Land use planning and management tools

Many tools are available to help companies establish and manage production units in alignment with the Accountability Framework.

At the root of ethical supply chains are production and primary processing operations that are protective of natural ecosystems and human rights. These outcomes can be achieved through responsible land acquisition, land use planning, and land management practices following the Framework’s Core Principles 1, 2, 7, and 8, and associated guidance. This page explains how companies can use land management tools and methodologies in alignment with the Framework.

Common questions about the Framework and land use planning and management tools

Expand the items to the right to learn more:

Does the Framework prescribe specific land use planning or management tools?

No. The Framework provides generalized guidance on responsible land use planning and land management that can be applied on its own and/or by using other tools. Most land use planning and management tools are tailored to specific contexts, so companies should select the most suitable tools for the context of their operations or supply base. For additional information on the elements of the Framework on land use planning and management, see the topic summary on responsible production. Forthcoming Operational Guidance will provide greater detail on this topic.

Should a company's supply chain policies refer to outcomes, specific tools, or both?

In all cases, companies’ ethical supply chain policies should include key outcomes, including the avoidance of deforestation and conversion as well as full respect for human rights. Doing so demonstrates a commitment to the desired result, regardless of the different means used to achieve it across the company’s entire business and supply base. In addition to specifying outcomes, companies may also indicate their use of specific tools to help attain them, such as the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) or High Conservation Value (HCV) methodologies. Doing this may provide greater clarity on how a company plans to implement its policies and achieve its goals. Sample language for a company policy that follows this approach may be found here.

The Framework and specific land use planning and land management tools

Click on the items to the right to learn more about the relationship between specific land management tools and the Accountability Framework. If there is a tool you would like to see included, please contact us with your suggestion.

High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA)


The High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) is a methodology for integrated land use planning that can help companies and land users implement commitments to no-deforestation and respect for human rights. The methodology distinguishes high carbon stock forests, which require protection as part of a no-deforestation approach, from areas of lower carbon stock and conservation value. It also includes processes to help ensure that the rights and livelihoods of communities and workers are respected.

The HCSA methodology can be used in any country and commodity in tropical moist forest landscapes. In addition to current guidance for large-scale producers, HCSA is adapting its methodology for application by independent smallholders.


Protection of natural forests

  • Definitions: The HCSA defines High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests as including four land-cover categories: high-density forest (HDF), medium-density forest (MDF), low-density forest (LDF), and young regenerating forest (YR). These are all considered to be types of natural forest, as defined by the Accountability Framework. Thus, the HCSA’s concept of HCS forest and the Accountability Framework’s definition of natural forest can be considered functionally equivalent for tropical moist forests. Forthcoming maps of HCS forests may therefore be useful for identifying forests that should be protected in accordance with the Accountability Framework’s definitions.
  • The HCSA provides an appropriate methodology for implementing commitments to no-deforestation production and supply chains consistent with the Accountability Framework’s Core Principle 1.1 by identifying natural forests to be protected.
  • The HCSA also provides an appropriate methodology for fulfilling Accountability Framework Core Principles 7 and 8, covering site acquisition, site establishment, and land management. The HCSA methodology includes a multi-step site planning process that integrates spatial and ecological planning, participatory land-use planning with local communities, and environmental and social impact, amongst other assessments. This process designates the four HCS land-cover categories as priorities for protection under a no-deforestation approach, consistent with the Accountability Framework.

Protection of other natural ecosystems

In addition to identifying and protecting natural forests, the HCSA’s current scope includes identifying and protecting certain other natural ecosystems that are found within moist tropical forest landscapes. These include peat soils of any depth as well as High Conservation Value (HCV) areas such as riparian zones. The HCSA is not currently applicable outside of moist tropical forest landscapes and therefore does not address the no-conversion elements of the Accountability Framework (Core Principle 1.2) outside of these contexts, for instance for ecosystem types such as grasslands and savannahs.

Respect for human rights

Social requirements are a part of the HCSA and align with the Accountability Framework’s Core Principles on respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities (IP/LC) as well as workers. Specifically:

  • HCSA’s Social Requirements 2, 3, and 7 cover respect for IP/LC rights including rights to land and to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) and are well-aligned with the Framework’s Core Principle 2.2. Additionally, the HCSA methodology includes social assessments (e.g., Social Background Study, Land Tenure and Land Use Study, and Social and Environmental Impact Assessment) that align with the Framework’s Core Principles 7 and 8. The HCSA methodology for developing an Integrated Conservation and Land Use Plan (ICLUP) further supports putting these principles into practice.
  • HCSA’s Social Requirement 11 addresses respect for workers’ rights in accordance with international conventions and standards such as the ILO fundamental conventions and is aligned with the Framework’s Core Principle 2.3 on the same topic. The HCSA’s Social Requirements also include other social safeguards, including for local livelihoods and food security, consistent with the Framework’s Core Principle 2.2 and Operational Guidance on Respecting the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

Restoration and remediation

The HCSA Restoration and Remediation Guidance outlines principles and criteria for ecological restoration and social remedy in cases when HCS forests, HCV areas, peatlands, or community lands were cleared or degraded contrary to the requirements or process of the HCSA. This guidance is closely aligned with the Accountability Framework’s Core Principle 9 and related Operational Guidance (Remediation and Access to Remedy; and Environmental Restoration and Compensation).

Guidance for Companies

In moist tropical forest landscapes, the HCSA methodology may be used to help fulfill commitments to no-deforestation and to respect human rights. The HCSA Restoration and Remediation Guidance may be used to support remedy for human rights violations and to fulfill commitments to provide for remediation/restoration in cases where companies caused or contributed to environmental harms including deforestation after a specified cutoff date. The HCSA is well-aligned with the Accountability Framework on these topics and provides a helpful tool for putting these commitments into practice. Companies should be sure to follow the HCSA quality assurance process, which is an important step in validating proper application of the methodology.

For commodity production and sourcing outside of moist tropical forest landscapes, companies may use the Accountability Framework to guide the establishment and implementation of policies to protect natural ecosystems (including forests) and respect human rights.

Companies should have a company-wide policy that commits explicitly to eliminate deforestation as well as the conversion of other natural ecosystems. Doing so demonstrates a clear commitment to no-deforestation and no-conversion in all contexts, including those where the HCSA methodology might not currently be applicable. No-deforestation commitments may be further specified by stating an intention to protect HCS forests. In addition, companies may state their intention to use the HCSA methodology in relevant contexts. Sample language for a company policy that follows this guidance is available here.

Still have questions?

If you have specific questions about how the Framework can be applied in your context, or if you would like to speak to a member of the AFi team, please contact us below.

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