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Key lesson 5: Mainstream Land in Company Sustainability Practices

Companies need to mainstream land as a key ESG issue in their operations. Although practice on land rights is improving as the business case for avoiding tenure risks becomes clearer, practical barriers still exist. Despite growing boardroom level commitments and some good examples, operational priorities for agribusiness on the ground including needs to acquire and control land are driven by production and profitability targets, and more systemic changes are needed in business practice.

Landesa’s C2P project (“from commitment to practice”) with Illovo Sugar shows how a major company can integrate efforts to manage land issues across their operations by building trust and collaboration with local civil society partners, training dedicated teams involving all  operational departments, and careful use of purpose-designed management tools.


For another company’s perspective, see Natural Habitats Group’s account of the company’s presence as an oil palm producer in Sierra Leone and lessons learned from collaboration with Solidaridad to ensure respect for community land rights

Survey’s undertaken on agribusiness and private investor policies on land and responsible investment show mixed results. Some companies find land tenure increasingly important to address but face challenges; a majority have no policies on land but those involved in production are more likely to do so. See:

Institutional investors, such as pension funds, tend to seek reliable assurance of returns, and to avoid investments in land in cases where land ownership and property rights are unclear. For one perspective on responsible agricultural investment see: How we invest in farmland: an introduction to Nuveen’s agricultural sustainability approach

It is estimated that $30 trillion, one third of global investable assets, is managed by socially responsible investment funds: much could support responsible land and agricultural investments if land rights were clarified and the right conditions created on the ground.


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