The Guidance Tool

Corporate- and Project-Level Guidance

The following guidance outlines the statements a company must be able to assert to reassure the public and markets that it is acting in a manner consistent with the VGGT. These statements reflect the Interlaken Group’s understanding of a company’s responsibilities under the VGGT. The relevant articles of the VGGT are identified for each statement, along with examples of indicators that can be used to verify each. When possible, useful resources to inform company actions are also provided. The guidance contained here begins with high-level corporate commitments to the VGGT. Requisite responsibilities4 that all companies must uphold, should they wish to act consistently with the VGGT, are then provided along five project types:

Additional statements are offered for companies that wish to set a standard of excellence by going beyond their requisite responsibilities under the VGGT. The guidance in this booklet is linked directly to the relevant articles from the VGGT. The full text of these articles may be found in Annex 6 of the Guide.

While this Guide does not provide specific guidance for all the ways a company acquires rights to land and forests, the general principles of respecting legitimate tenure rights, respecting human rights and preventing harm to the environment must be respected in all situations. Depending on the location of the project, the laws regulating land ownership and the type of crop being produced, a company may acquire a variety of use or ownership rights. We use the term “land acquisition” to refer both to outright purchase of land (i.e. freehold or fee simple) and lease. Companies can also enter into outgrower or sharecropping agreements with local communities that do not transfer land rights to the company.

Women make up the majority of the world’s smallholder farmers. They are vital to ensuring local food security. Unfortunately, their rights to land and forests are often overlooked or abused. Companies must ensure that they are taking active steps to ensure that all legitimate tenure rights are respected – not just men’s tenure rights. The following guidance puts some detail on the steps a company can take to respect women’s rights to land and forests, but the guidance should be read with a view to understanding all the rights-holders in a project area and the potential impact that a company might have on their rights.

Corporate-Level Guidance

Making a corporate-level commitment to supporting the VGGT is a first step towards improving a company’s performance on land and forest tenure rights. Supporting the VGGT also means taking actions to ensure a company’s ethical behavior related to land acquisition, land use, and corporate relationships with local communities and authorities. Article 3.2 of the VGGT specifies that “Non-state actors including business enterprises have responsibilities to respect human rights and legitimate tenure rights.” A company has a duty to fully integrate systems and safeguards to prevent any violations of human rights or legitimate tenure rights.

Responsibilities Statement Indicators Resources





The company has a robust understanding of the international and national laws (and other commitments) of the company’s home country and project host countries related to human rights and corporate responsibility.

  • Legal teams are well versed in international human rights commitments and understand land and forest tenure related issues.

Institute for Business and Human Rights

Business for Social Responsibility




The company complies with the international and national laws related to human rights and corporate responsibility referenced in the VGGT.

  • Company policies incorporate the duties contained in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
  • Company reporting includes human rights and sustainability monitoring

Guidance by the International Bar Association on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights





The company has integrated its responsibilities under the VGGT into its company policies, including company support for local smallholders and food security.

  • Company land and forest tenure policy has been published and disseminated to staff.
  • The company allocates sufficient resources to ensure robust due diligence and consultation processes before making investment decisions.
  • The company has actively integrated the requirements of the VGGT into their corporate ESMS.

Example policies from PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Illovo, Nestlé, and othersa.



The company upholds its responsibilities to provide remedy in cases where its operations led to (or contributed to) human rights abuses or violations of legitimate tenure rights, and acts to address such issues of its suppliers.

  • The company’s non-judicial grievance mechanisms uphold the UNGPB Effectiveness Criteria.
  • A company’s supplier code of conduct requires suppliers to act consistently with the UNGPB.

UNGPB (Principle 31)

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre



The company does not engage in corrupt practices related to land and forest tenure rights.

  • The company’s interactions with government officials and communities are documented and transparent to the fullest extent possible.
  • The company does not enter into business ventures with Politically Exposed Persons. b

United Nations Convention against Corruption



The company proactively addresses tenure risks and seeks to remedy abuses of legitimate land and forest tenure rights committed by its operations or those of its suppliers.

  • The company has instituted a risk management system to prevent and address adverse impacts on human rights and legitimate tenure rights from its operations.
  • The risk management system includes regular review of land and forest holdings, land and forest tenure conflicts in or around project sites, and reviews of community engagement by project staff.

UNGPB (Principles 17-21)





The company is not involved in projects that infringe on legitimate land and forest rights or lead to forced evictions.

  • The company backs out of investments or operations if they could lead to forced evictions.

IFC Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability

World Bank Operational Manual on Involuntary Resettlement

OHCHR Fact Sheet on Forced Evictions

UN Human Rights Council general comment No. 4 and No. 7 (on the CESCR)




All relevant employees are knowledgeable about the VGGT and their related responsibilities.

  • The company has distributed the VGGT to relevant staff in local languages and has conducted staff training on company land policy as well as company expectations for ethical behavior.



The company makes a public commitment to implement the VGGT.

  • Press releases
  • Company-wide notification

Example commitments from Cargill, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Illovo, Unilever, etc. c



The company actively encourages other companies in its industry, its suppliers, and host governments to adhere to the VGGT.

  • Public presentation of land and forest tenure record or independent audits.

  1. The guidance is classified as “Requisite” and “Additional” responsibilities. Requisite responsibilities are those deriving directly from the text of the VGGT referring to “non-state actors,” “other parties,” “business enterprises,” and “investors.” Additional responsibilities are those identified by the Interlaken Group as markers of excellence.
  1. See Annex 1.
  2. Refers to individuals who are, or have been, entrusted with prominent public functions, their family members, and close associates. Due to their influence, they are in positions that potentially can be abused for the purpose of committing such offences including corruption and bribery. http://www.fatf-gafi.org/media/fatf/documents/recommendations/guidance-pep-rec12-22.pdf.
  3. See Annex 1.