Towards increased transparency in company communications

Each year, UEBT analyses how much attention cosmetic and food companies pay to biodiversity in their corporate reports and websites. In 2019, references to biodiversity increased significantly: in the beauty sector, it was 49% of companies - from 13% in 2009. In food and beverages, it was 76% of companies - from 53% in 2012. Yet, the depth and quality of information reported is still limited. Biodiversity is mostly mentioned in relation to palm oil, deforestation or sustainable packaging.

Following the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol and related EU rules, ABS is an issue receiving increasing attention in corporate reporting, especially in the beauty sector. In 2019, 17% of beauty companies made reference to ABS (up from 2% in 2009). While the number of food companies reporting on biodiversity is higher than their peers in the beauty sector, the number that mentions ABS (5% up from 2% in 2012) is much lower than the beauty sector. This is remarkable, as ABS is unquestionably an issue in research and development in the food sector.

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In addition in 2017, UEBT had also interviewed various experts in the sector to gain deeper understanding (see below):

Biodiversity: a key asset for business 

Business is increasingly realising the importance of biodiversity as a vital source of innovation and inspiration. With the mounting importance of naturals, respect for biodiversity is imperative to assure long-term access to natural ingredients. There is also a growing realisation that biodiversity contributes to ecological resilience of sourcing areas, a key concern in time of climate change, and offers access to a gene pool that assures healthy populations or resistance to new pests. 

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Ethical sourcing of biodiversity key for positive impact companies 

A growing number of companies commits to having positive impacts on society, rather than just mitigating risks. Biodiversity is at the basis of a wide range of natural ingredients, and positive impact can be created for people and biodiversity all along the supply chain. With consumers indicating that companies have the moral obligation to generate positive impact, brands are increasingly aspiring this. 

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Biodiversity based innovation

Driven by growing consumer demand for naturals, trends to eliminate synthetics in product formulations, and new technologies, companies increasingly embark on biodiversity based R&D. Aquatic, soil, and plant biodiversity are sources for innovation in various sectors, providing new active ingredients, scents, nutritional qualities, or higher yielding plant varieties. 

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Access and benefit sharing (ABS) & biodiversity-based innovation 

With the UN Nagoya Protocol, national rules are being developed on biodiversity-based R&D. These rules may impact a range of activities, including screening of plant extracts, testing natural ingredients and sourcing plant-based raw material. Biodiversity-rich countries such as Brazil, India and South Africa already have ABS rules in place, as well as the European Union, which focuses on ensuring compliance of biodiversity-based R&D in member states. 

As ABS regulations are unfolding, implications are initially unclear and some companies may avoid biodiversity-based innovation, or countries with strict rules. However, as numerous countries adopt rules and importance of innovation around naturals continues to grow, experts see companies moving to understand and engage in ABS. 

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Ethical sourcing along the supply chains 

More and more brands are committing to sustainability, to respond to consumer calls for increased transparency, and to secure their supply chains. This trend drives supply chain integration and long-term sourcing partnerships, improving sourcing practices and raw material quality. Increased attention is paid to harvesting techniques, working conditions, and mitigation of environmental impacts. Positive impact companies go even further, promoting tangible benefits for people and biodiversity along their supply chains. Their suppliers are expected to offer creative and credible solutions to achieve this. 

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