Critical Vote for Leading Palm Oil Certification Scheme to Adopt True ‘No Deforestation’ Standard

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah – The High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) Executive Committee is calling for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) members to vote in favour of the updated RSPO Principles & Criteria as it integrates the HCSA No Deforestation methodology into criterion 7.12 during the 15th General Assembly. The RSPO is the world’s largest palm oil certification scheme and a positive vote will situate the RSPO as the global standard committed to certifying deforestation-free palm oil. Growing concerns over the impact of deforestation on the global climate, water scarcity, wildlife loss, and the rights of forest dependent communities is driving international demand for palm oil that is not linked to the continued loss of rainforests.

Deforestation – a critical issue on the ballot
During the RSPO’s Principles & Criteria review process, deforestation has been a critical issue because the current certification standard permits the clearance of secondary forests, which are vital for wildlife, carbon storage and local livelihoods.[1] Despite increasing global awareness and efforts to protect forests, over 13 million hectares of forest are still lost every year,[2] and most tropical deforestation is driven by development for agricultural commodities, such as palm oil,[3] beef, and soy. This crisis does not only displace the people and wildlife dependent on theses rich forests, but it also makes reaching our 1.5-degree climate goal more difficult; instead of these forests acting as vast carbon sinks, deforestation and agricultural development emit more carbon than all of our cars, ships, and planes combined. This failure to harness rapid emission reductions possible through a transition to responsible, deforestation-free agriculture represents a giant opportunity cost.[4] Thus, strengthening the RSPO’s Principles & Criteria to prohibit deforestation will create a win-win for people, wildlife, and our climate goals, and respond to market demands for responsible agricultural production.

Voting in favour of the RSPO’s new proposed requirements to halt deforestation through the use of HCSA’s No Deforestation methodology will allow the RSPO certification system to contribute to the transition to a deforestation-free palm oil sector. Additionally, application of the rigorous social requirements of the HCS Approach will be integral to achieving positive impacts for communities that balance sustainable livelihood and poverty reduction with the need to conserve, protect and enhance ecosystems, and respect land users’ rights.

Several RSPO members including growers have been using the HCS Approach as the methodology for implementing their No Deforestation commitments for years. The High Carbon Stock Approach Steering Group is committed to working with the RSPO to actively support the uptake of its methodology by all RSPO members, ensuring a rapid transition to a deforestation-free palm oil standard.

About the HCS Approach
The HCS Approach is the first practical, field-tested methodology for distinguishing forest areas that should be protected or restored, from degraded lands that may be developed, using an integrated land-use planning approach. The methodology was developed with the aim to ensure a practical, transparent, robust, and scientifically credible approach that is widely accepted to implement commitments to halt deforestation in the tropics, while ensuring the rights and livelihoods of local peoples are respected. The HCS Approach has allowed major plantations and supply chain actors to reduce their impact by not clearing or purchasing goods from HCS forests and High Conservation Value (HCV) areas.

About the HCSA Steering Group
The HCSA Steering Group provides overall governance of the HCS Approach and oversees further development of the methodology, including refining its definition, its objectives, and its relationship to other approaches to halting deforestation. For further information, please visit

This statement is available for download here. For more information, contact the HCSA Secretariat at


[1] Gareth D Lennox, Toby A Gardner, James R Thomson, Joice Ferreira, Erika Berenguer, Alexander C Lees, Ralph Mac Nally, Luiz E O C Aragão, Silvio F B Ferraz, Julio Louzada, Nárgila G Moura, Victor H F Oliveira, Renata Pardini, Ricardo R C Solar, Fernando Z Vaz-de Mello, Ima C G Vieira, Jos Barlow. Second rate or a second chance? Assessing biomass and biodiversity recovery in regenerating Amazonian forests. Global Change Biology, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14443;

[2] Brazil, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Malaysia have had the highest rates of rainforest loss between 2012 and 2014. Hansen M.C., Potapov, P.V., Moore, R., Turubanova, S.A., Tyukavina, A., Thau D., Stehman, V., & Goetz, S.J. (Nov 2013) High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change. Science 15 Nov 2013: Vol:342, pp 850-853. Global Forest Change 2000–2017

