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Biodiversity regulation and sourcing practices

Rules from provider and user countries will apply when using biodiversity

By Katie Bird , 25-Nov-2010
Last updated on 25-Nov-2010 at 17:17 GMT

Companies sourcing ingredients from plants will have to comply with biodiversity regulation from both the provider state as well as compliance systems in their own country.

Recent talks in Nagoya, Japan, focused on the obligations of companies using biodiversity in their research and development. The result was the Nagoya Protocol which sets out the necessity of gaining access rights before research can start, as well as demanding companies to share the benefits resulting from the biodiversity.

In the final article in a series of three investigating what this new international regime will mean to cosmetics and fragrance companies, CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com looks into the how this system might be policed on a global level.

Checkpoint in user countries

The Nagoya discussions have resulted in an international Protocol, but exactly what companies will have to do when sourcing from biodiversity depends on how the international regime, when ratified, is integrated into national regulation.

Although little direction is given on the nature of compliance in the Nagoya Protocol, there is mention of a checkpoint that has to be put in place in user countries, explained Maria Julia Oliva from the Union for Ethical BioTrade (which aims to promote the ethical trade in biodiversity-related products).

“User countries that have ratified the Protocol will have to have at least one checkpoint, one instance where they verify that the use of biodiversity by the company complies with the ABS [Access and Benefit Sharing],” Oliva told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.

This could be part of already existing structure like a patent office. For example, when applying for a patent a company might be required to produce some proof that they have complied with the national legislation of the source country, she explained.

The Nagoya Protocol does not specify what form this checkpoint should take but the necessary involvement of the user country in compliance is a sort of insurance policy for biodiversity provider countries, Oliva explained.

“Compliance is one of the main concerns developing countries have on this. It is no good to have access legislation if companies can get around it when they leave, as the provider country cannot control what goes outside its borders,” she said.

She gave the example of a company that complies with the access regulation and promises to come back and negotiate benefit sharing if the product proves to be commercially viable, but does not adhere to this.

“…the country where this company comes from should have some role in enforcing it, with checkpoints; [if this is the case] the company will feel less comfortable just doing nothing about it,” she explained.

Stronger role of user countries beneficial

In addition to the requirement of a checkpoint, the Protocol also includes the idea that a user country must help provider countries in the case of alleged violation.

Regarding the complexity of the national regulation that may result from the Nagoya Protocol, and whether this might scare some companies away, Oliva said the promise of involvement from user countries might improve the situation.

“One would hope that with new rules and more clarity, and support from user countries in terms of compliance, you will have developing countries more comfortable with moving to more practical rules,” she said.

Part 1 and Part 2 of this series were published earlier this week on CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.

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