Do You Have Conservation Expertise?

We’re looking to recruit a pool of peer reviewers of HCSA assessments – a reserve of people to help meet upcoming demand as dozens of registered HCSA assessments are due to reach completion.

Areas of experience needed include tropical forest ecology, forest disturbance and regeneration, forest-related remote sensing/GIS, inventory and statistics, social values, community rights and participatory mapping.  

Upcoming assessments are taking place in countries across the globe and although reviewers work remotely, we are particularly keen to hear from individuals with knowledge of tropical forests in central and western Africa and in Indonesia and from Bahasa Indonesian speakers.  

HCSA peer reviewer and EC member Neville Kemp give a first-hand account of what the work entails and the benefits it can offer:

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

See Nev’s interview here for more information about the work.

Full details of the roles here (ToR) – or contact us directly 

LOOKING BACK ON 2021: HCSA’s A year in review

HCSA a leading Nature-based Solution

At the end of 2021, humanity finds itself at a pivotal point in determining our intertwined fate with that of the planet. The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) recognised that Nature-based solutions are integral in solving the climate and biodiversity crises along with upholding local and indigenous peoples’ rights and livelihoods and supporting responsible development alongside a just transition towards limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

Recognised as a Nature-based solution by the United Nations, HCSA is deeply committed, with the support and cooperation from our members, partners, and stakeholders, to scaling and accelerating inclusive, integrated, conservation land-use practices to maximise positive impacts for biodiversity, the climate, ecosystem services, and local communities’ livelihoods. In HCSA’s efforts to do so, we would like to share HCSA’s key highlights and developments from 2021, which can be found in the HCSA December 2021 Newsletter.

HCSA looks forward to continuing to cooperate with our members, partners, and stakeholders in 2022 to expand and accelerate the impact of the HCS Approach towards the realisation of the global community’s ambition to end and reverse deforestation by 2030.


HCSA Business Model

HCSA is seeking to explore and define a scalable business model for HCSA to effectively meet HCSA’s future needs and ambitions outlined in its 2021-2025 Strategic Business Plan and provide services, products, and benefits that complement HCSA’s main organisational functions to a wide variety of actors.

For more details see the Terms of Reference. Please submit tender submissions to HCSA Secretariat at by the deadline of 17th January 2022.

HCSA Working Group Meeting Updates

Quality Assurance Working Group (QAWG)

On 7th October, the QAWG met regarding several key topics related to the HCSA’s work on Quality Assurance. The meeting started with updates on the status of quality reviewed HCSA and HCV-HCSA assessments. A new development was shared on the HCSA’s calculation of tonnes of carbon in above-ground biomass, within HCS forest areas identified for conservation in assessments (see new metric included in HCSA’s infographic at the end of this newsletter). The meeting then focused on a review of a new drafted template by RSPO’s No Deforestation Task Force related to peer reviews of the HCSA assessments, commissioned by RSPO member companies. This template is aimed to support clearer pass or fail conclusions about the absolute quality of an HCSA assessment and its adherence to RSPO certification requirements. The next steps for further QAWG consultation on the template were outlined. The focus of the meeting then switched to training and working group members decided to allow for the HCSA and HCV-HCSA training courses to be conducted virtually, due to COVID-19 related challenges of conducting in-person training. A presentation was then given by the High Conservation Value Network (HCVN) regarding a review conducted on its Assessor Licensing Scheme, with outcomes relevant to quality assurance of HCV-HCSA assessments and current and future activities to improve the system. The meeting concluded with a focus on the next steps of the QAWG’s work plan activities

Social Requirements Working Group (SRWG)

On 12th October, the SRWG met and discussed the implementation of HCSA’s Social Requirements (SRs) over the last year as well as future SRWG plans. Discussions covered in the meeting included: how plantation company members are implementing the SRs within their operations and supply chains; feedback on SR training materials which are now on the HCSA website; how best to set up and manage a virtual SRs helpdesk; and priorities for additional training materials tailored to various audiences including for communities and third party suppliers. The meeting participants received an update on a trial of SR13 Implementing the Social Requirements (SRs) when applying the HCSA to existing operations, the trial is to take place with an HCSA member at one of their concessions in Central Kalimantan. An update on an HCSA trial application was also shared for landscape application, that would incorporate the SRs, in Aceh province, Indonesia. Action points from the meeting included: the importance of capturing and sharing lessons on SRs implementation case studies; closer engagement with other working groups on how they are incorporating the SRs; inviting other working groups to participate in future meetings of the SRWG. Topics for future SRWG meetings were agreed including covering themes that cross over with other working groups, such as Smallholder and Quality Assurance, and will be held every three or four months over the coming year.

