Results of the latest Biodiversity Barometer, which were recently disclosed in Paris by the Union forEthical BioTrade (UEBT), show that awareness on this issue is generally high around the world. Indeed, the 2012 edition of the barometer finds that 76% of all respondents from around the globe were aware of sustainable development and 64% of biodiversity. Awareness rates are particularly high in countries like Brazil (97%), France (96%), Switzerland (83%) and South Korea (73%). Significant differences of awareness exist between countries, even within the same region.

However, the understanding on biodiversity, measured through the number of people that provide correct definitions, remains limited: nowhere does it exceed 50%.

This year, the survey was conducted among 8000 consumers in eight countries - Brazil, France, Germany, India, Peru, Switzerland, UK and USA, with a particular attention paid to emerging countries.

Emerging economies are not only the markets of the future, they are also increasingly influencing the sustainability agenda” said Rik Kutsch Lojenga, UEBT’s Executive Director. “Many consumers in emerging economies are interested in environmental and social issues. When asked about their purchasing behaviour, 41% of consumers in Brazil, India and Peru indicated they pay attention to a brand’s social and environmental values. Levels that are higher than those in Western markets.

Underlining the importance of traceability in natural ingredient supply chains, 85% of consumers around the world say they look for natural ingredients in cosmetic products, and 69% pay attention to where ingredients in cosmetic products come from.

Consumers welcome sustainability efforts of companies also. They would like to see more transparency around sourcing practices and have more confidence if these practices have external validation. According to the UEBT Barometer, 74% pay close attention to environmental and ethical labels when buying food and cosmetic products. 78% have more faith in a company whose commitment to ethical sourcing of biodiversity is verified by an independent organisation.

Eventually, more than 80% of consumers surveyed would like to be better informed about companies’ sourcing practices. Yet, according to UEBT, of the top 100 beauty companies in the world, 54 mentioned sustainability in their reporting or web site, while only 31 referred to biodiversity. Only 19 mentioned biodiversity sourcing practices in supply chains, and consistent and comprehensive reporting on these issues is almost absent. As a consequence, only a small fraction of questioned people said they have heard about biodiversity through business communications.

So far, the potential contribution of the private sector towards biodiversity awareness remains largely untapped. To understand the vast potential, one only needs to look at Brazil where consumers say that advertising is the second most important source of information on biodiversity. Biodiversity awareness in Brazil is highest among the surveyed countries,” commented Rik Kutsch Lojenga.