Agriculture is believed to be more damaging to nature than any other sector of human activity. Sustainability standards seek to mitigate these impacts through improvements at the farm and landscape levels, as well as transformation of broader market and governance systems. BACP’s focus was on voluntary sustainability standards, including the commodity roundtables (e.g., RSPO in palm oil and RTRS in soy), third-party standards (e.g. Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade), and to a lesser extent, internal company standards and other codes of conduct such as principles for sustainable finance.
While agricultural sustainability standards have recently moved from niche to mainstream, there has been very little rigorous evaluation of these standards, especially with regard to conservation impacts. BACP sought to document the actual impact on biodiversity of the use of such certification standards. Two pathways were identified for contributing to this objective.
At a program level, BACP developed an overall M&E plan designed to assess the adoption and replication of best management practices (BMPs) by a range of market actors, and its impact on biodiversity, communities, and markets. At the project level, BACP invested heavily in developing new tools and systems to evaluate conservation impacts of sustainable production at scales ranging from site to region. The development of these tools allowed grantees to see the current state of biodiversity in their landscapes, determine what gaps remain between existing production methods and sustainable production methods, and assess the efficacy of their work to bridge these gaps.