Q&A: the Land Use Change Guidance team talks inception, incentive and innovation

Following this month’s release of the Land Use Change Guidance pilot version, the Quantis communications team sat down with our very own US Director Jon Dettling and sustainability consultant Michèle Zollinger to talk about the inception of this unique pre-competitive consortium that brings together 40+ diverse contributors, their incentive for participation and the innovative efforts it took to develop recommendations that will be applicable for such an array of stakeholders.

1+ First off, can you describe what sparked the LUC Guidance initiative?

Michèle Zollinger: The idea for the LUC Guidance came from conversations with our clients: over a short period of time we recognized that a few of our clients were expressing a common need. They were calling for a solid assessment approach to understand how land use-derived greenhouse gas emissions impact their corporate and product footprints.

Jon Dettling: A solution demanded the highest level of diligence and accuracy, where we used to rely on broad estimates. To facilitate access to the necessary data, deliver the corresponding guidance and answer our clients’ need for validity and common practice, we organized a pre-competitive consortium between interested parties.

2+ What were the key motivations for companies to join?

MZ: Any company with agricultural or forestry products in their supply chain will find land use change impacts their corporate footprint. Businesses are also increasingly pressured to commit to deforestation-free supply chains and set Science-Based Goals to cut their carbon imprint.

JD: In addition, our clients struggled to apply GHG emissions accounting rules, finding major inconsistencies depending on the selected methodology, types of land use-generated carbon emissions, company or commodity. Ambitious corporate commitments rely on the credibility, and comparability of their supporting metrics. The LUC Guidance aims to align greenhouse gas standards and bridge existing gaps: tapping into a streamlined framework convinced companies to join other industrial, nonprofit, academic and institutional stakeholders.

3+ What was it like to coordinate the LUC initiative with 40+ partners?

MZ: Over the years, Quantis has developed a leadership role in coordinating pre-competitive initiatives (ex: the World Food LCA Database and the World Apparel and Footwear LCA Database projects). This was, however, the first time Quantis convened such large group to address a topic with that level urgency.

We worked to align a diversity of stakeholders, embedding their inputs in the 14 recommendations featured in the LUC Guidance. Where this proved contentious, we reflected contrasting viewpoints and these will be addressed during the pilot phase we just launched.

Rather than an official standard, the Guidance answers companies’ need for reliable methodology to make immediate progress on land-related issues. While partners work on a voluntary basis, we believe this paves the way for a normative effort in the near future.

4+ We had a LUC Guidance Pilot Phase webinar last week: what are your key takeaways from the webinar and participants’ questions?

JD: The strong webinar turn out and subsequent interest in joining the pilots proves the urgency of the issue and need for harmonization.

Our partners at CDP and Mondelēz International (panelists on the webinar) also made note of the high level of engagement from the audience to learn more about land use change as well as the degree of expertise reflected in some of the questions sent.

5+ What would you say was the Quantis added value to the LUC Consortium?

JD: Our major added value lies in our expertise in land use change. We were indeed able to contribute direct knowledge and experience to gear the initiative toward quick and effective results.

The Quantis mission is one of making science actionable, working with clients to develop clear business cases to support effective corporate decision-making and rapid progress. This enabled us to address gaps in data and understanding, to anticipate major hurdles in the initiative attaining its objectives all the while working in a transparent manner. All of this will likely come in handy during the pilot phase, as partners reconvene to identify potential gaps, refine the methodology and facilitate alignment.

We brought value as a neutral party as well. While the initiative was met with strong interest, we still had to streamline complex and often contrasting GHG accounting standards, all the while engaging multiple stakeholders around a common goal.

6+ Finally, how will this Guidance ultimately drive sustainable change?

JD: We are driven by the development of credible metrics and their potential to mainstream sustainable solutions. This is aligned with the unprecedented urgency to act on climate change coupled with the pace of our changing global economy. Metrics structure decision-making through ambitious goals and guardrails. Where the economic and scientific implications of land use change often appear complex, the LUC consortium set out to deliver more clarity.

Join the LUC Guidance pilots!

In an effort to create the most accurate and market-ready Guidance possible, Quantis now calls committed companies to launch pilot programs to test out its recommendations. Key takeaways from the pilot phase will be integrated into a final Guidance, to be made publicly available in 2018. For more information, contact LUC Guidance coordinator Michèle Zollinger.

The LUC Guidance project team:

Michèle Zollinger
Sustainability Consultant,
LUC Guidance coordinator

Jon Dettling
US Director
LUC Guidance Lead