[3] One of the main drivers of deforestation and forest ecosystems degradation is agricultural expansion. According to different estimates, agricultural expansion is the primary driver of 27 to 80 percent of deforestation worldwide. Kissinger, G., Herold, M. & De Sy, V. 2012. Drivers of deforestation and forest degradation: a synthesis report for REDD+ policymakers. Vancouver, Canada, Lexeme Consulting. Curtis, P.G., Slay, C.M., Harris, N.L., Tyukavina, A. & Hansen, M.C. (2018). Classifying drivers of global forest loss. Science 361, 1108–1111

[4] Missing pathways to 1.5 Celsius: The role of the land use sector in ambitious climate action. Climate ambition that safeguards land rights, biodiversity and food security. Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance (CLARA) October 2018

Clarifying Statement on Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL)

The High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) wishes to advise stakeholders that Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) is not a member of the High Carbon Stock Steering Group. This clarification was confirmed by the HCSA Executive Committee during its meeting on Thursday the 4th of October 2018.

Golden Veroleum Liberia was previously incorrectly listed as a member due to its involvement in working groups as an alternate for an existing plantation company member.

The High Carbon Stock Approach has received information on allegations of breaches of the High Carbon Stock Approach by Golden Veroleum Liberia in its operations in Sinoe County, Liberia. As GVL is not an HCSA member, an investigation is underway to assess if there has been a breach of the requirements outlined in the High Carbon Stock Approach Toolkit in regards to the application of the HCSA methodology. The outcome of this investigation will be reported publicly and directly to stakeholders that have raised concerns on this case.

New HCSA SG Members: KLK & Nestlé

The HCSA Executive Committee is pleased to announce two new HCSA Steering Group (SG) Members, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK) and Nestlé S.A.

KLK is a Malaysian multinational company involved in plantation, manufacturing, and property development. Starting off as a plantation company more than 100 years ago, oil palm and rubber plantations still serve as KLK’s core business activities. The Group’s plantation landbank now stands close to 270,000 hectares spreading across Malaysia, Indonesia and Liberia. KLK commits to No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) and recently updated their Sustainability Policy. KLK came on board as a HCSA SG plantation company member on 2 October 2018.
For more information on KLK, please see their website

Nestlé is the world’s largest food and beverage company with more than 2000 brands globally and presence in 189 countries around the world. Nestlé’s purpose is enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future. Nestlé committed to “No Deforestation” in 2010 and was one of the first companies to commit to protecting HCS forests. Since the HCSA concept became part of their requirements, the company has been working with suppliers and partners on transformation activities to bring their supply chains into alignment with their Responsible Sourcing Standard. Nestlé came on board as a HCSA SG commodity user company member on 4 October 2018.
For more information on Nestle, please see their website

A full list of HCSA SG Members can be found here and more information on membership can be found here.

HCSA Steering Group Statement on High Forest Cover Landscapes

14 June 2018

  • The High Carbon Stock Approach Toolkit and Decision Tree will not be altered for application in High Forest Cover Landscapes (HFCLs).
  • However, the HCSA Steering Group will work with stakeholders to identify alternatives to the industrial plantations model in HFCLs, meeting community aspirations and allowing development as well as conserving HCS forests in the long-term.
  • For a strictly limited number of existing “legacy cases” of concessions in HFCLs that meet eligibility criteria and agree to enter into a due diligence process, this may include limited conversion subject to specific thresholds and procedures, via an agreed legacy case review process.
  • Additional information on the Legacy Case review process will be available in the next 30 days on the HCSA website.

Members of the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) Steering Group have long recognised that many agricultural development projects are slated for development in High Forest Cover Landscapes (HFCLs), defined as landscapes[1] with over eighty percent forest cover. In these landscapes there may be insufficient area or optimal arrangement of degraded land to support development of large-scale plantations, while governments and local communities are anticipating the implementation of projects, including those where the Free, Prior and Informed Consent has been obtained from rights holders.

Following deliberation by the HFCL Working Group in 2017, it has been decided that the HCSA methodology and Decision Tree will not be altered for application in HFCLs. Sanctioned deforestation in these landscapes is not compatible with a No Deforestation commitment, and this decision will maintain the credibility and rigour of the HCSA as a tool for putting No Deforestation into practice. This decision provides needed clarity over the scope of the HCSA for its stakeholders, further strengthening ongoing efforts to incorporate HCSA into certification schemes and improve support and adoption by governments.

