Halting deforestation and restoring degraded forests is critical to overcoming the climate emergency and reversing biodiversity loss. Many in the ISEAL community are embracing innovative solutions to contribute towards the sustainable management of forests.
This year’s International Day of Forests centred on sustainable production and consumption. This is a critical focus, since forests play a crucial role in our economies, health and livelihoods. They act as key carbon sinks, buffering the effects of climate change; are complex ecosystems that are home to rich flora and fauna; and sustain the livelihoods of rural communities and smallholders.
Despite these diverse ecological, economic and social benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate. This is creating increasing levels of carbon emissions and the devastation of natural ecosystems and livelihoods on a global scale. Urgent action is needed to sustainably manage the world’s forests to overcome these challenges.
Sustainability systems are stepping up to this challenge. Over the years, forest certification has been effective in improving forest management around the world. And, now other certification systems are increasingly adopting zero-deforestation criteria.
ISEAL members have been exploring new and improved ways to strengthen the sustainability of global supply chains in different ways. Some of these innovations are contributing towards a transition to more sustainable production and management of forests with support from the ISEAL Innovations Fund and the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO. Here we look at how members are innovating in this space.
Community-based forest monitoring
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to halting deforestation. But the most effective solutions are those that are inclusive, tailored to the local context and foster meaningful public-private partnerships to scale impact. Empowering local communities and supporting local forest management practices can contribute towards the better protection of forests in the long-term.
For example, Rainforest Alliance has partnered with various local and regional organisations in Ghana to develop a hybrid community-based monitoring system to help the community monitor and manage their landscape more sustainably. This community-based monitoring system combines different types of data – such as remote data, satellite maps and data collected from cocoa farmers – to provide continuous, near real-time monitoring of forest and landscape performance.
A landscape approach is necessary for tackling issues such as deforestation, as it needs to be done at a larger scale to have an impact. Such an approach can also contribute towards long-term forest security and improved livelihoods for farmers and forest users.
The project aims to empower cocoa farmers to digitize their farming practices. In doing so, they are better equipped to monitor tree planting, collect information on existing trees and identify risks of deforestation or illegal forest activities within the landscape. This data will also contribute to and validate local and regional governments’ datasets to further drive action against deforestation.
It is hoped that this hybrid community-based monitoring system will enable the uptake of more sustainable practices, while also securing greater local leadership and ownership to safeguard forest health and performance at scale.
Mapping tools to detect deforestation
In the world of sustainability systems, there’s huge potential to use mapping tools to tackle sustainability issues, such as deforestation. Through the Certification Atlas project, ISEAL and a group of members have been exploring ways in which geographic information system (GIS) technology and mapped locations of member-certified operations can be used to detect and make decisions around deforestation. Through several ‘learning laboratory’ exercises, these members collaborated to standardise and combine data, test analytical options, identify patterns and trends, and look for ways to scale improvement through data sharing.
For example, as part of this Certification Atlas project, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International worked together to pilot the use of the Google Earth Engine tool to map the location of their certified producer organisations. They combined this location data with secondary data to get insights on where deforestation was likely to occur, which helped them to develop relevant interventions and mitigation strategies.
Both organisations are exploring how to further develop, improve and use this type of mapping tool to better address the risks of deforestation in their certified operations. Similar deforestation detection tools have also been developed by other members, such as Forest Stewardship Council and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
ISEAL has also produced a range of practical guidance to help sustainability systems make the most out of mapping tools and location data, so that they can effectively detect high-risk issues, such as deforestation.
In our 2021-2024 strategy, ISEAL set an ambitious goal to work with members and partners to power scalable solutions to the world’s most pressing sustainability challenges, including deforestation and biodiversity loss.
This is a topic that we’ll continue to discuss and work on with our members through collaborative projects, knowledge exchange and learning sessions going forwards. We look forward to seeing how these emerging innovations, technologies and novel approaches can create new avenues and opportunities to drive impact and tackle deforestation at scale.