The trend towards an increased use of natural ingredients for the formulation of cosmetic products is raising many questions regarding the sustainability of sourcing practices. The shift from oil-based plastics to plant-derived polymers for the manufacture of packaging is raising similar concerns, since the extension of dedicated sugarcane or corn crops may be detrimental to sensitive natural areas.

According to the Union for Ethical BioTRade (UEBT), a Geneva-headquartered non-profit association that promotes the “sourcing with respect” of ingredients coming from the world’s biodiversity, cosmetics companies source extensively from the natural world, relying on biodiversity to create innovative ingredients for their products.

Through the Memorandum of Understanding signed on August 18 with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UEBT intend to participate in the fight to halt biodiversity loss by increasing public awareness and promoting the engagement of the business community in biodiversity protection.

Biodiversity awareness

The CBD Secretariat and the UEBT will work together to communicate on the value of biodiversity, in particular by communicating the results of UEBT’s Biodiversity Barometer, which provides an annual overview of biodiversity awareness in the world.

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According to the UEBT, biodiversity awareness has risen worldwide among consumers and business. When asked if they had heard about biodiversity, an average of 65% of the people interviewed in the USA, France, Germany and the UK said yes in February 2011, up from 56% in February 2009. In the same period, 27% of the world’s top 100 beauty companies mentioned biodiversity in their reporting, up from 13% in 2009.

Private sector

Engaging the private sector in biodiversity protection is the other important element in the collaboration between the CBD Secretariat and UEBT, said both organisations. “The business community can help advance the CBD objectives, which are biodiversity conservation, its sustainable use and the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. Implementing ethical sourcing practices is one way that companies can contribute to these objectives,” added Rik Kutsch Lojenga, UEBT’s Executive Director.

In this regard, the UEBT’s barometer shows that only 40% of the consumers are confident that cosmetics companies source biodiversity in an ethical manner (i.e. in an environmentally and socially responsible way) and 80% of those interviewed would have more faith in a company that is being verified externally.