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Land Occupation

How much land does it take to grow or raise this ingredient?

Jemima Snow avatar
Written by Jemima Snow
Updated over a week ago

Note: The Land Use metric was renamed to Land Occupation as of Tuesday 3 October, 2023.

What is Land Occupation?

Land Occupation is a measure of the amount of land that is required to produce one metric ton of a given ingredient.

The conversion of land for agricultural purposes is one of humanity's largest impacts on the climate and biodiversity. Each hectare of land used to grow crops or raise livestock is one fewer hectare of forest, grassland, or freshwater. Land Occupation displays how much land is required to produce an ingredient, illuminating how efficient or impactful the growing of that ingredient is.

How does Land Occupation relate to carbon accounting?

The GHG Protocol’s Land Sector and Removals (LSR) Draft Guidance identifies Land Occupation as a meaningful indicator to track the contribution of a company’s activities to the global demand for productive land. It can also incentivize more efficient uses of land and reduced pressure on natural ecosystems. Until the LSR Guidance is finalized in 2024, Land Occupation remains the land tracking metric that is currently most feasible for companies measuring the impacts related to forest products. It is simple and relatively easy to calculate and communicate compared to the other two land tracking metrics proposed under the guidance (indirect land use change and carbon opportunity costs). It requires little or no new data collection, as it is reported in hectares rather than units of GHG emissions.

How does Land Occupation relate to agriculture, product development, and the food system?

Land-use change is responsible for 30% of global land degradation, and 80% of land-use change is for agriculture. When forests are cleared or burned, a tremendous amount of stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, mostly in the form of carbon dioxide—an estimated 4.8 billion tons each year between 2015-2017. Not only does the act of clearing ecosystems release carbon into the atmosphere, it also inhibits reforestation, which could act as a carbon sink. Converting natural ecosystems into agricultural land also has a significant impact on biodiversity, as diverse species of plants are often replaced with monocrops that do not support local flora and fauna.

What are the biggest contributors to high Land Occupation impact?

Land Occupation impact is measured by yield, so a crop like sugarcane scores quite well because it produces a lot of the ingredient per hectare where it's grown. Beef, on the other hand, scores poorly because not only does it require a lot of land in order to raise but the inputs for cattle feed like soy, corn, and wheat require a substantial amount of land as well.

How do we measure Land Occupation impact?

Land Occupation is calculated based on the number of hectares that are required to produce one metric ton of the ingredient. The metric uses a conservative average of the available studies for the original crop from which this ingredient is made, specified to the greatest level of known-detail production location (often country or sub-country level) or an aggregate of bio-geo-climatically similar locations.

For animal-based ingredients, the calculation includes the amount of land required to both raise and feed the animals.

Land Occupation Threshold Distribution Values:

Ingredients Along the Land Occupation Impact Spectrum:

Key Data Sources

How does my ingredient portfolio compare to others in the industry when it comes to Land Occupation?

To see how your Land Occupation stacks up against the industry average, you can benchmark your portfolio score and metric averages here.

What is the relationship to the HowGood Impact Score?

Land Occupation is one of the eight core metrics that make up the HowGood Impact Score. To learn more about the HowGood Impact Score and how Land Occupation influences it, click here.

How can I improve impact as a product developer?

Sourcing ingredients that are plant-based and have a high yield are the best ways to improve Land Occupation impact.

Further Resources

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