Protection Working Group (PWG)

On 14th October, the PWG met to discuss the work plan for the group in 2021–2022. The discussions centred on the important work of trialling the Integrated Conservation Land Use Plan Development and Implementation (ICLUP) interim guidance developed by the PWG. The proposed plan is that HCSA plantation company members will conduct self-assessments of their current management plans (otherwise known as proposed ICLUPs), where HCV-HCSA assessments have been completed, and provide feedback on the challenges to align and update their plans with the ICLUP guidance for review by the PWG. The PWG will then discuss these challenges and proposals to overcome them before plantation companies implement the guidance and share their updated ICLUPs with the PWG. The results and discussions will be used by the PWG to improve and finalise the ICLUP guidance. The Secretariat is seeking additional feedback from the working group members to finalise the draft Terms of Reference for the ICLUP trialling, and further, engage plantation company members or other Toolkit users to trial the ICLUP guidance.

Large Scale Implementation Technical Working Group (LITWG)

On 21st October 2021, HCSA’s LITWG met to gather feedback on HCSA’s revised Large Scale Mapping Framework, share updates from project partners, and discuss the next steps in implementing the 2021/2022 LITWG work plan. The Large Scale Mapping Framework is draft guidance to produce indicative HCS forest maps at the landscape and regional scales, with the objective of developing globally consistent and publicly available HCS forest maps to facilitate the adoption of the HCS Approach across commodity sectors, producer groups, and tropical forest regions. The HCSA Secretariat provided an update on the latest version of the framework along with a new Accuracy Assessment Addendum. This Addendum was developed to provide guidance on quality assurance, including accuracy thresholds of indicative maps.

Project partner EcoVision Lab at ETH Zurich shared the results of their space-borne, LIDAR-based indicative HCS forest map covering Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, developed in collaboration with HCSA member Barry Callebaut. They also presented their plans to expand HCS forest map production to West and Central Africa, and the possibilities of producing regularly updated indicative HCS forest maps at a global scale. Because the HCS Approach incorporates the HCV Approach through the use of Integrated HCV-HCS Assessments, the High Conservation Value Network shared updates on the HCV Screening for Landscapes and Jurisdictions, which mirrors the efforts of HCSA LITWG in the implementation of conservation approaches at the landscape scale for HCS forests, but with a focus on High Conservation Values for landscapes and jurisdictions.

As HCSA is working to develop guidance on implementing the HCSA at a landscape scale, input was sought from participants regarding priority selection criteria for producing and fundraising for indicative HCS forest maps, accuracy assessment protocols.  The role of HCSA in the collection of independent field plot data to improve the accuracy of artificial intelligence/machine learning in the resolution of indicative HCS forest maps and establishing and working with the proposed Landscape Approach Working Group (LAWG) to potentially develop a landscape/jurisdictional module was also discussed. The meeting concluded with a request for input on the Large-Scale Mapping Framework by 10th November, and expressions of interest in collaborating on the production of large-scale indicative HCS maps for priority landscapes through a survey.

Smallholder Working Group (SHWG)

The SHWG met on the 16th of November. The meeting focused primarily on the learnings from recent trials of the draft HCSHCV Simplified Smallholder Approach (Version 5) and how they could be used to propose changes to a new draft version (Version 6). The trials were conducted by HCSA’s smallholder member leading the development of the Simplified Smallholder Approach, Serikat Petani Kelapa Sawit (SPKS), in Sanggau and Sekadau, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Based on the trials, the key proposed changes in the implementation of the smallholder approach are additional steps in the methodology. Social Mapping and an additional village consultation to determine the Area of Interest (AOI) are both proposed to be conducted after (Stage 1) of the HCS-HCV Simplified Smallholder Approach. Also included were steps to identify roles of the local community, local expert, and facilitator more clearly during the Preparation Stage (Stage 1), as well as to gather feedback and decisions from incorporated institutions and other community-level institutions during the decision-making processes in the finalisation of the management plan (Stage 4). The SHWG aims to finalise and launch the Simplified HCS-HCV Approach for Smallholders in Indonesia, including completing a consultation process for Version 6 of the methodology with the SHWG members, the HCSA Steering Group (SG) and the HCSA Executive Committee (EC) by Q2 2022.

HCSA member Earthworm Foundation (EF) also presented a summary of results from an HCSA trial they conducted with smallholders in the San Martin, Ucayali, and Huánuco regions of Peru. There was an overlap of learnings with the trials conducted by SPKS, namely that community members want a comprehensive approach to conserving HCS forests and HCVs, along with better production management practices. The community members and farmers also appreciate the articulation of the future vision of their farms through this simplified approach that will help diversify their livelihood through alternative incomes, including receiving benefits and incentives for their conservation efforts. The combined learnings from the trials will also inform the development of a global HCS-HCV Simplified Smallholder Approach that will be trialled in new regions and with rubber and cocoa sectors.
The meeting also highlighted key activities planned for 2022, including continuing to trial and establish the incentives and benefits required to achieve the long-term conservation of HCS forests and HCV areas; developing a community management and monitoring checklist and guidance for the long-term conservation of HCS forests and HCV areas; and supporting the expanded implementation of the Simplified HCS–HCV Approach for Smallholders (Indonesia) to other regions of Indonesia.

