Now more than ever, public-private partnerships are seen as essential to address critical risks related to deforestation, climate change, water scarcity, and poverty and to driving sustainable economic development. In looking at landscape initiatives around the globe, businesses, both big and small, are important stakeholders of rural landscapes contributing to and dependent on healthy ecosystems. Yet business participation in landscape approaches lags. What do businesses get from participation, and how can they get their feet wet?
A panel at the Global Landscapes Forum in December explored these questions. Panelist Lee Gross, Senior Manager of Markets and Biodiversity at EcoAgriculture Partners, reiterated the growing trend of private sector involvement in landscapes initiatives that couple supply chain and farm-level interventions (e.g. certification) with landscape risk and opportunity assessment (e.g. water & deforestation mapping).
“Landscape approaches are slowly starting to migrate into corporate thinking,” Gross said. “They are an essential actor for achieving sustainable landscapes; we need to accelerate this process.” Panelist Edward Millard, of Rainforest Alliance, noted, “Landscape approaches offer an operational framework for companies to achieve their no-net deforestation commitments in tropical sourcing areas,” highlighting their work in the Juabeso-Bia landscape of Ghana.
Pathways for business engagement
Some members of the private sector have recognized their role in meeting sustainable landscapes goals, finding success in an innovative, environmentally friendly approach. There are a few different ways companies have gotten involved in, and reaped the benefits from landscape initiatives.
In one scenario, a company joins an established landscape initiative led by government or civil society. For example, in Lombok, Indonesia, PT Export Leaf Indonesia, one operating company in the British American Tobacco group, joined the efforts of Fauna & Flora International, a biodiversity conservation organization. A 2014 case study from the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative demonstrates how this was mutually beneficial for the environment, local farmers and “big business” stakeholders.
Case study author Anna Lyon, Fauna & Flora International’s program manager for agricultural landscapes in Asia and the Pacific, describes how PT Export Leaf Indonesia “and Lombok stakeholders transitioned from a single sector focus to a multi-stakeholder integrated approach to watershed management.” They found success in addressing risks such as illegal logging, biodiversity loss and watershed degradation while creating a platform for local communities, governments and businesses to jointly plan for the long-term management of natural resources in the region.
In a second scenario, companies play a leadership role in forming landscape coalitions to address identified risks within their operating or sourcing regions. One such coalition, led in part by SABMiller, is the Water Futures Partnership. In South Africa, SABMiller “calculates water footprints, conducts water risk assessment with local stakeholders/sectors, and sets targets and a timeline for their initiatives.” According to a 2013 case study authored by Gabrielle Kissinger of Lexeme Consulting and published by the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, the efforts led to reputational benefits and reduced risk for the world’s second largest brewer.
The Importance of Private Sector Participation
Gross emphasizes the importance of business engagement in landscape initiatives and the loss to businesses when they do not participate in the landscape approach.
“When businesses are not involved, you have one of the principle land users and financiers of the landscape not at the table,” Gross says, “Businesses lose out on being able to align their efforts with those of government and civil society groups to manage for shared land-use objectives.”
All too often, however, businesses are losing out in exactly that way. The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative recently identified and surveyed more than 360 integrated landscape initiatives around the world and found that fewer than 20% of them had committed partners from the private sector. The problem was even worse in Africa, where less than 10% of initiatives had private sector participation.
Spurring increased involvement
“Multi-stakeholder public-private partnerships are essential for achieving climate and sustainable development objectives in landscapes globally,” Gross says. He points to a flurry of activity taking place in 2015, and set to continue well beyond, that will help businesses find their footing in these landscape-scale PPPs. Of particular interest, he notes, is the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH)’s Initiative for Sustainable Landscapes (ISLA), which by 2018, “aims to have established financially viable public private governance models for each of six landscapes” where multinational agribusiness companies have a large influence.
The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, meanwhile, supported by the World Bank, TerrAfrica and other partners, is organizing an “African Business Engagement Roadshow” in 2015: a series of outreach events for business leaders on the benefits and the practicalities of engaging in landscape initiatives. As Gross says, “It is important to have business at the table and to keep them engaged through risk-based dialogue and improved evidence for collaborative action.”
Private sector investment in landscape approaches: the role of production standards and certifications
The Business Working Group of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative works on expanding the landscape approach for businesses and forming better public-private partnerships.Marissa Sherman is a communications intern at EcoAgriculture Partners. She studies sustainable agriculture at the University of Maryland, College Park. She cares about all things sustainable food-related, but focuses on farm-based education initiatives and how the private sector can make sustainability the norm.