UEBT 6th ‘Beauty of Sourcing with Respect’ Conference – Paris April 2014

BSR logoAs mentioned in an earlier post, I have been travelling to Europe, including Paris where I attended the 6th ‘Beauty of Sourcing with Respect’ UEBT conference.

The Union for Ethical BioTrade is a membership based non-profit association that promotes the ethical sourcing of biodiversity. UEBT Members commit to continuously improving its practices following the Ethical BioTrade standard. As part of its mission, UEBT promotes biodiversity private sectors’ efforts to a wider stakeholders group using the ‘Beauty of Sourcing with Respect’ annual Conference as a way to create awareness and inform the Beauty industry about good practices and updates on legal international framework regarding Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS).

This conference is always a way to meet people, institutions and companies from the cosmetics, pharmaceutical and food industries that are interested to know more and better about sourcing practices of natural ingredients.

When we talk about natural ingredients, we refer to ingredients and derivatives that come from biodiversity may they be of vegetal or animal origin.

The 6th edition focused on the Human dimension of biodiversity. So how, when we work with biodiversity, we get engaged with other people, how we should work together in order to promote the 3 objectives of the CBD (ref. Biodiversity conservation, Sustainable use of biodiversity and Fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from its use.). You will be able to find here an official summary of the conference.

However, I want to share with you the take away messages that I brought back home.

1) The CBD Secretariat re-affirmed its engagement with the private sectors to support the 2020 Aichi targets. One of the tools developed is the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity, another one is the promotion of Biotrade where the Union for Ethical BioTrade plays an important role.

2) Multinational groups as L’Oréal and LVMH presented their commitment towards biodiversity. L’Oréal announced its 2020 commitments “Sharing beauty with all” end of 2013. Rachel Barré presented at the UEBT conference its main objectives and some examples of sustainable supply chains, as its shea butter supply chain working with a UEBT member (OLVEA Burkina Faso). As well, Rachel Barré mentioned that a key aspect of biodiversity for a company like L’Oréal is the access to innovation and therefore the importance to be aware and up-to-date with the ABS international framework. In the case of LVMH, Sylvie Bénard from LVMH Environnement explained that LVMH based its biodiversity commitments on the French National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). As for L’Oréal, Biodiversity is also a great source of innovation, Sylvie insisted on the fact that the ABS and/or ABS good practices should be considered as soon as bio-prospection starts and therefore that traceability and monitoring should take place from day 1.

3) During the panel discussion, L’Oréal and LVMH agreed to say that international sustainable standards are good tools to mobilise people, create awareness but not necessary as some times, these standards are not necessarily in parallel with the business reality. L’Oréal has a “basket” with recognised sustainable standards that their suppliers might use while LVMH uses some of the sustainable standards and the Ethical BioTrade standard has been recognised as a good traceability tool with regards to biodiversity issues in the supply chains.

4) The following session aimed at creating marketing value to biodiversity. Henry Hicks from Futerra gave a great presentation to explain to companies how to get people, consumers to believe in biodiversity and to get engaged by buying their products. The main point is to create a Story, so we need to define the Hero (not being the company itself), the Villain (what we want to fight: e.g. Biodiversity loss, unfair partnerships, unfair prices, climate change, etc.), the Mentor (the company, advise the Hero). The way this functions clearly brings emotion to the targeted consumer, client and can make biodiversity commitments appealing to the companies in terms of marketing value. Biodiversity has always been difficult to sell to consumers, clients because it is not necessarily well understood, its a wide subject as well. But in order to get more and more private sectors engaged in Biodiversity sustainable use, the marketers need to find it appealing. I think the way Futerra presented the Story telling approach is a very good tool for marketers. So up to your inspiration to suggest new advertisements, new communication to your consumers.

5) A key moment of the international conference is the official release of the UEBT Biodiversity Barometer. Since 2009, UEBT with IPSOS, are realising a Biodiversity Barometer to measure and follow the awareness of biodiversity among consumers. Between 2009 and 2014, IPSOS surveyed 38’000 consumers in 13 countries. You can find the public version of the results here. However, an interesting aspect that came in the 2014 Biodiversity barometer is the fact that companies are expected, by the consumers, to source with respect and to take concrete actions in their sourcing practices. 89% in Brazil, 77% in Colombia, 42% in France are expecting this from the companies they buy products. The main recommendations from IPSOS to continue this awareness growing is to switch from awareness to understanding, using Biodiversity as a lever for marketing, showing it as a positive notion, doing transparent business. talking about transparency, another measure of this Barometer is the top 100 beauty companies in reporting on biodiversity. Even if few of them report on this, UEBT saw an increase of 18% from 2009 to 2014 of companies reporting on biodiversity and their sourcing practices.

6) The first afternoon session was about empowering local communities in the supply chain. Candela Peru working mainly on Brazil nuts with local communities from the Peruvian Amazon is strongly committed to Ethical BioTrade. Gaston Vizacarra presented its work and how he got the communities fully involved. While Weleda AG presented the role of the buyer in terms of fair and equitable trade of natural ingredients. The Body Shop participated in this session. Christina  Archer presented how they work with their communities. Even if it represents only around 18% of the natural ingredient portfolio, The Body Shop is strongly committed to their Community FairTrade programme which is externally verified by IMO Control.

7) As mentioned above one of the key elements of the ‘Beauty of Sourcing with Respect’ Conference is the up-dates on the international framework regarding Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) practices. During these sessions, Maria Julia Oliva, Senior Coordinator for Policy and Technical Support, from UEBT presented the tools, mechanisms that UEBT suggests as first steps to address ABS issues and to integrate ABS practices into businesses, while talking about Research and Development activities. As well Mrs Eliana M. G. Fontes from the Brazilian Genetic Resources Department presented the progresses made in the revised Brazilian ABS framework. The objective of the revision is to facilitate Researches in order to promote Biodiversity and its sustainable use. Therefore the following points should be implemented along time: Electronic registration on Research for Access, Registry of Benefit Sharing agreements for commercial use and Overseas institutions can directly apply, while before they needed to partner with a local entity. In terms of Benefit Sharing, Brazil should develop a National Fund and specific percentages will be applied. However, these Benefit Sharing agreements will only be for the manufacturers and not the institution responsible for the access. Despite these improvements, lots of questions remain on the feasibility of the administrative process and details need to be further explained for international companies to feel comfortable with. Anne Laure Saint Girons from GS Associates Law firm detailed the new EU regulation with regards to Benefit Sharing of accessed genetic resources. The EU regulation’s scope is only at the user level, not dealing directly with the Access to biodiversity and/or associated traditional knowledge. The regulation is based on Due Diligence, which means that the company that needs to share benefits derived from the use of accessed biodiversity and/or traditional knowledge shall show the means implemented. However, there is still pending questions as the user being the sole responsible of sharing the benefits, when does the due diligence end? at the commercialisation?

There are lots of ongoing regulations development and/or revision with regards to the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol. However, companies should get prepared to face the upcoming obligations. There are two actions I can suggest, first is to remain up-dated on ongoing/upcoming regulations from the accessed countries where your company works and then is to anticipate good practices implementing the Ethical BioTrade standard that deals with the main objectives of the Nagoya Protocol.

I will keep you posted on the next Edition in 2015.