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UEBT Reflects on Ethical Beauty Sourcing for International Day for Biodiversity

Posted: May 23, 2013

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Vassilis Koutsiouris, European Commission, provided an overview of the draft regulation on ABS currently being considered in the European Parliament. The draft regulation outlines a due diligence system for companies involved in R&D. Koutsiouris explained, “These companies would be obliged to demonstrate, at various stages, that they gather and maintain ABS-related information.” In practical terms, for companies in the cosmetics sector, he suggested taking steps such as establishing traceability and monitoring procedures.

Suhel al-Janabi, ABS Capacity Development Initiative, shared developments and experiences with ABS implementation in Africa. He noted that Africa is the leading region in terms of Nagoya Protocol ratifications and that the African Union is developing guidelines for a coordinated implementation of this agreement. Additionally, there are national ABS measures in 13 countries, including South Africa. On ABS, “the doors on the government side are open,” noted Mr. al-Janabi, “which creates interesting opportunities for dialogue with the private sector.”

Virginie D’Enfert, Fédération des Enterprises de la Beauté (FEBEA), explained that her organization has put forth the specificities of R&D in the cosmetics sector as France develops legislation on ABS. For example, FEBEA has shared the ‘critical path’ for R&D of natural ingredients, from sourcing to formulation, with policy-makers. It has also made proposals to the French and European authorities, including a simplified access system for exploratory R&Dt.

Benefit sharing: Practical ABS Cases from Around the World, chaired by Jaime Cavelier, Global Environment Fund, focused on companies and other organizations already putting ABS principles in practice in different regions and circumstances. Juan Fernando Botero, Ecoflora Cares, described the experiences with the development of a new natural colorant, derived from Genipa americana, in Colombia. The process followed legal procedures on ABS, as well as Ethical BioTrade requirements. As a result, an interesting benefit-sharing model was developed jointly with producers, local authorities and civil society. Nevertheless, Botero noted: “No negotiation will be fruitful without first levelling up the knowledge of the communities on key elements of ABS and Ethical BioTrade.”

Chris Dohse, TreeCrops, described ABS cases in Malawi, including applications for plant material for potential use in a medicinal drug and for a well-known commercial use linked to traditional knowledge. The ABS legal framework presented challenges. Particularly, as in some other countries, Dohse said, “There is currently little involvement and no genuine representation of local communities in ABS processes.” Nevertheless, he shared an example of how such issues can be addressed, presenting a benefit-sharing model currently used by TreeCrops.

China Williams, CBD education officer at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, shared her organization’s experience in the context of non-commercial research. Kew Gardens, with vast collections of preserved and living plants, seeds, DNA and tissue samples, has a set of ABS tools, including policies and procedures for fieldwork. There are over 60 active ABS agreements. Williams noted that Kew Gardens is considering the evolving legal framework and lessons learnt to ensure it is working with best practice.

Ricardo Faucon, president of the UEBT board, closed the meeting with a look at the cosmetics sector in the five years of the conference. “There is a clear evolution,” he noted, “with growing awareness of biodiversity among consumers, in company approaches and in government perspectives.” As a result, this year’s conference provides participants, Faucon noted, “with inspiration and reinforcement of the belief that this is a task that not one company, organization or government needs to address by itself. We can work on biodiversity together.” He thanked those that are already part of the UEBT journey and invited everyone to join the Ethical BioTrade movement.