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Natura accused of not respecting Brazil’s biodiversity laws

By Katie Bird , 19-Jan-2011
Last updated the 31-Jan-2011 at 17:26 GMT

Brazilian cosmetics company Natura has been accused of not respecting Brazil’s biodiversity laws, but is contesting the fines it has received.

The company has long promoted its work with natural ingredients sourced from Brazilian biodiversity and has repeatedly underlined its commitment to respecting the communities living with these resources.

However, late last year Natura was accused of not respecting the protocol for the access to the country’s biodiversity, and has been fined R$21m ($12.6m) by the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA).

Natura has contested these fines and called the current Brazilian laws that regulate this issue, unconstitutional and unclear.

“To our understanding, we have been fined because Brazil has a confused legal framework that is unstable and that gives margin to equivocal interpretations,” Rodolfo Guttilla, director of corporate matters and government relations at Natura, told CosmeticsDesign.com USA.

Sharing benefits

According to Guttilla, the company has shared the benefits from projects involving the access to biodiversity, wherever possible.

Natura requested evaluation from Brazil’s Genetic Heritage Management Council (CGEN) regarding its sourcing contracts, according to Guttilla. While waiting for CGEN’s responses, which the company claims has taken up to several years in some cases, the company says it was advised by CGEN to continue honouring these contracts.

“We consider it to be impossible to await the evaluation of the organization to follow our processes, under the risk of not advancing research and innovation in Brazil. We were always transparent in accessing biodiversity and benefit sharing, all of our steps were communicated to CGEN,” he said.

For this reason the company is contesting the fines it has received and has referred to the case as a opportunity to debate Brazilian regulation in more detail.

In a statement the company said: “It [Brazil’s biodiversity access laws] harms free initiative, does not protect the rights of indigenous and traditional communities and does not promote a safe environment for research and development.”

Natura has said that it will treat this as an opportunity for a debate on the access rules and said it will be discussing the fines as a means of ‘improving Brazilian legislation that regulates the sustainable use of Brazilian biodiversity’.

No one was available for comment at CGEN at the time of publication.

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