With new developments in sustainable investment towards food, agriculture, and forestry, there are many learning opportunities offered for stakeholders from all sectors, whether public or private. While the method in which these learnings are delivered may differ, ultimately how successful the training programs are often depends on the interest of the learners themselves.
Grow Asia held a consultation workshop on Thursday, 5 August 2021 on their upcoming Learning and Accreditation Program (LAP) of the ASEAN Guidelines on Promoting Responsible Investment in Food, Agriculture and Forestry (ASEAN RAI). The Learning Program will train participants how to ensure private investments in agriculture, forestry and food sectors are inclusive, sustainable and responsible by following the ten (10) core principles of the ASEAN RAI. These ten principles are based on and reflected in many other industry and investment standards, as demonstrated in Grow Asia’s 2020 standard alignment report.
Fifty interested partners from the private sector, multilateral organizations, NGOs, CSOs, and industry organizations joined the workshop. The workshop aimed to understand who the potential learners are, why the ASEAN RAI interests them based on their role or sector, how they learn best, and which topics are important to them.
To introduce the program, Erin Sweeney, Sustainable Investment & Inclusion Lead at Grow Asia demonstrated the importance of training on how to invest responsibly in agriculture, food and forestry sectors, given the increase in interest in sustainable finance across ASEAN. The LAP will launch in 2022, and key milestones include: gathering input from potential participants (this workshop), identifying a host “knowledge and learner management” institution, designing a virtual learning program, and collaborating with content experts and partners with existing training across the region.
Parveen Sandhu, Learning Experience Designer, Facilitator & Coach, and Founder of Surge Consulting (who is leading the development of the LAP for Grow Asia) shared the training format for the Learning Program. The LAP will include a cohort model, virtual and in-person learning, regional case studies, and practical opportunities to apply learning. Parveen highlighted that applying the cohort model is particularly critical as it will allow participants to stay connected to share insights and support each other after the program ends. With the restrictions brought by COVID-19, the training format will include primarily virtual elements, with some in-person national workshops where possible. Grow Asia will ensure that the ASEAN RAI Learning and Accreditation Program (LAP) adapts to these changes and will continue to gather insights from partners to create a program that is interactive, relevant, and practical.
The fifty participants were grouped into four country-based breakout sessions so Grow Asia could benefit from a better understanding of how and what these potential LAP participants hope to gain from the program.
The participants were asked how the Learning and Accreditation Program (LAP) would benefit themselves and their organizations:
The LAP can provide references on how the ASEAN RAI guidelines align with other regional and global standards. Participants see the ASEAN RAI guidelines as being complementary to other regional standards and programs such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Aside from the VGGT, the ASEAN RAI are also aligned with other industry and investment standards (more information here). The learnings from the program can help organizations adopt not only the ASEAN RAI, but other regional programs and standards like the VGGT and the RSPO.
The LAP is important in terms of building awareness about sustainability practices and how to communicate the significance of sustainability to others. They want to learn how they can communicate what ASEAN RAI is within their organization, to their colleagues, particularly senior staff and new recruits, as well as members of their communities (including youth and women). Participants also want to share their learnings and educate other stakeholders about the long-term benefits of adopting the ASEAN RAI.
The LAP can also provide participants in the agribusiness sector with best practices. The program can provide best practices related to the 10 principles of the ASEAN RAI, including sustainable sourcing of raw materials, maximizing impact from capital allocation, mitigating risks, and improving environmental and social practices. This includes better understanding of how aligning their food, agriculture and forestry investments and environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals can support sustainable agriculture.
The LAP provides participants an opportunity to meet like-minded “change agents”. Participants are looking forward to learning best practices from other organizations in their geographies or sectors, especially in setting up programs and activities that help reach sustainability goals.
In the second breakout session, participants were asked to identify five (5) topics from a list of 19 potential topics related to responsible investing that they see as most important or relevant to their work:
Conducting baseline ESG impact assessments. To report future impacts and develop programs and activities, having a baseline ESG assessment will help companies. One such example from the participants is identifying social responsibilities. By conducting a social baseline assessment, the company will be able to manage its social impact (i.e. land tenure, gender equality, food security, etc), monitor its activities, and create better programs for the community.
Monitoring investments' impact on the environment and communities, especially as local policies and frameworks increasingly require monitoring of environmental and social impacts of investments. Participants linked this topic to community engagement on how both communities and investors can work together in monitoring impacts of agriculture projects. They are keen to understand the local requirements for agricultural investments, especially relating to contracts and agreements.
Using a gender and/or youth-inclusive approach. Youth and gender mainstreaming are recurring topics that participants highlighted in the session. The participants want to learn best practices on how to develop programs and activities for youth and gender.
Preventing and managing conflicts and disputes. In relation to land tenure and ownership, strong public policies can help in solving land issues in the region. Land is one of the most important investments in agriculture, food, and forestry. Participants noted that investments must respect indigenous land rights and communities.
Using climate-smart practices and reducing/eliminating environmental impact. Participants see that there will be a long-term benefit in discussing tools and techniques related to climate-smart agriculture (CSA). Also, companies with infrastructure investments are keen to understand climate change risk and mitigation strategies. As high risk investments, it is important to understand the climate scenarios as well as other environmental impacts to these projects.
Grow Asia and our partners actively encourage private and public sector partners to integrate the ASEAN RAI principles into their practice and policy. Our Learning and Accreditation Program (LAP) will train a group of change agents (partners like you!) who are equipped with practical tools to apply the ASEAN RAI on the ground. We will launch the LAP in 2022 with a pilot cohort of 50 participants across ASEAN.
Contact Erin Sweeney, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register your interest for the pilot! Learn more about the ASEAN RAI, and other aspects of the effort to implement it across the region here: www.aseanraiguidelines.org