Engaging with the private sector

With increasing major voluntary corporate commitments such as the New York Declaration on Forests, the private sector is becoming ever more aware of the responsibility it shoulders for ensuring its development projects and investments deliver zero deforestation. And where negative impacts are inevitable, then steps are taken to mitigate and offset. This is driven partly by shareholders, partly by international regulation, and partly by consumers.

Agriculture and extractive industries are central to the economic development plans of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar and changing political and economic conditions, motivated by the goal of bringing the countries out of poverty, are prompting greater investment in agro-industry, hydropower, mining and other industries, both from private sector and state-owned enterprise. But weak regulatory frameworks for land governance, environmental impact assessment and tenure present risks to all stakeholders: local inhabitants, government, business sector developers, and financial investors.

WCS is working with the private sector to reduce deforestation associated with agriculture, extractive industries and hydropower in the GMS – identifying alternative options that meet companies’ economic goals without impacting on the environment.



  • Companies have different pressure points. These can be consumer-driven, regulatory or legal policy-related.
  • Partnerships can take a wide variety of forms and involve more than two parties. Engaging government may be critical to facilitate the building and/or the implementation of a partnership. 
  • Working directly with corporations at the global level cannot account for variation in local social and environmental conditions and cannot guarantee that efforts are actually making a difference in high biodiversity areas.


Increasing demand for agricultural commodities is a recognized driver of deforestation and habitat loss. Commodity production in the GMS is expected to grow 25% by 2030, with much of this production occurring in jurisdictions that include primary forests and protected areas. WCS examined the value chains of timber, rubber, cassava, sugar and maize production and procurement across our target landscapes in the GMS. The aim was to identify levers of influence over agro-industry, for example, assisting those companies that are trying to green their supply chains, or those that may export to markets with tough social and environmental standards.

For example, in Lao PDR, high demand for feedstock is driving increased cultivation of maize, and the demand has resulted in agricultural land encroaching on protected areas. WCS is now working with environmentally-conscious maize producers to find alternative solutions.

In order to meet its pledge to source all of its rice sustainably by 2020, Mars Foods Ltd, the owner of the world’s largest rice brand, expects its suppliers to adhere to the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) set of standards, including the biodiversity standard developed by WCS. As a result WCS has entered into a partnership with Mars Foods and local Cambodian miller BRICo to train 500 local Cambodian farmers on SRP rice-growing techniques, and in return will link those farmers to lucrative international markets. This will have a positive impact for a number of wildlife populations, including the Bengal Floricans that nest in the rice fields.

© Wildlife Conservation Society
Photo Credit: © Wildlife Conservation Society

Above: Farmers thresh wet-paddy ready for collection by a local exporter contracted directly by Mars foods. By selling whilst still wet according to the harvest plan agreed by all stakeholders, they access a pre-secured price. This also means lower labour costs for the farmer and better results for the private sector as paddy can be dried more carefully at the domestic exporters modern facilities. This allows farmers to supply famous brands with just one entity in the value chain between them and the multi-national food company, empowering the end buyer to engage in high-impact sustainability interventions connected directly and traceably to their product.

" The private sector is becoming increasingly aware of how its decisions around the supply chain can impact positively or negatively on the environment and people. Working with science-driven, conservation organizations like Wildlife Conservation Society and its local Cambodian partner helps us ensure that our purchasing decisions will affect positive change and improve the sustainability of farming methods practiced in our supply chain. "

– Luc Beerens, Global Sustainable Sourcing Director, MARS FOOD


A partnership between WCS, the Lao PDR government and Theun Hinboun Hydropower Company (THPC) is an exciting example of a public-private partnership with conservation benefits. THPC funds community-centered and direct conservation management activities in the protected areas that surround and protect the watershed that delivers the environmental service – water. In return, communities engage in conservation agreements that protect the watershed. The Lao government considers this the model to follow and several new hydropower projects are looking to replicate the approach.

Find out more

Download the Theun Hinboun report by WCS Aligning business success with conservation: a case study from the Lao PDR 

Photo Credit: © WCS

Oil and gas

In Southern Myanmar, three oil and gas companies are financing a protected area as compensation for impacts on biodiversity along their pipeline. The Myanmar government is looking to replicate the approach elsewhere in the country.

Read more about the Taninthayi Nature Reserve Project in Case Studies.


Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) provides sustainable financing for protected areas through the sale of carbon credits in return for government and community commitments to protect their local forests. The Seima REDD+ project area covers 166,983 ha of forest within Cambodia’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary. Since the project was validated under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) Standards Third Edition, WCS facilitated two important sales of carbon credits. The size of the sales have ensured the continued operation of conservation activities in Seima and substantial community support through funding community development projects in local villages.


© 2019 Wildlife Conservation Society

WCS, the "W" logo, WE STAND FOR WILDLIFE, I STAND FOR WILDLIFE, and STAND FOR WILDLIFE are service marks of Wildlife Conservation Society.

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