The Landscape Approach

The landscape approach has gained significant traction with researchers and practitioners looking at conservation, agriculture and other land use issues, despite being a challenging concept to define. A landscape is described as “an area as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of nature and/ or human factors” by the European Landscape Convention. A landscape approach is therefore an effort made to address sustainability issues within a landscape in a way that breaks down traditional sectoral barriers through multi stakeholder engagement and collaboration.

Businesses with agricultural supply chains have a responsibility to understand and manage their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES). There is growing consensus that work on BES and agricultural sustainability requires a focus on the ‘whole landscape’.

Where landscapes are dominated by a single crop, or a single company, this may be relatively straightforward. Most production landscapes, however, are complex mosaics inhabited by people and companies with differing interests, all influenced by ecological, social, economic and political drivers at different levels. Businesses can contribute to building sustainability in such landscapes by addressing their own BES impacts and dependencies. However in many cases the impacts of an individual crop or company may form only a small part of much wider trends in the landscape. There is thus a need to reach out to other stakeholders to address those trends.

Implementing a landscape approach initiative is inherently challenging and could potentially be achieved in different ways. Many organisations are talking about and developing this evolving concept and practice. For wider reading please see External Links.