About the Report

Standards and Biodiversity, the latest report by the State of Sustainability Initiatives examines the intersection between voluntary sustainability standard and the conservation of biodiversity. The study identified several opportunities to leverage the impact of voluntary sustainability standards to prevent and slow biodiversity losses. There is a clear rationale for policy-makers to support the evolution of voluntary sustainability standards in ways that can help ensure that they play a constructive role in meeting biodiversity targets. Voluntary sustainability standards offer an opportunity to reduce the biodiversity impacts of agriculture while promoting best practices, which can also improve yields and help to feed a growing population.


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At-A-Glance

Standard coverage

Commodities Coverage

  • Banana

  • Cocoa

  • Coffee

  • Cotton

  • Palm oil

  • Soy

  • Sugar

  • Tea

  • Cereal

Biodiversity Impact Indicators for Commodity Production (BIICP)

Between 2015 and 2016, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity convened a multistakeholder group of experts to identify a core set of biodiversity indicators that might be measured by member countries as a basis for understanding the state of biodiversity risk posed by agricultural production within their respective jurisdictions. The resulting Biodiversity Impact Indicators for Commodity Production (BIICP) offer a starting point for understanding the contribution of agricultural practices to biodiversity protection. Voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) are increasingly being adopted in a variety of sectors as a basis for promoting sustainable agriculture at production. This review attempts to understand the degree to which major VSSs operating in the agriculture sector are aligned with the specific biodiversity-related objectives targeted by the BIICP.  The following is a summary of the findings based on our analysis.
For more information on BIICP click here

Alignment and Diversity Between VSS Criteria and Biodiversity Objectives

The figure shows the average Intensity Scores by Biodiversity Impact Indicator for Commodity Production and indicator group. Overall coverage across all BIICP indicator groups is 63 per cent, signalling a general alignment between VSS criteria and biodiversity objectives, while nevertheless signalling relative diversity in the level of intensity or prioritization among initiatives. Habitat conversion-related criteria and water use criteria carry the highest overall average coverage scores, while climate-specific criteria score among the lowest.

Vital Need for GHG Emission Monitoring and Management VSS Criteria

The average coverage intensities for indicators making up the carbon footprint index is depicted in the figure. As a general rule, agriculture standards may have positive impacts on mitigating climate change through the prevention of land conversion, better soil management, fertilizer use and enhanced energy efficiency. However, the standards reviewed specified little in the way of intentional monitoring and management of GHG emissions.

Standards and Biodiversity

 ZURICH, June 27, 2017 — Sustainable agriculture practices must be widely implemented in order to stem an alarming loss of biodiversity and to protect endangered species.

This is according to the Standards and Biodiversity report released Tuesday by the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Agricultural production currently accounts for 40 per cent of global land surface and is responsible for 70 per cent of projected losses in terrestrial biodiversity due to widespread land conversion, pollution and soil degradation.

“What happens in agriculture matters,” said Scott Vaughan, President-CEO, IISD. “Growing demand for certified products presents a major opportunity to protect our natural resources. The market is rewarding efforts to conserve critical habitats, protect soil and water quality, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. But market forces are not enough.”

The market value of certified agricultural products was estimated to be USD 52.5 billion in 2015 for eight major commodities (bananas, cotton, coffee, cocoa, tea, sugar, palm oil and soybeans) according to Standards and Biodiversity. That is up from USD 31.6 billion in 2012, the previous estimate by the State of Sustainability Initiatives Review.

 Two other major commodities–fisheries and forestry–also registered significant growth, according to the new estimates. The sustainable forestry market grew to USD 231.8 billion in 2015 from USD 200.3 billion in 2012. The sustainable fisheries market grew to USD 8.9 billion in 2015 from USD 6.8 billion in 2012. The total trade value of the top ten sustainable commodity markets grew to USD 293.2 billion in 2015 from USD 238.7 billion in 2012.

