First HCSA Assessments in Central & South America!   

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 For the first time HCSA assessments have been conducted in South America and Central America: two in Brazil, two in Guatemala and one Honduras – all in palm oil concessions.    

Expansion of HCSA assessment to these critical regions is landmark confirmation that the approach and toolkit can be successfully implemented in different geographical regions, contexts and cultures around the world.  It also shows the potential for growth and impact as a robust, field-tested no deforestation tool across the tropics. 

The new assessed areas increase the global total of HCSA assessments to 3,579,120 hectares, with 667,117 hectares of HCS forest identified for conservation.     

Our 2021 Annual Report is available to view and download here

Sincere thanks to the HCSA Steering Group members, partners, donors and stakeholders for their continued support to allow us to expand and accelerate the impact of the HCS Approach – to end and reverse deforestation.

Key Highlights and Developments

  • 2021-2025 Strategic Business Plan launched at virtual HCSA Steering Group meeting on 24th March. Through its work with members, land use managers, communities, partners and other stakeholders, HCSA aims to achieve its 2025 goal of conserving 5 million hectares of forests by scaling the HCS Approach methodologies.
  • Publication of Interim Guidance on the consolidation of Integrated Conservation and Land Use Plans.
  • Publication of training materials on HCSA Social Requirements and Implementation Guidance to assist practitioners to understand how to put Social Requirements into use.
  • Learnings from trialling the HCV-HCSA Simplified Approach with smallholders in Indonesia were used to update the latest Approach draft, with plans to launch the Simplified Approach Toolkit by Q4/22.
  • HCSA member Barry Callebaut worked with the EcoVision Lab at ETH Zurich University to produce large-scale indicative High Carbon Stock (HCS) forest maps for Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • HCSA collaborated with the High Conservation Value Network (HCVN) on Guidance for combined HCS forest large-scale mapping and HCV screening in the updated HCV screening guidance for jurisdictional and landscape approaches.
  • HCSA and the Accountability Framework initiative (AFi) launched our Partnership Plan to advance shared objectives related to natural forests and ecosystem protection, land rights, climate change and biodiversity loss mitigation within ethical supply chains.
  • HCSA awarded a Top Innovator winner of the Tropical Forest Commodities Challenge at the United Nations Climate Conference, COP26, in Glasgow.  Our virtual booth at COP26 showcased the HCSA as a Nature-Based Solution Contributor Putting No Deforestation into Practice to over 40,000 registered participants.

New HCSA Executive Director

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Adrian Choo as the new Executive Director of the HCSA Secretariat.

Adrian joins us from WWF-Malaysia, where he led the Sustainable Markets Programme Strategy focused on commodities including palm oil, forest products, rubber and plastic.  During his time with WWF Adrian also delivered a milestone project establishing the guidelines for HCV identification, management and monitoring in Malaysia.

He was Chair of FSC Malaysia for several years and brings extensive technical expertise and experience in tropical forest certification, palm oil sustainability and high conservation value areas. 

Adrian has strong leadership credentials working with passionate conservation teams in multistakeholder collaborations.  He is a committed conservationist convinced of the potential of HCSA to grow in reach and influence:

“Helping companies and small farmers to break the link with commodity-driven deforestation is an imperative not just for the planet, but to thrive in today’s consumer conscious global markets.  HCSA is a crucial tool to do this – to conserve forests and the magnificent biodiversity and ecosystems they hold – and protect the rights of the communities that live in and around them.” 

Adrian has a BA in Forestry and a PhD in Biocomposite Technology from Universiti Putra Malaysia, where he was also a Post-doctoral Research Fellow. He has authored and co-authored several published scientific papers focused on reducing pressures on forests through maximum use of wastes, such as palm oil wastes

Adrian takes up his new post with the Secretariat team in Kuala Lumpur on 1 August 2022.

The EU’s proposed new law to ban goods linked to deforestation – needs more work

Photo: Paul Hilton/ RAN ©

The European Commission’s proposed law aims to curb the import of commodities linked to deforestation from entering the European Union.

It would set mandatory due diligence rules for importers of specific commodities into the EU market – such as soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee and some derived products.

HCSA is cited as a recognised tool for forest conservation in the EU’s ‘Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests’ and although we welcome the Commission’s proposal as a good step forward, it also has some significant weaknesses and gaps.

Following extensive consultation, the Secretariat prepared a full statement setting out the HCSA Steering Group’s position on this crucial proposed legislation – and provided amendments to the following areas:

  • Strengthen the Definition and Identification of Natural Forests
  • Incorporation of Human Rights including the Land and Territorial Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. 
  • Protection of Other Ecosystems
  • Due Diligence Process and Risk Mitigation
  • Expand the Scope to other Deforestation-risk Commodities, SMEs, and other Sectors
  • Transparency and Reporting
  • Cooperation and Support for Producer Countries and Smallholders

Please find the full statement here

Members 2020 Performance Report

For the first time, HCSA members submitted detailed reports measuring the actions they have taken to implement no deforestation commitments through the HCS Approach during the course of one year.  

This critical new reporting process demonstrates how members implement and promote the HCS Approach through a series of wide-ranging reporting mechanisms – see infographic.   

The findings identified areas of real progress achieved by members in driving no deforestation practices on the ground, as well as areas for improvement and learning.  They also provide clear baselines to measure activities and progress against next year’s reporting. 

All HCSA members submitted reports, which were tailored to relevant membership categories as set out in the HCSA Membership Code of Conduct.

Please see the full report here.

