Many companies set goals to achieve zero net deforestation by the year 2020. That date may have seemed like a long way off when they were planning, but with now less than 20 months to go, it’s not surprising that companies and NGOs are looking for ways to drive forward progress, faster.
That’s also why the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA) is meeting in Ghana this week. The TFA is a group of governments, NGOs, and private sector actors committed to making the 2020 goals a reality. One of the things they’ll surely be discussing is the recent field trip that Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) organized to a cattle ranch in Brazil (as part of TFA’s Latin America convening in March).
If you are on a corporate sustainability team that is racing to meet those 2020 goals, you’ll be interested in the three, big takeaways from the trip:
1. Zero deforestation and increased farming productivity are not mutually exclusive
Meet Caio Penido, the owner of Fazenda Água Viva, a progressive ranching operation that ensures zero deforestation while increasing productivity and monitoring of carbon emissions. Caio is excited about the progress he’s making and the system for sustainable ranching he’s creating. “We plant new trees to restore the forest, create ecological corridors so animals can move through our ranch and monitor biological diversity with cameras,” said Caio. “We produce more cattle on the land we have and we track our cattle from birth to ensure traceability from other sustainable operations.”
Ranches like Caio’s are leading the way in sustainable agricultural and forest management practices. Steve Schwarzman, EDF’s Senior Director of Tropical Forest Policy told TFA members on the field trip, “Here you have a responsible cattle rancher introducing new technologies and increasing his yield, while reducing the amount of land he needs to produce, and at the same time, protecting the forest that´s on his ranch.”
Caio isn’t alone in reaping significant productivity gains after deploying progressive farming practices. The Novo Campo Sustainable Beef Project, for example, has seen a six-fold increase in beef margin while saving GHGs and protecting forests. But while operations like these prove that sustainable management of ranchland can be economically viable on a case-by-case basis, the question remained: how can we scale these types of operations across broader geographies?
2. To drive scale, cross-sectoral action is critical
By connecting ranches like this to broader cross-sectoral initiatives, such as jurisdictional approaches (see attached video, above), the practices can scale across the region.
Fazenda Aqua Viva is located in Mato Grosso – Brazil’s largest agriculture producingstate, and there is a state-wide effort called the Produce, Conserve and Include (PCI) strategy that aims to help. With over 40 participant organizations across all stakeholder groups, the PCI aims to maintain 60 percent native vegetation over the entire state and reduce deforestation by 90 percent compared to 2010 numbers. PCI aims to nearly double the production of beef and soy and double the market share of family agriculture.
Jurisdictional approaches like the PCI allow companies to work together with local governments, communities, producers, and NGOs to go beyond individual supply chains and create entire regions that are improving along deforestation and productivity metrics. This strategy harnesses the collaborative power of these impact drivers to provide a holistic and lasting path towards zero deforestation.
Ranchers like Caio see the value in the PCI. During the field trip, he shared, “I am part of the PCI because I believe in strategies that bring together the private sector, NGOs, and government to articulate shared solutions for Mato Grosso and Brazil. We are discussing how to produce more in areas that are already deforested and how to conserve and regulate forested areas, as well as ways to add value to the forest.”
3. To hit 2020 goals, companies need to jump in
There is huge potential in jurisdictional approaches like the Mato Grosso PCI to drive sustainable development at scale. But for the PCI to hit its ambitious goals, it needs companies that source soy and beef from Mato Grosso to participate. Opportunities for corporate engagement include:
- Participating in the company advisory group. Companies can connect to other supply chain actors, including local producers participating in the PCI, to learn from one another and how they can work together and source from PCI initiatives.
- Providing technical or financial support to projects within the PCI that are helping to meet statewide goals.
- Preferentially sourcing from PCI initiatives because this gives producers the assurance of buyers and is the most direct way of support and scaling the PCI.
- Voicing support for jurisdictional approaches like the Mato Grosso PCI at speaking engagements and conversations with government officials.
As my colleague, Chris Meyer, recently pointed out, we will need all hands on deck to reach deforestation targets by 2020. But for the PCI to hit its ambitious goals, we need companies that source soy and beef from Mato Grosso to participate. If your company sources soy and beef from Mato Grosso or hasn’t set zero deforestation commitments yet, here are opportunities for you to jump in:
Video on the jurisdictional approach