Climate change and rapidly escalating global demand for food, fuel, fibre and feed present seemingly contradictory challenges to humanity. Can greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land-use, more than one-fourth of the global total, decline as growth in land-based production accelerates? This review examines the status of two major international initiatives that are designed to address different aspects of this challenge. REDD+ is an emerging policy framework for providing incentives to tropical nations and states that reduce their GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Market transformation, best represented by agricultural commodity roundtables, seeks to exclude unsustainable farmers from commodity markets through international social and environmental standards for farmers and processors. These global initiatives could potentially become synergistically integrated through (i) a shared approach for measuring and favouring high environmental and social performance of land use across entire jurisdictions and (ii) stronger links with the domestic policies, finance and laws in the jurisdictions where agricultural expansion is moving into forests. To achieve scale, the principles of REDD+ and sustainable farming systems must be embedded in domestic low-emission rural development models capable of garnering support across multiple constituencies. We illustrate this potential with the case of Mato Grosso State in the Brazilian Amazon.