Biodiversity: Bountiful Source For Cosmetics, But Needs Respect, Group Says 21/04/2010 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 3 Comments Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Much of our best content is available only to IP Watch subscribers. We are a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. PARIS – The cosmetics industry is about beauty, but it is also increasingly about biodiversity as consumers show a growing awareness of environmental issues and the loss of biodiversity. As a wishful wink to the 10th meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010, the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) held a conference at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris on 15 April. The event, named “The Beauty of Sourcing with Respect,” gathered about 80 participants mainly from the cosmetics industry as the biotrade union sought to increase the sector’s awareness about biodiversity, engage companies in the ethical sourcing of biodiversity, and advertise the actions of UEBT. The UEBT is a non-profit association, with members from NGOs, international organisations and businesses. Companies seeking to be a UEBT member have to undergo external audits and prepare work-plans to bring their practices in line with the Ethical BioTrade standard over five years, UEBT Executive Director Rik Kutsch Lojanga told Intellectual Property Watch after the event. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), an international study led by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), is drawing attention to the global potential benefits of biodiversity, and seeking to “show that economics can be a powerful instrument in biodiversity,” according to their website. Joshua Bishop, coordinator of “TEEB for Business”, said that TEEB gathered 200 economists for the study, for which final results should be presented in October 2010. The study is divided into five clusters, he said: background information, international policymakers, local governments, business, and consumers. The difference between climate change and biodiversity loss has to be recognised, said Bishop, as climate change is a “global public bad” and is measured in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent, while biodiversity is a combination of public goods (local, national, global) and is much more complex to evaluate. For example, in tropical forests, 27 percent of resources have a direct use, 66 percent have an indirect use, and 7 percent are not being used. Direct use is reflected in market prices and values, such as food, water, raw material, genetic resources, and medicinal resources, but indirect uses are not taken into account. Indirect use includes the influence or air quality, climate regulation, the moderation of extreme events, and the regulation of water flows, Bishop said. Businesses should assess their biodiversity risk and opportunities, develop strategy and action plans, educate employees and owners, explore key performance indicators and targets, and disclose impact actions and outcomes. More work is needed on reporting, he said, and biodiversity risks need to be turned into business opportunities. Brazil’s cosmetics market is climbing steadily, according to Marcos Vaz, director sustainable development for Natura Cosmetics. Biodiversity is a source of innovation and a driver of positive social and environment impacts, he said. It is possible to make money, raise awareness and do business in a sustainable manner. Natura does not patent any technology that is derived from traditional knowledge. “It is not our right to patent it, so we have a policy of not using any proprietary protection on the technology that is developed,” Vaz said. The company does not patent plants or the genetic content of plants, just the processes that are developed. Consumers’ Awareness Growing, Expectations Too The UEBT recently released the 2010 edition of the ethical Biodiversity Barometer. The barometer reveals that there is a change in the consumers’ attitude that will impact all cosmetic industries. Consumers are increasingly favouring companies showing ethical practices and sustainable production, according to the barometer. According to Remy Oudghiri, director of Trends and Insights studies for Ipsos, a survey-based research company, which carried out a study for UEBT on 5,000 consumers in Brazil, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, an increasing proportion of people are aware of biodiversity issues. On the other hand, he said, there is a confirmed distrust of the industry by consumers. They are not confident that companies pay serious attention to ethical sourcing of biodiversity. One of the ways to improve this perception might be to have the industry’s commitment to ethical sourcing verified by independent organisations, Oudghiri said. The distrust also goes towards information, as the public distrusts official information; making it necessary to invent a new way to communicate. Fleur Rodriguez-Gallois, head of the Programme for Sustainable Development of Raw Materials. for Kenzo Parfums, said that the luxury brand had a strong environmental commitment, and had turned for example to “ecodesign” and “ecopackaging” for its perfume boxes. Ecodesign and ecopackaging provides an approach to the design of a product or a packaging that takes into account the environmental impacts of the product or the packaging during its life cycle. In 2010, Kenzo Parfums initiated its biodiversity strategy with a focus on the source of raw materials, and covering the entire supply chain, identifying the true pressures on ecosystems, using a qualitative and quantitative approach, she said. Claude Fromageot, director of research and development of Yves Rocher, said that the company has an internal ban on patents concerning applications derived from traditional knowledge. Yves Rocher uses few patents and mainly on extraction processes and mostly only in France, Fromageot told Intellectual Property Watch after the meeting. Patents have enabled economic development in Europe, he said, and they might be a way to valorise plants from developing countries. However, the company is pondering open source options, under conditions that the licence be used in a sustainable and environmental-friendly way, he said. Do Patents Contradict Access and Benefit Sharing? Most criticism focuses on the way patents are used, not patents themselves, said Maria Julia Oliva, senior advisor on access and benefit sharing for UEBT. Patents are increasingly used in the sector and it is important for the companies to adopt patent policies in accordance with the CBD. There are continuous applications for patents on biodiversity-derived innovation, said Manuel Ruiz, director of the International Affairs and Biodiversity Programme for the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law. Countries have reacted to the way patents have been granted in the European Union, US and Japan in particular. In many cases, it is not the patent itself which brings discontent but how resources were acquired, he said. There is a need to reform the patent system to include universal disclosure requirements of origin and legal provenance, he said. Such a provision exists in Norwegian and Swiss legislations, and should be incorporated in many countries, he argued. There is also a need for reform at the intellectual property offices to ensure that they become receptive to information which may assist in patent document analysis, he added. 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