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UEBT Reflects on Ethical Beauty Sourcing for International Day for Biodiversity

Posted: May 23, 2013

To commemorate the International Day for Biodiversity, May 22, 2013, the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) has published the report of this year’s Beauty of Sourcing with Respect Conference, which focused on how biodiversity is reshaping the beauty industry.

This annual conference brings together cosmetics and personal care companies to share experiences on the ethical sourcing of biodiversity. It is a chance to discuss latest developments and best practices in this field with internationally recognized experts, decision-makers and other stakeholders. Over the last five years, the focus of the conference has moved from awareness raising to experience sharing, with increasing contributions from companies that are members of UEBT. The 2013 edition was supported by L’Oréal and Natura Cosmetics, and drew 150 participants, the largest number of participants to date.

Rik Kutsch Lojenga, UEBT, pointed out major changes that occurred over the last five years with regard to ethical sourcing of biodiversity, including a rising biodiversity awareness among consumers; increased company reporting on biodiversity (from 13% in 2009 to 32% in 2013); improved understanding of access and benefit sharing (ABS); and the growing realization that biodiversity is an issue for companies looking to grow in emerging economies.

In a passionate keynote speech with examples from around the world, Prof. Gilles Boeuf, president of the French National Museum of Natural History, stressed the importance of biodiversity for the planet and humankind. He urged conference participants to take action regarding biodiversity, making sure that the 2020 biodiversity targets set by the United Nations are not missed.

The UEBT Biodiversity Barometer underscores that consumers expect industry to take action on biodiversity. Insights obtained over the last five years, i.e. 31,000 consumers surveyed in 11 countries, show that biodiversity is a concept of growing global importance. In 2013, the survey looked particularly at Chinese consumers, which, similar to Brazilian consumers, show remarkably high awareness on biodiversity, reconfirming the importance of biodiversity in emerging markets.

For the first time in 2013, consumers were also asked which brands they view as making most efforts to respect biodiversity. The 2013 findings let to animated discussions among conference participants. In the course of the conference, UEBT and CBD issued a joint press release on the 2013 UEBT Biodiversity Barometer, highlighting this year’s key findings.

Moderated by Kathleen Bottriel, International Finance Corporation, a panel shed its light on the biodiversity barometer results. David Ainsworth from the CBD Secretariat said, "These figures give us an agenda to work with ,we now need to link awareness to action."

Laurent Gilbert, L’Oréal, highlighted that biodiversity is an important part of the innovation and sustainability strategy of L’Oréal, with individual brands deciding whether and how to communicate on biodiversity. He noted, "It is no surprise that The Body Shop is recognized by the consumers surveyed in the UEBT Biodiversity Barometer as a company that respects biodiversity. From its inception onwards, it has focused on community trade, and linked social aspects to environmental issues." L’Oréal is now translating the lessons learned from The Body Shop into its own programs.

Bas Schneiders, Weleda, explained that respect for biodiversity has been deeply enshrined in the values of Weleda from its creation. This is also illustrated by its UEBT membership. However, biodiversity is not yet in the consumer mindset, with attention to concepts like green, fair trade and organic prevailing. "Weleda has recently started to talk about biodiversity to its consumers, for example through story telling at the corporate level, and by highlighting specific ingredients at the product level," remarked Mr. Schneiders.

Eder Ramos, Symrise, confirmed the importance of biodiversity in the Brazilian market. "To play in Brazil, flavors and fragrance companies like Symrise have to work with biodiversity and promote ethical sourcing models," said Ramos.