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Hundreds of major brands, commodity traders, manufacturers, plantation companies, banks and investors have made No Deforestation commitments, and many have already agreed to protect High Conservation Value (HCV) areas. However, secondary forests that provide essential carbon storage, habitat for biodiversity and forest products for local communities are often not considered to be HCV and are consequently not protected. While some broader definitions of ‘forest’ exist, these are not practical enough for companies to use. Furthermore, despite the increasing global awareness and efforts to protect forests, forests are being destroyed at a rate of 13 million ha/year with over half this area being lost in tropical forests. That leads to the release of carbon emissions, biodiversity loss and severe impacts on forest dependent communities.
The HCSA significantly contributes towards achieving several of the UN SDGs. As of March 2019, close to 3 million ha of HCSA assessment area have been registered, with over 575,000 ha of HCS forests identified for conservation and an additional 7 million ha of tropical forest prevented from deforestation. HCSA continuously aims to address deforestation, biodiversity and climate crisis, and their associated social impacts through: i) halting deforestation, ii) increasing carbon storage and other ecosystem services (clean water, forests gardens), iii) conserving biodiversity through HCS forest and HCV area protection/restoration, and iv) supporting indigenous and community rights, including ethnic minorities by promoting sustainable livelihood opportunities through responsible economic development for both large and small actors, supporting land tenure and food security, labour right, as well as establishing benefits for community/smallholder conservation and sustainable development.