Restoration and Remediation Guidance

Photo: Paul Hilton / RAN©

This new guidance sets out the HCSA principles and criteria for ecological restoration and social remedy for wrongly cleared and/or degraded HCS forests, HCV areas, peatlands or community lands.

It stipulates minimum guidelines to ensure ecological restoration and social remediation packages are credible and have the best chance for long-term success.

Developed in collaboration with the HCSA Steering Group and Executive Committee and the High Conservation Value Network (HCVN), the guidance identifies three core principles:

  • Restore to the highest level of ecological recovery
  • Social remedy must respect Free Prior Informed Consent processes and is established with cooperation of affected communities
  • Long-term restoration/remediation management and monitoring plans are established and well resourced

The guidance will be trialled over the next two years with implementation support from the Secretariats of the HCSA and the HCVN.

Please find the Guidance here and contact for more information.

HCSA Drives Home the Urgency of Zero Deforestation on World Economic Forum

Following our international accolade as a ‘Top Innovator of Tropical Forest Commodities Challenge’ presented at COP26, we’ve published our first op-ed article on the World Economic Forum Agenda website.

The Agenda platform reaches across global business and political communities and leaders – key decision-makers.  Our message is clear – the HCSA has UN-endorsed, science-based, proven tools to track and stop deforestation for commodity companies wherever they trade in the world – join us now.  

“The latest IPCC report gives us about a decade to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions to avoid global climate collapse. The next ten years give commodity companies, supply chains and brands the last opportunity to systematically adopt, champion and deliver Zero Deforestation on the ground.”

Full article here

The Work of HCSA Peer Reviewers

HCSA assessment teams investigate how deforestation commitments are being implemented by companies, supply chains and local communities on the ground. Peer reviewers are independent experts who verify the work of the assessment teams and submit the report to the HCSA Secretariat and its members. 

As HCSA assessments represent the cornerstone of our work, peer reviewers carry out a vital final examination of deforestation requirements as stipulated in the Toolkit – from verifying satellite mapping data, to assessing on-the-ground field surveys and local community and Indigenous Peoples’ land and working rights. 

Tropical Forestry and conservation specialist at Ekologika, Neville Kemp is an HCSA peer reviewer and member of the Executive Committee as the Technical Support Organisation’s representative gives an insight into what the work involves.

Q: What kind of experience do you need?

Assessments are divided into specific categories. The HCSA review template is split into six portions but in general, the assessments have socially, biodiversity, remote sensing and forestry inventory components – you can work on individual components based on your strengths.

The social sections are focused on how the assessment applies the HCSA Social Requirements such as community rights and land use, free, prior and informed consent, and food security. The reviewer must judge if the assessor has engaged communities adequately and documented information relating to the use of land, mapped areas that are important to the community and gained the support and agreement of communities to implement the HCS Approach in their area. The reviewer must also assess any social impact assessments that have been carried out to understand the potential impact of developments and how this affects the HCS assessment.

For biodiversity aspects of the HCS assessment, this focuses on a review of High Conservation Value (HCV) assessments that may have been conducted in the area and understanding how they will affect the HCS assessments as both surveys are combined in the final Integrated Conservation and Land Use Plan (ICLUP). Often HCV areas will align with High Carbon Stock forests so ecological and sustainable landscape knowledge, such as understanding connectivity or important species in the area is important.

For the forest inventory components of HCS assessments, you will need a background in forest inventory and how to calculate timber volumes or biomass that can be converted to a carbon stock. Basic forest inventory training usually covers this. 

Another important aspect of the work is how to interpret Spatial Data with the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). You do not need to be a GIS operator per se, but need to know how to read and interpret spatial data to critically analyse the results compared to the raw satellite images. You need to be able to translate the satellite image with your knowledge of forests and land cover classification on the ground in the areas that you know. For example, my area of expertise is South East Asia, so in those two areas I’d be able to look at an image and identify forests, areas of degraded vegetation, oil palm plantations etc. all from eye-balling a satellite image and flag any inaccuracies in land cover results that have been supplied by the assessment team.

Q: Can you do this work anywhere in the world?

You don’t have to have a knowledge of the area that’s being mapped, but you need to have a knowledge of the region. 

No fieldwork is done.  It is a complete desktop review with the full data set provided by the assessor and the reviewer applying knowledge and understanding of the region.

Contextual knowledge is very important when specific regional issues arise. For instance, differentiating between regenerating forest and ‘jungle rubber’ is complex and a common issue in Indonesia. The review must be aware of region complexities such as this and determine if sufficient data has been provided to give accurate results in the assessment.

Q: Why choose this work?

Ensuring the rigorous application of the HCSA Toolkit to identify viable forests helps to conserve them for the future.

An HCSA reviewer can be a useful credential and may attract clients looking for HCS assessors or advice in sustainability and forest conservation.  For someone wanting to learn, reviewing other assessments is beneficial and improves your own practices by analysing other assessors’ examples.

If people want to further their careers and be known as an expert in forest inventory, the High Carbon Stock Approach is incredibly well respected.  If you get involved with this work, you’re basically keeping your eyes on the forest – you are conserving the forests in perpetuity”.

Ensuring the rigorous application of the HCSA Toolkit to identify viable forests helps to conserve them for the future.  

There are advantages for people who want to further their careers and be acknowledged as an expert in the HCS approach.  An HCSA reviewer can be a useful credential and may attract clients looking for HCS assessors or advice in sustainability and forest conservation. For someone wanting to learn, reviewing other assessments is beneficial and improves your own practices by analysing other assessors’ examples.

For details about peer reviewing roles – please see here.