IDH and partners have launched the Verified Sourcing Areas (VSAs) concept and first readiness pilot in Mato Grosso state in Brazil at the “Future of Sustainable Trade” conference in Utrecht on 15 November 2018.
© Jonathan Perugia/Gaia Visual Ltd
Verified Sourcing Areas (VSAs) is a new area-based mechanism to accelerate the production and market uptake of sustainable commodities globally. It works by helping companies verify the sustainability of an entire jurisdiction, so it is no longer necessary to verify each producer, mill or commodity individually.
Through VSAs, economic, environmental and social sustainability targets are addressed in one approach and can be much more ambitious in scale and impact.
Speaking at the launch, Daan Wensing, Global Landscapes Program Director at IDH said:
“This is a revolutionary new concept that will help re-define sustainable trade in the next 10 years. Imagine if companies could source from entire verified sustainable areas, like municipalities, provinces or states, instead of individual farms and plantations. Sustainable sourcing would be easier and cheaper, allowing companies to source large volumes of commodities in line with their own and global sustainability commitments. Meanwhile, in production areas, local actors like farmers and the government can drive sustainable development and receive incentives by global markets for doing so.”
IDH and partners that include the Government of Mato Grosso and Carrefour Brasil Group are currently piloting this approach through the Sustainable Production of Calves Program in the valley regions of Juruena and Araguaia, north Mato Grosso.
The program helps cattle farmers increase sustainable production and gain access to markets, helping accelerate economic development in the region without the need to convert forests into farmland. Activities proposed by the program have the potential to protect and restore more than 151,000 hectares (373,129 acres) of tropical forest.
Stéphane Engelhard, Vice President of Carrefour Brasil, which committed to supporting the regions in transitioning to more sustainable production, said:
“Brazil is the second biggest producer of beef in the world, but it’s not always sustainable. We launched this program with IDH to help 450 small producers in Mato Grosso produce [beef] in a more sustainable way. For us, this is very important. It’s absolutely in line with our Carrefour 2020 project. The main pillar in this project is food transition, which means better food for customers at a fair price.”
The Carrefour Foundation, the international institution responsible for the Carrefour Group’s social investment, has already pledged to invest EUR 1,9 million in the program. IDH will co-invest EUR 1,6 million.
The work is carried out with implementing partners Acrimat, NatCap and São Marcelo Farms.
The Government of Mato Grosso is supporting the project as part of its Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) strategy. Mauro Mendes, elected governor of Mato Grosso, said in a video message:
“We believe that, with our huge environmental assets, we can contribute to not only feeding, but guaranteeing a better future for our region and much of the planet. We preserve forest assets, and at the same we need to promote social investment. IDH has been a great partner and we need great partners, so we can continue to contribute to the planet.”
The VSA Global Steering Committee, comprising industry leaders, civil society, experts and government representatives, is overseeing the development of the VSA model and further pilots.
Jennifer Morris of Conservation International, a member of the VSA Global Steering Committee, said:
“Verified Sourcing Areas and other efforts which look holistically at production and protection, as well as governance and investment, are critical not only for selling commodities to service the world’s increasing demand for food, but also to prevent the collapse of rural communities throughout the world. If efforts like the one in Mato Grosso are successful, we can create not only resilient communities, but ones that can grow and prosper in a changing climate.”
The VSA pilot was launched as part of IDH’s 10-year anniversary celebrations.
Currently, IDH is also developing a pilot in Aceh, Indonesia, with more countries to follow.