In recognition of the development aspirations of communities and governments in HFCLs, as well as the importance of these forests for keeping climate change below 1.5 degrees and biodiversity, the HCSA Steering Group will instead shift its focus to researching, identifying, and developing new strategies, financing, and stakeholder engagement tools for these contexts. These will assist actors in HFCL areas to identify alternatives to the industrial plantations model that will allow development as well as the conservation of HCS forests. Such assistance will be based on cooperation with local communities as primary rights holders, as well as NGOs, governments, and the private sector. It is anticipated that this will include pilot projects and demonstration case studies to test different models and generate replicable and scalable proofs of concept.

In parallel, for a strictly limited number of “Legacy Cases” that meet specific eligibility criteria and agree to undergo a due diligence process, the HFCL Working Group will focus on assisting communities, companies, and their partners working in these existing concessions within HFCLs to prioritise conservation outcomes. In certain instances, following application of the Toolkit and Decision Tree, the Integrated Conservation and Land Use Plan (ICLUP) process may include limited conversion of identified HCS forest that does not exceed the Young Regenerating Forest (YRF)[2] vegetation class and maximum area thresholds defined by the HCSA Steering Group. A key focus will remain on building alternative livelihood and development options to the large-scale plantation model, and decisions on limited conversion exceptions for YRF areas will be determined via a mutually agreed decision-making process with affected communities. These options will include assurances for long-term protection of High Conservation Value (HCV) areas and HCS forest.

Shortly, the HCSA Steering Group will disseminate additional information about eligibility criteria and the due diligence process for those existing projects in HFCLs that wish to apply for consideration as valid Legacy Cases. Interested parties should note that in order to be considered a valid Legacy Case, a moratorium on forest clearance must have been enacted and any active clearance during the application process will serve as a disqualification from further consideration.

The HCSA Steering Group recognises that this strategy restricts options for concession-holders in High Forest Cover Landscapes, and that some direct or indirect future development may occur. The Steering Group will monitor potential ‘leakage’ and may at a future date decide to re-evaluate the approach to ensure that our strategy continues to address our goal of stopping broader deforestation associated with commodity production.

[1] See HCSA Toolkit Module 5: “Landscape is defined as a geographical mosaic composed of interacting ecosystems resulting from the influence of geological, topographical, soil, climatic, biotic and human interactions in a given area”, based on the definition used by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). See: (accessed 1 June 2018)

[2] Young Regenerating Forest (YRF) is defined as a highly disturbed forest or forest areas regenerating to their original structure. Diameter distribution dominated by trees 10-30 cm and with higher frequency of pioneer species compared to Low Density Forest. This land cover class may contain small areas of smallholder agriculture. Note: abandoned plantations with less than 50% of basal area consisting of planted trees could fall in this category or above. Concentrations >50% of basal area would not be considered HCS forest but rather plantations and should be classified separately. The HCS Approach Toolkit Module 4 Version 2.0 May 2017

High Carbon Stock Approach to Launch Africa Steering Group

17 May 2018, Accra, Ghana: The High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) hosted its inaugural meeting with stakeholders to establish a new Africa Steering Group on the sides of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 event. With the expansion of the use of the HCSA across Central and West Africa, the Africa Steering Group will provide support for the application of the HCSA methodology, networking and consulting with key stakeholders, and integrating HCSA into the various African nations’ land use plans.

The HCSA, a methodology for putting No Deforestation commitments into practice while ensuring the rights and livelihoods of local peoples are respected, is being used by hundreds of companies across several million hectares of land in Asia and Central and West Africa. Much of the focus of HCSA so far has been on oil palm and pulpwood plantations in Asia. However, Africa contains the second largest area of tropical rainforest in the world and it is under increasing pressure from the expansion of agricultural production including palm oil, cocoa, rubber and coffee.

The High Carbon Stock Approach Toolkit is well established for implementing No Deforestation in fragmented tropical forest landscapes. The initiative is continually evolving new innovations and will soon issue guidance for the implementation of strengthened social requirements, an adapted approach for smallholders, support for forest conservation through incentives and benefits to local communities, and a position on only addressing existing ‘legacy’[1] plantation development in High Forest Cover Landscapes while supporting alternative conservation and development options.

