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Thinking Outloud: Fostering True Sustainable Development

By: Daniel Sabará
Posted: April 30, 2009, from the May 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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So, what can we, as an industry, do? “Clean up your act, not your image,” prompts Greenpeace on its “Stop Green Wash” Web site ( Try to get to know your suppliers better, and ask them what their sustainability practices are. Organic certification may be a good indicator of their overall sustainability practices, as the most globally respected organic certifiers also include sustainable practices in their frequent audits—in addition to assuring that no chemicals or genetically modified organisms were used in the harvesting of the ingredient.

Taking the Extra Step

There are suppliers and marketers that go deeper into the sustainability concept. In Brazil, for example, there are companies working to lower the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest and changing its local communities’ life by the sustainable harvesting of non-timber goods—in addition to reducing their carbon emissions or recycling waste.

And it sometimes comes down to making very simple decisions and taking those actions. A cosmetic formulation that includes ingredients from the Amazon rain forest, for instance, can contribute to preserving the forest while maintaining the economic development of the local population. How? Sourcing vegetable oil from the region offers a population a method to both care for and profit from its natural resources. The oil is efficacious and does not require the destruction of the source. It is an economic environment that is symbiotic with the natural environment with far greater and longer lasting positive implications. “On a social scale, 100 liters of Andiroba oil have greater impact than the sales of cell phones and cars in Brazil,” Eduardo Braga, governor of Amazon State, once said.

When the local population understands that sustainable harvesting means keeping the native forest vertical instead of horizontal, no trees forested, it creates income and ongoing potential that can be passed along to their children and grandchildren—and they become the real guardians of the world’s largest biodiversity source. It is true sustainable development, and serves as an apt and applicable model for every region or market.

Daniel Sabará is chief executive, health and personal care division, Beraca Ingredients.