Landscape Approaches to Sustainable Development

29th November 2016

Blog by Martina Henry (Origin Green Ambassador)

Globalisation is a word we are all too familiar with. It has come to symbolise the apparent singularity of motivation by multi-national companies in their apparent efforts to homogenise people, cultures and demand for ever-increasing consumption of goods.

However, it also signifies a ‘whole world-view’ and in effect, makes local what is international, makes real what seems unbelievable, and is increasingly lending itself to more widespread awareness of Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’. Or to be more exact, it is awakening in more and more global citizens, and by consequence, more and more global companies, the absolute and urgent need to adopt Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Memorial Prize winning adage that the world’s common pool resources can in fact be managed effectively by ‘collective action, trust and cooperation’.

In real terms this means that cities, cultures, countries, regions or even geographies, cannot be viewed in isolation, or in terms of singular issues to be addressed by one body, one government or one organisation.  Instead, it is increasingly evident that a broader, more holistic and inclusive approach must be taken, in order that the costs, and the benefits, of such action can be shared more widely and that these benefits are of greater impact and magnitude by virtue of their deriving from collective action. 

This was termed Creating Shared Value by Harvard’s Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, but is increasingly being termed as taking a Landscape Approach.  That is to say, taking into account issues not in isolation, or within arbitrary boundaries, but to view them as part of a greater eco-system, and a component of a complex society which relies on economic development for the prosperity of communities, but also on social and environmental protection in order that we do not inhibit the ability of future generations, or of the planet to flourish also. 

Leading companies have begun to respond to these challenges, recognising too, the risk to the future of their businesses if they do not.  It is now the role of governments and cross-border bodies to create the conditions in which such programmes for change can be most effective within the greater landscape, partnering with, and furthering the efforts initiated  by global business in order to effect real change and make the SDGs, and those commitments made at COP21, a reality for all. Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme is one such effort, but it too exists within a global effort.

It is also the responsibility of all organisations, big and small, to engage in these programmes of work such that they can tackle issues more effectively, and create shared value for people, planet and profit. Collaboration of effort and collective action, through organisations such as SAI Platform (the global food and drink initiative for sustainable agriculture), has a much greater chance of success than any individual endeavours can ever hope to deliver.

Porter, M. and Kramer, K. (2011), Creating Shared Value, Harvard Business Review. Available at: [Accessed on 9 Nov 2016]

Ostrom, E. (1990), ‘Governing a Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action’.  Available at: [Accessed on 9 Nov 2016]