Exploring HCSA integration into Landscape Approaches 

Following the 8th of June HCSA Steering Group (SG) meeting, the completion of the stakeholder survey on how the HCSA may best integrate and support its application in landscape and jurisdictional approaches, and discussions held by the HCSA Executive Committee (EC) on if the HCSA should set up a Landscape Approach Working Group (LAWG), a small coordinating group was convened to further define the scope, objectives, and activities of a potential LAWG. The group comprised of the HCSA Secretariat, Conservation International (CI), Earthworm Foundation (EF), Forest Peoples Program (FPP), and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) met and agreed to convene a stand-alone meeting with SG members to seek their further input into the decision on setting up the LAWG, and its terms of reference.

On 3rd November, the SG meeting was held and opportunities for HCSA to expand its engagement in landscape and jurisdictional approaches and whether to proceed with establishing a formal working group were discussed. During the discussion, the Secretariat provided an overview of the existing HCSA Working Groups, including the Large-scale Implementation Technical Working Group (LITWG), to provide context for how a LAWG would complement or support ongoing activities of other working groups. Jonathan Maerker (EF) presented, on behalf of the coordinating group, three key topics on which the LAWG could focus their efforts: (1) technical coordination and developing guidance materials, toolkits and support structures for how to conduct HCSA at the landscape level; (2) internal coordination, clarifying the role the LAWG can play within HCSA to coordinate with or support other working groups within the landscape and jurisdictional approaches; and (3) external coordination, clarifying the role HCSA can play to engage other landscape initiatives, platforms or actors. This was followed by a plenary discussion where members had the opportunity to provide general feedback or raise concerns, as well as breakout groups, which allowed for discussions around each topic.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a poll was taken to gauge member interest in moving forward with establishing the LAWG. In general, there was SG support to continue defining Terms of Reference for the LAWG through the smaller coordinating group. An invitation was made for other members to join the coordinating group, with Proforest expressing interest in joining.

Learn more about the HCSA’s Working Groups and Task Forces here, and if you wish to join any of the groups, contact the HCSA Secretariat at

HCSA announced as a Top Innovator Winner of the Tropical Forest Commodities Challenge at COP 26

Today at COP26’s Nature Pavilion, the HCSA was announced as one of the five Top Innovation winners of the Tropical Forest Commodities Challenge by Lord Zac Goldsmith, the U.K.’s Minister of Environment, in recognition of HCSA’s efforts to halt tropical deforestation and accelerate inclusive integrated conservation land-use practices.

Tropical rainforests are staggeringly productive reservoirs of life and biodiversity, and their protection is a critical nature-based solution that will contribute real progress toward limiting global warming to 1.5°C.  One of the main drivers of tropical deforestation, and a consequential contribution to climate change, biodiversity loss, adverse livelihood impacts, is agricultural and plantation expansion. The HCSA is the most widely recognised and credible method being used to address deforestation in agricultural and plantation expansion in the tropics.

To take action to stop commodity-driven deforestation and scale nature positive land-use practices, under the UK Government UNCOP26 Presidency’s FACT (Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade) Dialogue initiative,[i] the Tropical Forest Commodities Challenge was launched and supported the World Economic Forum’s Uplink Innovation Network, the Tropical Forest Alliance, and other supporting partners.[ii]  The Tropical Forest Commodities Challenge was seeking breakthrough scalable solutions to deliver benefits to the global environment, while also ensuring sustainable livelihoods for stakeholders and systematic change to shift commodity-supply chains to responsible land use production that protects rather than clears High Carbon Stock forests and High Conservation Value areas.  

As a Top Innovator winner, HCSA effectively demonstrated that it has made progress, which can be further scaled and accelerated, against all the Challenge’s focus areas: market transformation; smallholder success; research and innovation; and traceability and transparency. [iii]

The HCSA’s mission is to end commodity-driven tropical deforestation by providing land managers with practical, credible, and inclusive tools for land use planning. It is a Toolkit that uses remoting sensing data and ground surveys to distinguish forest areas for protection from degraded lands that may be developed whilst ensuring that the rights and livelihoods of communities and workers are respected.  It can be used for integrated land use planning in any country and commodity grown in tropical moist forest landscapes. The HCSA is innovating its methodology for application by independent smallholders and will soon publish a procedure for producing high-quality indicative HCSA-HCV maps at a landscape level. The HCSA Toolkit has been used or trialled in 12 countries for plantations of oil palm, pulpwood, cocoa, and rubber and is recognised as a Nature-based Solution to climate change by the UN.

