Portfolio project

Respecting land tenure rights and local communities

Corporate transparency on land tenure in low-income economies

Land tenure systems are of central importance to the millions of rural poor who depend upon forests, agriculture, freshwater fishing or herding for their livelihoods. Land tenure, or ‘property rights’ refer to the systems that determine who owns land, who can use the land and the resources it provides, under what conditions and for how long. Respect for land tenure rights is an essential requirement for business, as stated in The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) “business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights and legitimate tenure rights”. 

Land tenure rights are also captured in international initiatives and instruments such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. While many companies do not purchase or lease land rights directly, they may work with suppliers and other partners that do acquire land rights. It is important to understand how partners acquire these rights. In many parts of the world, acquiring rights to land is a complicated, political process.

Companies investing in land need to develop a good understanding of local land tenure arrangements, and actively and regularly engage with community stakeholders through open consultations, negotiations, and grievance processes. In this way, they can create positive impacts and reduce risks. Effectively addressing land tenure challenges can help companies to improve their performance and support more sustainable development outcomes in communities where they and their suppliers operate.

This publication is designed to help companies understand the need for enhanced transparency around land-related impacts and the importance of respecting the land tenure rights of local communities. The publication offers insights into what land-related sustainability information stakeholders are interested in, presenting views from Global Witness, Oxfam, VigeoEiris, and land governance expert Babette Wehrmann.




Sarah Fencott

The Write Impact | Helping organisations drive sustainable change


The Netherlands


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