July 20, 2016

Mato Grosso links agribusiness supply chains to landscapes through jurisdictional sustainability

Catherine Rothacker, EcoAgriculture Partners

Mato Grosso, the agricultural giant Brazilian state, has traded in a race to the bottom for a leading role testing and implementing a jurisdictional sustainability governance model.

This article is the first in a series of stories about landscape partnerships that effectively include private sector actors that were showcased at the Business for Sustainable Landscapes Workshop, organized by EcoAgriculture Partners, SAI Platform, IUCN, and Sustainable Food Lab at the Rockefeller Bellagio Center May 31-June 2 2016. You can find the other stories, along with key messages from the meeting and more information on the Business for Sustainable Landscapes Challenge Program, here.

This integrated approach to address the challenge of conversion of rich Amazon and Cerrado ecosystems to soybean and cattle production has strong potential to reduce environmental, agriculture, and development tradeoffs and increase synergies in the region. Jurisdictional approaches are collaborative governance models that seek to mainstream integrated sustainable development, agribusiness success, and conservation across an entire political geography. With the proper enabling environment, including aligned policies and market incentives, producers, businesses and other key stakeholders across a landscape can be rewarded for their contributions to overarching territorial goals.

Mato Grosso’s efforts are a leading model for a jurisdictional sustainability landscape partnership approach. More specifically, they exemplify how strong private sector engagement is critical to jurisdictional sustainability success. This blog explores how Mato Grosso began leading this race to the top, how the jurisdictional model functions in practice, and how project leaders forged strong and effective partnerships with the private sector.

Mato Grosso stakeholders convene to discuss jurisdictional approaches to sustainable development.

Mato Grosso stakeholders convene to discuss jurisdictional approaches to sustainable development. Photo courtesy of Earth Innovation Institute.

Confronting intersecting challenges

Mato Grosso, the third largest state by area and the leader in agricultural production in Brazil, achieved significant reductions in deforestation from 2005-2012 through regulatory disincentives and stronger enforcement as well as voluntary corporate commitments to avoid sourcing cattle and soy from the region. However, stakeholders began to see an uptick in deforestation rates driven by agricultural conversion in more recent years. To tackle the problem, partners from across sectors worked together to turn a variety of disconnected interventions with different scales and strategies, such as the state’s REDD+ law, smallholder support program, and Forest Code compliance plan, as well as various international corporations’ sustainable supply chain efforts, into a unified approach to sustainability across the entire state.

Stakeholders meet to discuss sustainable agriculture efforts in Mato Grosso.

Stakeholders meet to discuss sustainable agriculture efforts in Mato Grosso. Photo courtesy of Earth Innovation Institute.

Building a jurisdictional sustainability strategy

As part of its Forests, Farms & Finance Initiative (3FI), Earth Innovation Institute (EII) worked with the Mato Grosso environment agency (SEMA) and other government partners, the farmers’ federation (FAMATO) and soy growers association (APROSOJA), civil society organizations, business leaders, financial institutions, and others to create aligned incentives for improving environmental performance while encouraging agricultural productivity and rural development.

Stakeholder activities included engaging in dialogues, developing consensus-based regional performance goals and milestones, establishing policy and market incentives for improved outcomes, creating a collaborative governance infrastructure, initiating pilot projects, and building a transparent online monitoring platform to track project performance.

Engaging the private sector

Strong partnerships with the private sector were key to Mato Grosso’s success. Project leaders invested in developing formalized relationships with farm sector associations and engaging corporate partners and commodity roundtables, both of which are increasingly considering the sustainability of not just their supply chains, but their entire sourcing landscapes. Rural development and conservation public policies are amplified and much more effective when agribusiness is supportive and engaged.

Through the multiple meetings that Earth Innovation Institute promoted among multi-sectorial actors, the following pieces of advice emerged:

  • Keep initiative focus on key targeted issues
  • Develop a simple and objective scope
  • Ensure project design would be suitable in multiples regions
  • Create positive incentives for improved performance

As Mato Grosso partners continue to advance a jurisdictional approach to sustainable development, these strategies will help advance agribusiness, governance, and environmental success.


Catherine Rothacker is a Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where she is focusing on the intersection of corporate sustainability, conservation biology, food production, forest governance, and sustainable development. She works for the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, and is currently completing an internship with EcoAgriculture Partners in Washington, DC.

For more information, please visit the Mato Grosso Landscape Profile.

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