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Business charts pathways to support good land stewardship

​Bonn, 19/03/14: Private sector actions to support sustainable land stewardship progressed following a meeting to consider ways and means to support decision making for sustainable land management and use.

The meeting, with participation from the private sector, consulting agencies, research institutions and intergovernmental organizations, was held on 11-13 March at the United Nations in Bonn, Germany.

It was co-organized by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative (ELD), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and UN Global Compact.

“It’s been an interesting series of events with several different outcomes. We looked at practical toolkits to assess the economic impact of land on business development and on business income. We looked at tools to train the business sector and to train policy makers on better decision-making around land management and the implications of those choices. And we looked at developing soil principles to protect soil assets for future generations,” said Louise Baker of UNCCD.

“This meeting brought together companies - multinationals and smaller companies – and other organizations to work together on what the private sector needs to be able to incorporate land into their processes and strategies,” said Violaine Berger of WBCSD.

Participants considered a recent economic analysis by ELD on business exposure to the risks of land degradation and the benefits of sustainable land management as portrayed in the ELD Business Brief, Opportunity Lost.

They agreed to develop a toolkit for the private sector for sustainable land management and developed a clear plan on further steps in engaging the private sector in sustainable land management.

The meeting also marked the first step in developing an innovative training programme to be used in the Soil Leadership Academy. The academy, an initiative of the UNCCD in partnership with Syngenta and WBCSD, aims to build the capacity of policy makers in sustainable land and soil management and to encourage them to design and implement policies for sustainable soil and land management practices.

Participants proposed an ambitious programme with a timeline to start the training beginning of 2015 and the use of interactive approaches such as simulation exercises, practical case studies, field demonstrations, videos and smartphone apps.

The UN Global Compact also presented the Food and Agriculture Business Principles and received inputs for the draft framework to guide the development of global principles for sustainable soil management and use, in the context of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

“What we are seeing is a post-2015 scenario where companies are expressly required to play a role in bringing solutions for food security to bear. This type of meeting is where we find convergence in thought between governments and the private sector, with UN agencies acting as honest brokers. We are beginning to adopt common language between these different sectors,” said Puvan Selvanathan of the Global Compact.

“We will have another meeting at the end of June 2014 so that our partners can be much more involved. Our next step is to work on the content of the toolkit and to integrate this process into a working group, which will contribute to the publication of the ELD Business Report in 2015,” said Mark Schauer, head of the ELD Initiative.

WBCSD plans to present the outcomes of the meeting to their constituency meeting in April.

The report of the meeting will be released shortly.

For more information on the event contact:
Louise Baker,

Emerging from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of sustainable land management. The Convention’s 195 Parties work to alleviate poverty in the drylands by promoting a global response to desertification, land gradation and drought. Each Party is expected to agree and deliver against explicit commitments of the Convention.

Christopher Lambe, the Mosaic Company
"Since 2008, there’s been a merging of collaboration between intergovernmental organizations, civil society, business, etc, working on food. But a lot of emphasis has been placed on the post-harvest equation and not enough emphasis on the pre-harvest. So these three days we dedicated to soils. This is the beginning of agriculture. This is what the farmer deals with, and this is the farmer’s tool and, in developing countries, very often the only tool a farmer has. So for a company like ours that works in the plant and crop nutrition industry, it is our livelihood as well as theirs. “Very often there’s an assumption that business, government and civil society don’t agree. I think we agree on 95% of the issues, so it is pretty much about establishing those or putting our weight behind the same initiatives. There is strength in numbers and that kind of collaboration is essential so that we don’t waste energy duplicating each other’s efforts."

Juan Gonzalez-Valero, Syngenta
"Land is the basis of a very significant part our economy and soil degradation has direct economic impacts on farmers, in particular, either by reducing their revenues because of reduced productivity, or by increasing their input costs. The tragedy is that this impact is mostly noticed in the poor parts of the world where the risk of the farming operation is solely taken by the farmer - not the government or the finance sector - and only in few cases by the value chain. So you need to get the organizations – farming organizations – engaged, together with those industries that support farmers, either through the inputs that they provide to farmers or with partners that create the markets for the farmers. Everybody in that value chain…."

Jean Paul Beens, Yara SA/NV
"Agriculture is so complex and so diverse that nobody has the sole expertise to resolve the situation and the challenges we have at hand. Different stakeholders need to come together."

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