to share that the HCS Approach is gaining some initial ground in Africa, through events, trainings and initiatives facilitated by external platforms such as the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020, as well as through our members. A major milestone took place on 16 November when seven African Governments signed the TFA 2020 Marrakesh Declaration for the Sustainable Development of the Oil Palm Sector in Africa at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Morocco. Through the declaration, these Governments have agreed to place sustainability, human rights and collaboration with industry, indigenous peoples and civil society groups at the centre of the expanding palm oil industry in Africa. This also includes committing to adopt locally-adapted tools such as the HCV and HCS concepts. A press statement and the declaration are available here.
  • Steering Group members have attended and presented at a number of events this year, helping to disseminate information on the approach and its use. At COP22 in Marrakech, the Steering Group facilitated the session ‘Innovative Approach for Sustainable Conservation’ within the Indonesian Pavilion. Hosted by Aida Greenbury as Co-Chair of the HCS Approach Steering Group, speakers at the event represented government, NGOs and the private sector; including Dr. Hadi Daryanto, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and Stewart Maginnis, IUCN. Further details on the session can be found here. The presentation slides can be downloaded here.
  • Through the various work streams, HCS Approach Steering Group members and supporting observer organisations have continued to drive the uptake of the approach, support the goals of the Steering Group and address any difficult or new issues that may need to be considered for the implementation and adaptability of the methodology. We have provided updates for the various work streams throughout the year in the HCS Approach Newsletter. All issues, including the December 2016 issue, can be accessed here.

Should you have any questions regarding the 2016 activities of the HCS Approach Steering Group, please do not hesitate to contact the Secretariat at:

Agreement on Unified Approach to Implementing No Deforestation Commitments

Following a year of intensive work, the HCS Convergence Working Group announced in Bangkok today that they have reached agreement on convergence between the HCSA and HCS+ approaches. The Group has agreed on a single, coherent set of principles for implementation of companies’ commitments to “no deforestation” in their palm oil operations and supply chains. The members of the Group worked together constructively to develop recommendations that provide a roadmap forward for addressing the issues that remain in a collaborative and integrated way.

The agreement outlines:

  • Fundamental elements of the converged methodology that protects HCS forests, HCV areas and peatlands, including forest stratification and decision-making in “young regenerating forest” within fragmented landscapes, the role of carbon and robust implementation of FPIC and other social requirements;
  • The intention for functional and institutional integration of HCS with the HCV Resource Network; and
  • A roadmap for resolving outstanding issues through a collaborative process.

The recommendations will be incorporated into the revised HCSA Toolkit and the members of the Group are committed to further the implementation of these recommendations and to address the important remaining issues through their engagement in the HCSA Steering Group. In addition, the agreement will be reflected in the policies and positions of the organisations endorsing this agreement and the revised HCSA toolkit will be implemented by the companies when it is issued in early 2017.

Organisations reaching agreement are:

Asian Agri
Forest Peoples Programme
Golden Agri-Resources
IOI Corporation Berhad
Musim Mas
Rainforest Action Network
Sime Darby
Union of Concerned Scientists
Wilmar International

This agreement has also been received and endorsed by Executive Committee of the HCSA. The full agreement is available for download here.

Should you have any questions about the outcomes of this agreement, please contact:

To view the full statement, please click here.

Public Consultation: HCS Approach Methodology & Toolkit version 2.0

Second Consultation Period 30 September – 30 October: Please Give your Feedback

Earlier this year, it was announced that the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach Steering Group would be commencing the first revision of the HCS Approach Methodology and Toolkit since its public release in 2015. As part of the first phase of the revision process, key stakeholders, such as commodity companies and practitioners implementing the HCS Approach, were consulted on their experience with the Toolkit and Methodology. Members of the scientific community were engaged in the process via the HCS Approach Scientific Advisory Committee, and all stakeholders were invited to provide feedback through a public consultation and a workshop that was held in March.