Some agricultural commodity markets are now dominated by sustainability standards. Half of global coffee production was standards-compliant in 2014 (the latest available data,) along with 30 per cent of cocoa production, 22 per cent of palm oil production and 18 per cent of global tea production.

The study forecasts that four other agricultural commodities—bananas, cotton, sugar and soybeans—will have compliance rates of at least 10 per cent by 2020.

However, standards remain a negligible force across global agricultural production as a whole. If those eight agricultural commodities became 100 per cent certified, the study found it would still only amount to 12 per cent of global agricultural land area.

“If voluntary standards are to play a major role in reducing the impacts of agriculture on biodiversity loss, they will have to, at a minimum, establish a significant presence among other crops—most notably, staple crops such as wheat, maize and rice,” said study author Jason Potts, a senior associate at IISD.

“The good news is that we can build political will to address biodiversity loss,” Potts added. “Parties of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are leading efforts to identify concrete solutions and immediate actions to achieve their biological diversity targets.”

The IISD study builds upon the CBD’s Biodiversity Impact Indicators for Commodity Production (BIICP), which identifies a core set of biodiversity indicators that can help governments and the agricultural industry understand how best to reduce negative impacts on biodiversity. The CBD Secretariat contributed to the development of the report.

“Voluntary sustainability standards are an important element of the necessary policy mix to redirect funding towards sustainable production practices and reducing biodiversity loss,” said Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary, CBD. “This report makes an important contribution by providing a better understanding of the role and potential of different voluntary sustainability standards, and what policy-makers can do to promote their wider application and their more robust integration into overall policy frameworks.”

The study was released at ISEAL Alliance’s annual meeting—the 2017 Global Sustainability Standards Conference—in Zurich, Switzerland. It identifies a wealth of information about specific commodities, such as:

 Cocoa certification appears to be well positioned to promote improved soil fertility where it matters most through a strong presence in countries facing soil fertility challenges.

– Coffee certification appears to be well positioned to limit the negative impacts on lakes and other water sources because standards are highly active in areas where the threat of eutrophication is most prominent.The banana sector may be approaching a “glass ceiling” on growth, as it is currently limited to the small portion of production that is traded internationally.

– The banana sector may be approaching a “glass ceiling” on growth, as it is currently limited to the small portion of production that is traded internationally.

– Cotton certification appears to be under-represented in countries where cotton-related water use is most problematic: the expansion of certified cotton across Pakistan and India is strategically important.

-Palm oil certification is geographically focused where forest conversion is most problematic but may nevertheless have limited impact due to the scale of demand for conventional palm oil by Asian countries.

-Soy certification is most active in key areas of biodiversity vulnerability but has low adoption rates due to low demand for certified soy from Asia.

-Sugarcane certification is highly concentrated in Brazil, which has lower per-volume fertilizer use than other major producing countries. India, China, Pakistan and Mexico represent strategic opportunities for the expansion of certified sugarcane aimed at protecting water quality.

-Tea production compliant with standards accounts for 18 per cent of global tea production (by volume) but only 13 per cent of global area under tea production, as it appears to be concentrated in higher-yielding production systems.

To speak with one of our experts, contact Mira Oberman at moberman@iisd.ca or +1 (204) 958-7700 ext. 728 (in Winnipeg, Canada).

 

 

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Standards and Biodiversity, the latest report by the State of Sustainability Initiatives examines the intersection between voluntary sustainability standard and the conservation of biodiversity. The study identified several opportunities to leverage the impact of voluntary sustainability standards to prevent and slow biodiversity losses. There is a clear rationale for policy-makers to support the evolution of voluntary sustainability standards in ways that can help ensure that they play a constructive role in meeting biodiversity targets. Voluntary sustainability standards offer an opportunity to reduce the biodiversity impacts of agriculture while promoting best practices, which can also improve yields and help to feed a growing population.

DOWNLOAD FULL REPORT