The Landscape Approach: A Panorama of Shared Value

10 months ago

The Landscape Approach provides a comprehensive strategy to create value and achieve meaningful environmental, social, governance (ESG) impact across regions. As described by the Global Landscapes Forum, the Landscape Approach “embrace[s] compromise amongst competing social, environmental, political, and economic demands to produce multiple benefits from limited resources…” (1)

A key tenet is integration, more specifically to define a landscape broadly, “not only accounting for geographical and natural characteristics, but also for political and cultural practices that shape the way land is utilised” across a variety of land uses: agriculture, industries, forestry, watersheds, energy, community infrastructure, etc. (2)

Perhaps predictably, the Landscape Approach resonates with land use focused audiences. For example, it is fundamental to the Landscape Accounting Framework (LAF) developed by Conservation International’s Carbon Fund. The goal of the Carbon Fund is to reduce emissions by conserving forests.  By accounting for a range of quantifiable indicators—range of natural capital, rate of production, level of human wellbeing—the LAF provides a framework to monitor landscape sustainability to facilitate prioritizing investments and tracking projects against conservation goals. (3 & 4)

What may be less obvious is the significance of the Landscape Approach to create value, and to do so in such a way that it is shared across a region. When the scope of potential business risks is narrowly defined (e.g. labor and resource inputs) rather than considering the full regional context (e.g. ecosystems and ecosystem services, infrastructure, community engagement and support), operational continuity is under constant threat. This, in turn, poses a significant risk to productivity and return on investment (ROI), ultimately jeopardizing value creation and protection for all. However, many risks can be significantly minimized, if not eliminated, by prioritizing effective regional stakeholder engagement and comprehensive, data-driven assessment of operational and ESG investments.

Oxfam has noted that, “[i]n theory, both mining and agriculture can provide pathways out of poverty…Unfortunately, the compatibility of these two development paths, which tend to take place in the same rural area, is at best questionable.” (5) However, by applying a Landscape Approach to embrace and leverage these incompatibilities, companies and their stakeholders can not only address this questionability, but also simultaneously create, share, and protect value.

When the Landscape Approach is paired with modern thinking on creating shared value, what results is a beautiful panorama: investments that are strategically selected and leveraged to ensure productivity, demonstrate a positive return, and achieve meaningful environmental, social, and governance impacts for regional communities.