Following a second consultation workshop held last week on the 20th of September in Singapore, and further to the HCSA/HCS+ convergence agreed key elements, a selected set of new chapters for version 2.0 are now open for public consultation. The drafts of these chapters can be downloaded below:

Chapter 3: Vegetation Stratification
Chapter 4: Ground Survey
Chapter 6: HCS Forest Patch Analysis & Decision Tree
New Chapter: HCS-HCV-FPIC Integration

The Steering Group invites any interested parties and relevant stakeholders to contribute to the HCS Approach Methodology & Toolkit Version 2.0 by reviewing the above selected chapters and providing feedback/comments in the survey form below. The consultation is open starting from the 30th of September, and will close on the 30th of October, 2016.

HCS Approach Methodology & Toolkit Version 2.0 – Public Consultation

NOTE: We strongly recommend that you read the chapters you wish to review, and note down your feedback prior to commencing the survey. Due to restrictions, it is not possible to start the survey and complete it at a later point. However, if you have submitted a survey response and wish to edit your response, this is possible via a link on the form submission confirmation page.

Should you have any questions regarding the new chapters and/or the public consultation, please do not hesitate to contact the Secretariat at:

More information on the timeline of the toolkit methodology and revision process can be found here.

The HCS Approach Toolkit Version 1.0 is available here.

First HCS assessment completes HCS Approach Steering Group Quality Review Process

The HCS Approach Steering Group would like to congratulate Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK) for being the first company to complete the HCS Approach Steering Group Quality Review Process. Last week, the Summary Report and Peer Review report for the HCS assessment conducted for KLK’s Palm Bay Estate in Liberia was released on the HCSA website.

The Quality Review Process is intended for all HCS assessments completed by members of the Steering Group, but also welcomes any assessment submissions by non-members who request review. The review process does not require third-party certification, however, companies must engage trained practitioners to conduct the HCS assessment and submit the assessment to a small Peer Review panel. The Peer Review panel’s feedback is then published alongside a summary of the assessment and any additional company comments, so that stakeholders can enter into a dialogue with companies about the results.

Since the launch of the Quality Review Process in November 2015, eleven HCS assessments have been submitted. One has been reviewed, and the results released. One is undergoing Peer Review, and the others will undergo the review process once the assessments are in their final stages of implementation.

To view the peer review results of KLK’s Palm Bay Estate assessment, please visit the Registered HCS Assessments page.

To learn more about the Quality Review Process, please visit the HCS Approach Quality Review Process page.

Announcement: Upcoming HCS Approach Practitioner Training In Bahasa Indonesia

The HCS Approach Steering Group is pleased to announce that the next HCS Approach Practitioner Training is scheduled to take place next month in Jakarta on the 26th-28th of July. The three-day in-person session will be the second training to be held in Bahasa Indonesia, and the second practitioner training to be held in 2016.

Training Objective
The objective of the training is to provide guidance to assessors on the implementation of the HCS Approach assessment process and toolkit. The training is a critical part of the HCS Approach Quality Review Process, and assessors are required to attend at least one training in order to be registered as an approved HCS Approach Practitioner.

Intended Participants
This is not a general introduction to the HCS Approach, but rather a three-day technical training for professionals who intend to eventually lead HCS assessments and oversee the image and forest patch analysis components of HCS assessments. Plantation company staff are welcome if they expect to be deeply involved in the technical side of HCS assessments, for instance satellite image analysis or the overall integration of HCS, HCV, community lands, and other areas into the land use plan.

How to Register
Please find the registration form together with further information on the training here. Any inquiries and/or registration forms may be submitted to the HCS Approach Secretariat at:

Announcement: New translations of the HCS Approach Toolkit now available

As commitments to the implementation of the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach methodology continue to grow across different regions, the HCS Approach Steering Group is seeking to accommodate the demand for the availability of the Toolkit in various languages. The Steering Group is pleased to announce that the Toolkit is now available for download in Spanish and Portuguese.

The Bahasa Indonesia Toolkit was released in 2015, and the French version of the Toolkit will be launched in the coming weeks.

To download the Toolkit in Bahasa Indonesia, Spanish, and Portuguese, please click here.