Recent international talks in Nagoya, Japan, have resulted in the
adoption of an international regime that will change the way companies
source their natural ingredients…although, not immediately.
While the nuts and bolts of what this will mean to cosmetics and
fragrance companies are still unclear, and will remain unclear for a
long time to come, reacting early to these principles can help companies
in a number of ways.
Access rights and benefit sharing
Under the Nagoya Protocol, companies will have to get access rights
before they can start research and development on plants as well as
being obliged to share the benefits resulting from the use of this
The objective behind the regime is to drive the equitable sharing of
benefits resulting from the use of genetic resources, contributing to
the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.
Last month’s Nagoya Protocol is the result of years of international
negotiation, and much still remains to be debated at both an
international and national level. For example, no direction as to who
should be contacted for access, or what benefits should be paid and to
whom, or what bodies will make sure regulations are complied to, can be
found within the Protocol. There are still a lot of unknowns.
In addition, the Protocol has to be ratified by the countries that have
signed the Convention of Biological Diversity (the Protocol falls under
this convention) and 50 signatures collected.
The international regime will then have to be integrated into the
national legislation of participating countries which is not going to
happen over night, especially as some of the world’s most biodiversity
rich countries have other, arguably more pressing, issues to deal with.
Action sooner rather than later
All these factors mean that meaningful national legislation which is
accessible, understandable and easily complied with is not just around
the corner. However, that does not mean companies should not act.
Taking on board these principles now can do a number of things for a cosmetics or fragrance manufacturer or supplier.
Primarily, companies who are already active in developing long term
sustainable and ethical partnerships with suppliers of natural-derived
ingredients could help shape the arena by sharing their experiences with
policy makers as well as other stakeholders. This is a new area, and
knowledge and experience could be very useful in driving the direction
of the final rules.
In addition, making an effort sooner rather than later will improve a
company’s reputation with both consumers and those individuals or bodies
that in the future may well be in charge of policing compliance.
As discussion around biodiversity grows, as it surely will, companies
have a lot to gain from being proactive about these principles, even if
they aren’t yet set in national regulation.