For more information contact:
Asen M. Ako, EHS & Sustainability Manager of Wilmar Nigeria,, Ph: +234-8158066794
Judy Rodrigues, Executive Director of HCSA,, Ph: +31-650503758
Grant Rosoman, Co-Chair of HCSA,, Ph: +64-21428415
HCSA Secretariat,

[1] ‘Legacy’ cases are existing partially developed plantation expansion operations that have suspended expansion due to no deforestation requirements but have legal commitments, and obligations and expectations with local communities. Valid legacy cases will be determined through eligibility criteria.

New HCSA Africa Steering Group and Activities in Ghana, 17 May 2018

The HCSA Steering Group Executive Committee is pleased to share that an Africa Steering and Consultation Group is currently being convened to provide support for the application of the HCSA methodology, networking and consulting with key stakeholders, and integrating HCSA into the various African nations’ land use plans.

To kick-off activities in the region, a HCSA side-event will be taking place during the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) 2020 General Assembly week in Ghana, mid-May. This meeting is open to all and will be an introductory session to the High Carbon Stock Approach.

Putting No Deforestation into Practice: The High Carbon Stock Approach
Date: 17 May 2018
Time: 1.00pm – 3.00pm
Venue: Pearl Meeting Room, Kempenski Hotel Gold Coast City, Accra, Ghana

Later that same day the inaugural meeting for the Africa Steering Group will be held, followed by its launch.

If you are an SG member with presence in Africa and are keen to take on activities and responsibilities as part of the Group, please contact the Secretariat at

New HCS Approach SG Member – Ekologika

The HCS Approach Executive Committee is pleased to announce that PT. Ekologika Consultants has come on board as a member of the HCS Approach Steering Group (SG).

Ekologika provides biodiversity, environmental, socio-economic and cultural assessments evaluations and surveys in Indonesia within the natural resource and sustainable development sector. Its staff has decades of experience working with conservation and development organisations, as well as the private sector. Ekologika’s Director and Biodiversity Conservation and Forestry Expert, Neville J Kemp, was involved early in the development of the HCS framework and the first HCS Approach Toolkit. Both Neville and Ninil Jannah (Commissioner, Social Expert) were also involved in the development and delivery of the HCSA Practitioner Training conducted in 2016. More information is available on their website:

Ekologika joined as a member in February 2018 as a Technical Support Organisation.

A full list of HCS Approach SG Members can be found here and information about membership can be found here.

New HCSA Executive Director

The HCS Approach Executive Committee is pleased to announce our new Executive Director, Judy Rodrigues, who will join the organisation in March 2018.

Since its inception, the HCSA Steering Group Co-Chairs have led the organisation’s strategy and have overseen its workstreams, with support from the Secretariat. With the HCSA’s increased size and impact, we welcome Judy Rodrigues taking on the role to lead the work of the Secretariat and work closely with the newly elected EC and Co-Chairs on the HCSA strategy and direction.

Judy Rodrigues brings with her a wealth of technical, organisational and multi-stakeholder experiences and accomplishments from decades of work in the conservation arena. We look forward to the collaborative leadership that Judy and the strengthened HCSA team will bring to address the new challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

HCSA Training for HCVRN Licensed Assessors

From 29 January to 2 February 2018 Licensed HCV Assessors and their GIS experts received training on the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA). The course, led by HCV Resource Network (HCVRN), prepared assessors to lead HCV-HCSA assessments. From November 2017, Members of the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) Steering Group must hire HCVRN Licensed Assessors to conduct integrated HCV-HCSA assessments.

For more information and for a list of Licensed Assessors qualified to lead HCV-HCSA assessments, please see the HCVRN website here.

Scope of HCSA Assessments

In December 2017 the Executive Committee of the HCSA Steering Group approved an ‘Advice Note’ to confirm that the scope of the HCSA assessments covers the whole development area, concession or permit area. This means that valid HCSA assessments cannot be carried out over only parts of or a portion a concession, as key elements of the methodology require consideration of broader landscape level aspects.

For the full Advice Note, please see here.