How Collective Action Can Transform Landscapes To Forest Positive 

By Didier Bergeret, Director, Sustainability, The Consumer Goods Forum, and Matthew Spencer, Global Director, Landscapes, IDH-The Sustainable Trade Initiative

As the world marks Earth Day, the Forest Positive Coalition and IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative, share five elements of success for landscape-level programs working to restore and protect forests.


Forests are disappearing at a terrifying rate, and we must all step up our efforts to combat this urgent global issue and avert a catastrophic climate disaster. However, while most climate discussions focus on reducing emissions and transitioning away from fossil fuels, we must not forget the vital contribution of nature, and forests in particular.

This past November at COP26 in Glasgow, we witnessed a resurgence of interest in forests as governments from 140 countries, which represent roughly 85% of the world’s forests, pledged US$19.2 billion of public/private funds “to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.” We also saw pledges from large companies, including groups of global commodity traders, to delink deforestation from their sourcing and transition towards regenerative agriculture.

These are valuable first steps on the path to a forest positive future, but now comes the time for everyone – governments, the public and private sectors, and civil society – to work together to make these ambitions a reality. Importantly, this work must recognize the complex web of issues that contribute to the deforestation challenge and take a holistic approach to restoring and protecting the earth’s forests.

Collective action in production landscapes – the areas where commodities like palm oil and soy are produced and sourced – is quickly gaining recognition as an important catalyst for forest positive change on-the-ground. At COP26, The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Forest Positive Coalition of Action, a CEO-led initiative of the world’s leading retailers and manufacturers, launched a new strategy for corporate investment and engagement in landscape-level initiatives driving this collective action.

This approach signals an important change in how businesses demand sustainable commodities: by looking beyond their own supply chains, companies can support transformational change taking place in communities and ecosystems around the world.

Similarly, in December 2021, IDH-The Sustainable Trade Initiative, which brings together more than 600 companies and governments to drive new sustainable production and trade models in emerging economies, launched SourceUp. This is a platform connecting agri-commodity companies with more than 20 multi-stakeholder initiatives in jurisdictions that are committed to sustainable production and inclusive governance of sensitive forest areas.

Through the Forest Positive Coalition’s landscape strategy and initiatives such as IDH’s SourceUp program, businesses can help support and scale up landscape and jurisdictional-level initiatives that are driving real, transformative change on-the-ground. We have seen some common factors that contribute to their success:

Environmental and social ambition

In our efforts to end deforestation, we must consider the interaction of climate, nature and people. Successful landscape-level initiatives deepen their ambition to stop deforestation by covering sustainable production and including the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

High-level private sector engagement

The Forest Positive Coalition engages companies at the CEO-level with the goal of embedding the vision of a forest positive future throughout companies’ operations. With support from top-leadership in the world’s leading companies, local-level programs can be afforded critical investment and recognition required to both continue to and scale up their efforts.

Multi-level governance from national to local

It is important that governments from different levels share information with each other about protecting forests. National governments are essential for enforcing forest law, but the decentralized nature of agriculture systems means that policies imposed by the central government have low traction with hundreds of thousands of small farmers. Involving local governments is critical as they play a unique role in planning land use, resolving conflicts and helping to amplify farmer community voices.

Smallholder inclusion

Landscape initiatives must recognize the role of smallholders and encourage equitable agreements and long-term ambitions to protect and restore forests with them.

Financing for forest positive action and regenerative agriculture

More and smarter concessionary finance is needed to foster regenerative agriculture and remove deforestation from commodity supply chains. Programs that help hundreds of thousands of small farmers gain access to loans to buy equipment and replace old crop trees, so that they earn enough from existing farmland and do not need to encroach on natural ecosystems, are critical to helping drive forest positive change.

As we increase collaboration and focus our work at the landscape level, we are able to glimpse a future where sustainable agriculture is the norm, small farmers and plantation workers earn a decent livelihood and governments have the resources and public mandate to enforce forest laws and to restore degraded ecosystems.

Solutions will be created from the bottom-up, through farming communities and the agri-food businesses they supply. At CGF and IDH, we are committed to supporting these initiatives and to help them increase their impact. For this Earth Day, we call on other companies and organizations to work with us to ensure the commitments made at COP26 result in actions that respect the important contributions that healthy forests make to a sustainable world.