As a winner of the Challenge, the HCSA has been invited to join the UpLink Innovation Network of the World Economic Forum’s four-month Top Innovator Programme.[iv] This programme will facilitate profiling and networking opportunities to support the scaling of the implementation of HCSA along with the other challenge winners.  HCSA’s is excited to engage in the Top Innovator Programme and forge new collaborations and support to achieve its goal of conserving five million hectares of tropical forest by 2025 and realise the vision where natural forests linked to commodity production and consumption are conserved and restored throughout the tropics in cooperation with indigenous peoples and local communities.

[i] The FACT dialogue initiative is co-chaired by the UK and Indonesian government, with support from the Tropical Forest Alliance, to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable land-use practices around agriculture.
[ii] The Tropical Forest Commodities Challenge initiative is led by the Tropical Forest Alliance and Uplink, FACT DialogueUN Climate Change Conference UK 2021, run in partnership with supporting partners: Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationRoundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)Stockholm Environment InstituteWAIKWilmar.
[iii] The HCSA addresses the Tropical Commodities Challenge four focus areas in the following ways:
1. Market Transformation
The HCSA is widely used by market actors to demonstrate implementation of their No Deforestation commitments; it is enabling methodology for supporting responsible business practices/products that contribute to long-term tropical forest protection.
2. Smallholder Success
To support access for independent smallholders and communities to conserve High Carbon Stock forests and High Conservation Values areas in tropical forests, the HCSA is developing and trialling ‘A Simplified HCS-HCV Approach for Smallholders’.
3.Transparency & Traceability
The HCSA Toolkit is open access but requires registration of planned HCSA assessments and working with accredited practitioners. HCSA assessment conservation and community use outcomes are reported via publicly available and independently reviewed stand-alone HCSA or HCV-HCSA assessments.
4. Research & Innovation
The HCSA’s methodology is based on the best available science and was field-tested to ensure it was practical. HCSA continues to work with research institutes to trial innovations for large-scale mapping of HCS forests and HCV areas.
[iv] HCSA has been invited to join the UpLink Innovation Network of the World Economic Forum and will be recognized as a Top Innovator. The Top Innovator Programme seeks to:
• Maximize the visibility of your venture by providing public exposure via the World Economic Forum and UpLink digital media channels.  
• Offer global exposure and access to select World Economic Forum and partner events.
• Offer facilitated introductions to World Economic Forum and UpLink networks of partners, experts, and investors.  
• Give one year access to the World Economic Forum’s digital collaboration and knowledge platform, TopLink.


HCSA at COP26 to profile the importance of taking action to support credible Nature-based Solutions to climate change.

The UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), Conference of the Parties (COP) 26, will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November and will bring world governments together, along with other global stakeholders, to hopefully commit to accelerated real action to address the climate crisis.  This conference is hosted by the UK COP26 Presidency which will aim to galvanise world leaders to conserve forests as a key Nature-based Solution to climate change.  It is widely recognised by science[1] that conserving and restoring nature has a critical role to play in limiting global warming to 1.5°C and will also reduce biodiversity loss and build climate impacts and community livelihoods resilience.

The High Carbon Stock Approach is acknowledged as a  Nature-based solution to climate change by the United Nations.  The HCSA effectively identifies tropical forest areas that are under threat from deforestation due to commodity production expansion. By protecting rather than converting, these forest areas and the carbon they contain are conserved along with other ecosystem services and social values; the natural system is maintained to allow continued sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere.  As of September 2021, over 3.3 million hectares of land had been subject to assessments using the HCSA methodology, with over 635,000 hectares of HCS forests identified. These forest areas are in the process of being or have been set aside by companies for conservation. The above-ground biomass in these conservation areas is estimated to hold over 52.3 million tonnes of carbon.  To learn more about HCSA as a rights-based approach to conserving tropical natural forests and its contributions as a Nature-based solution to climate change see here.

We are exhibiting the HCSA as Putting No Deforestation into Practice and A Nature-Based Solution Contributor during COP 26.  If you are joining the conference, please come to visit HCSA’s booth by clicking on the HCSA logo on the COP26 platform in the virtual exhibit section. If you are interested in meeting HCSA representatives at COP26 please outreach to HCSA at

[1] Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored workshop report on biodiversity and climate change. 2021. IPCC. Global Warming of 1.5°C. 2018. IPBES. Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services. 2019. IPCC. Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. 2021.