For more than 20 years, the HCV approach has been used by voluntary sustainability standards as a safeguard to protect people and nature where commodities are produced.

Sustainable Development Goal 15 – Life on Land

Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

For more than 20 years, the HCV Approach has been used by voluntary sustainability standards as a safeguard to protect species, ecosystems and nature’s contribution to people where commodities are produced.

Across the World, multiple voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) are using the HCV Approach to strengthen their efforts to preserve key values that could occur through conversion of natural vegetation to plantation forestry, agriculture, or aquaculture.

The Network supports VSS by:

  1. Gaining a clear understanding of their objectives and proposing HCV criteria and indicators accordingly.
  2. Designing HCV tools and frameworks.
  3. Providing learning opportunities and developing outreach materials.
  4. Developing and testing monitoring and implementation procedures.

A risk-based lens

An effective way to minimize the risk of damaging or destroying High Conservation Values (HCVs) is to steer development (such as agricultural expansion) into areas already under use, or to convert only degraded areas where the likelihood of presence of HCVs is lower. Where expansion takes place on already cultivated or degraded land, potentially present HCVs can be addressed through easy-to-implement mitigation measures. However, in areas where conversion and development are likely to have negative impacts on HCVs, more in-depth assessments are required.

A risk-based lens to identification (assessment) of High Conservation Values (HCVs) can help to distinguish between sites with high and low probability of presence of HCVs. The Network is working with VSS to develop user-friendly risk-based tools to identify the level of risk associated with conversion in various settings.

Standards using the HCV Approach

  1. Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI)
  2. Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
  3. Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)
  4. Bonsucro
  5. Climate Bonds Standard
  6. Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA)
  7. Equitable Origin
  8. Fairtrade
  9. Floraverde Sustainable Flowers
  10. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
  11. Green Gold Label
  12. International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC)
  13. Krav
  14. Lasting Initiative for Earth (LIFE)
  15. ProTerra Foundation
  16. Rainforest Alliance – UTZ
  17. REDD+ Social and Environmental Standard
  18. Roundtable on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS
  19. Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB)
  20. Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
  21. Soil Association

Examples of our work

Maintaining and enhancing HCVs has been central to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards. Forest managers must boost their efforts to find and safeguard environmental and social values in forest areas and treat any threat to HCVs as a threat of severe or irreversible damage. Engaging with indigenous and local communities that rely on HCVs is also a staple for FSC certification. The wood used in products with the FSC Mix labeled, must not be linked with the destruction of HCVs.

As part of its principles and criteria, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) requires palm oil growers to identify, manage, and monitor HCVs. RSPO’s Principle 7 dictates that land clearing must not cause deforestation or damage to any area required to protect or enhance High Conservation Values.

Bonsucro leverages the HCV approach to assess the impacts of sugarcane production on biodiversity and ecosystems services, as well as social values.

Better Cotton worked with the HCV Network on revising its principles and criteria to include the HCV approach and biodiversity management tools into the Better Cotton Standard, and to make them more accessible for smallholder farmers. The HCV Network also collaborated with Better Cotton Initiative to develop simple tools for cotton farmers to map and maintain biodiversity on and around their farms.

Fairtrade uses the HCV approach as part of its Standards, and the HCV Network is currently collaborating with Fairtrade to provide producers – many of whom are smallholder farmers – with simple guidance to identify and maintain HCVs on and around their farms.

Companies that source Rainforest Alliance certified products are committing to protect HCVs. The HCV tools developed by the HCV Network in collaboration with RA for their newly updated Standard, is used by farmers to understand threats, maintain values, and how to put in place management and monitoring plans for these HCVs.

For more information, please contact secretariat@hcvnetwork.org.

Related Content

Related Documents

  • Document Title

    HCV Management and Monitoring in RSPO-certified plantations (2017)

    This study, commissioned by the RSPO Biodiversity and High Conservation Value Working Group (BHCV WG), investigated the challenges to effective management and monitoring of HCVs in RSPO-certified oil palm plantations and provides preliminary recommendations for addressing these challenges.

    Document Type

    Working Papers

    Date of Publication




  • Document Title

    Good practice guide to meeting FSC certification requirements for biodiversity and HCV forests in Small and Low Intensity Managed Forests (2009)

    Good practice guide to meeting Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification requirements for biodiversity and High Conservation Value Forests in Small and Low Intensity Managed Forests

    This is a guide to help managers and owners of small-scale and low intensity forest operations maintain or improve the management of biodiversity and High Conservation Values (HCVs) within their forests. This guide is not designed to replace management plans – but to strengthen them. It is designed to help them meet FSC certification requirements for biodiversity and HCV conservation through the process of identification, management and monitoring.

    Document Type

    Tools & Guidance

    Date of Publication




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