The nuts and bolts of our Licensing Scheme

General questions

Who governs the Assessor Licensing Scheme (ALS)?

The HCV Network Management Committee (elected by Network Members every three years) approves Quality Panel (QP) members and any major changes to the scheme’s procedures.

Who uses the ALS?

The Better Cotton Initiative, the High Carbon Stock Approach Steering Group, Rainforest Alliance and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil require ALS quality assurance for high-risk situations (i.e. where HCVs may be threatened).

What is the added value of the ALS?

The ALS adds credibility to users of the HCV Approach. It helps improve the quality of HCV and HCV-HCSA assessments and reports. Poor-quality assessments may lead to destruction of High Conservation Values, negatively impacting local communities and the reputation of sustainability standards, the HCV Network, and of the HCV Approach itself.

The ALS helps improve assessments by providing standardized manuals, templates, and procedures, in consultation with assessors and end users. And it helps improve the quality of assessment reports by verifying that they contain good quality data, analysis, maps, and management and monitoring recommendations.  These are useful for companies and local communities involved in commodity production developments.

By offering feedback on reports, learning opportunities and discussion groups, the scheme also provides assessors and others with the chance to boost their knowledge, share experiences and gradually improve their work.

Where does the ALS work best?

The ALS was developed for scenarios where the probability of presence of High Conservation Values and High Carbon Stock forests is high, and so is the risk of potential damage or destruction. This refers to situations where those values may be most threatened by changes to land and resource use and rights or access (e.g. from commodity development, land use planning).

How is the ALS funded?

The ALS has the following income sources:

  • Application fees paid by applicants who wish to become licensed.
  • Annual licence renewal fees paid by Licensed Assessors.
  • Report evaluation fees paid by Licensed Assessors at each stage of the evaluation process.

Occasionally, the HCV Network Secretariat receives grants and donations from organisations interested in helping the HCV Network improve the ALS.

Are Licensed Assessors required to submit all assessment reports for evaluation? Why?

Yes. Licensed Assessors are required to submit all their HCV and HCV-HCSA assessment reports for evaluation, regardless of the context in which these assessments took place. This is to ensure that assessors are delivering high-quality work across all the commodities and situations in which they are working.

Who can be a Licensed Assessor?

To become a Licensed Assessor, an individual must have relevant qualifications and skills, and submit an application that meets the requirements outlined here.

Why does the number of assessors vary across regions?

It comes down to history and the need for assessments. Companies, governments, etc. from some regions (e.g. where forestry and agricultural commodities are produced) have used the HCV Approach for much longer than others. Some regions host more long-time users of certification schemes- where demand for HCV assessments may be higher, while others are newer to this. As a result, some regions will have more experts with the specific experience needed to become Licensed Assessors.

Currently, Southeast Asia is the region with the highest number of Licensed Assessors, followed by Latin America, Oceania, Africa, and Europe. Find out who is an assessor here.

What kinds of assessment reports does the ALS evaluate?

The ALS evaluates two types of assessment reports:

  • High Conservation Value (HCV) assessment reports, and
  • High Conservation Value (HCV) – High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) assessment reports.

These reports are submitted according to ALS report templates.

HCV-HCSA assessment reports

What is an HCV-HCSA assessment?

It is a participatory process comissioned by organisations who would like to jointly identify High Conservation Values alongside High Carbon Stock forests (as defined by the High Carbon Stock Approach).

Why does the ALS evaluate HCV-HCSA assessment reports?

For several years, HCV and High Carbon Stock Approach assessments were conducted separately, by different teams, and often at different times. The HCV Network and the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) Steering Group recognised that the integration of HCV and HCSA assessments and quality control processes would allow for greater efficiencies in team deployment, reduction of costs and avoidance of stakeholder confusion.

In 2017, the HCSA Steering Group decided that from the date of publication of the HCV-HCSA Assessment Manual, all HCSA-only assessments would now have to be HCV-HCSA assessments led by Licensed Assessors and evaluated by the ALS.

Read more on the HCV Network’s collaboration with the HCS Approach Steering Group here.

Are all Licensed Assessors qualified to lead HCV-HCSA assessments?

No. Before hiring a Licensed Assessor please ensure the assessor is qualified for the type of assessment needed. Information for each assessor is available here.

How are technical queries related to the HCS Approach handled?

The HCV Network and High Carbon Stock Approach Secretariats have regular bilateral calls and a query log to flag technical questions requiring clarification from HCSA’s Technical Panel. Technical clarifications provided by the HCSA Technical Panel are published as ‘Advice Notes’ on the HCSA website.

Do HCSA ‘Advice Notes’ introduce new requirements?

No. Advice notes just provide more detailed information on technical aspects of the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA).

Report evaluation process

What are the report evaluation stages and why do they exist?

Licensed Assessors have three attempts (Submission, First Re-Submission and Second Re-Submission) to achieve a satisfactory mark. Some reports are satisfactory in the Submission stage, while others require revisions and re-submission.

When the ALS was launched in 2014, only one submission was allowed per report – or one chance to achieve a satisfactory mark.

How long do report evaluations take?

Report evaluations may take between 55 to 360 days, depending on the report type (HCV or HCV-HCSA), process (Standard, for a continuous management unit or Combined, for multiple non-contiguous management units), and number of submissions needed to meet the required contents  and quality.

This timeframe assumes that assessors take the maximum allowed duration for revisions (60 days). Assessors are asked to copy their clients whenever they request an extension.

For more information contact

What are ‘Delays’ and where can I find out if there are any?

When the ALS (including external Quality Panel members) does not meet target timeframes, the report will appear on the public dashboard as ‘Delayed’. When this occurs, a new estimated timeframe will be communicated to the assessor and the organisation commissioning the assessment. Delays can be tracked here.

Are ‘Delays’ common? Why do they happen?

No. Nowadays, report evaluation delays are rare. If a delay is likely to happen, the Assessor and the organisation commissioning the assessment will be informed right away.

In the past, delays have been caused by sudden, large influxes of reports combined with limited number of staff (i.e. the HCV Network Secretariat has a small team) and Quality Panel members. Delays may also happen when technical clarifications from external partners such as the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) Technical Panel are not received on time. 

To prevent delays, the HCV Network Secretariat has taken measures such as recruiting Quality Panel members and staff, and revising procedures to ensure evaluations can meet target timelines.

What determines if an assessment report is satisfactory or unsatisfactory?

Reports are evaluated based on a set of Key Issues, sections or topics that are fundamental to producing a good quality report that adheres to the HCV Approach and/or to the HCV and HCS Approaches. The assessor must achieve a satisfactory mark for all Key Issues to pass with an overall satisfactory marking, i.e. if any one Key Issue is unsatisfactory, the overall report marking is unsatisfactory.


Where can I track the status of a report evaluation?

The status of all report evaluations can be tracked here.

Where is the final report published?

Public summaries of Satisfactory reports are published on the report page.

Does the ALS communicate with organisations commissioning assessments?

Yes. Organisations commissioning assessments are updated throughout the entire report evaluation process. 

Get involved

How can I get involved?

The ALS is constantly evolving and improving. Here’s how you can participate: