Speaking of Cooperation: Welcome the HCS Approach Toolkit!
Further to my post yesterday about the need for more cooperation, here’s a wonderful example of what’s possible when a diversity of folk get together. The first time the world heard of “High Carbon Stock” or HCS forest was when Nestlé announced their No Deforestation Responsible Sourcing Guidelines (RSGs) on May 17th 2010. We had supported Nestlé to develop the guidelines following discussion with Greenpeace after that (in)famous ‘orang-utan finger in the KitKat’ video. Nestlé’s No De RSGs pledged to “protect High Carbon Stock forests” and the intent was to protect not just primary forests but to go beyond that to ensure that secondary forests in various stages of degradation were also protected. But how to define HCS? What is a HCS forest? Therein lay a challenge.
The first step to addressing it was taken a week later when TFT and Nestlé’s Singapore-based procurement team met with the company’s palm oil suppliers to discuss the RSGs. Step forward Golden Agri Resources (GAR), the company targeted in the KitKat video. They were ready to go full-steam ahead to implement the RSGs but raised the question on everyone’s lips: “what do you mean by HCS forest?”
From that point discussions unfolded culminating in a meeting between TFT, GAR and Greenpeace folk in November 2010 where we all agreed we needed field research to define HCS forest more accurately. During the course of 2011, after GAR had released its own Forest Conservation Policy in February committing it too to protecting HCS forest, huge amounts of field work and measurements, satellite data interpretation, ground-checking, discussions, scientific inquiry, innovation, peer review and so forth were undertaken. This was a cooperation milestone in itself as it was the first time that Greenpeace teams were allowed into GAR plantations. As the data came in, it became clear that the HCS concept was a great way to define forest strata on the basis of clear ecological characteristics. A pilot was launched and through that we realised that communities needed a greater say in the future of these forests; we couldn’t just look at the ecological aspects divorced from tenure and customary rights. More discussions and fieldwork unfolded and experts from Forest People’s Programme engaged to bolster the approach with communities.
Meanwhile more and more companies signed onto No Deforestation policies, chief amongst them Asia Pulp and Paper and Wilmar International, and the concept was spread beyond Indonesia to other geographies. There was controversy too as a group of predominantly Malaysian palm oil growers launched their own HCS study under the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto.
As more growers were being asked to implement HCS, the question came back “how do we do it?” The need to coordinate what everyone meant by HCS became crucial. A group of companies, NGOs and technical experts got together last September and formed the HCS Approach Steering Group. Today, the Steering Group has launched www.highcarbonstock.org to tell the story behind HCS and to share the most up to date thinking on how to implement a HCS Approach with the publication of the HCS Approach Toolkit.
You can see who is involved in the HCS Approach Steering Group here; it’s quite a mixture but there is real and deep cooperation emerging between these diverse actors, many of whom were not so long ago fighting each through campaigns and press releases. And the Steering Group and the Manifesto HCS team are now comparing notes so there is encouraging cooperation emerging there too.
Cooperation isn’t easy and there are disagreements, gritted teeth and pragmatic compromises required but now that these folk are sitting at the same table grappling with the challenge of implementing No Deforestation and No Exploitation commitments, we’re taking great strides forward in tackling some really complex, wicked problems.
It’s really exciting to see where the HCS Approach has come since that very first mention in Nestlé’s policy nigh on five years ago. It is a real and hugely positive example of what we might achieve if we trust each other sufficiently to cooperate.