According to recent findings from the Biodiversity Barometer, which aims to track changes in consumer attitudes towards the concept, 94 per cent of Brazilians surveyed are familiar with the term biodiversity and nearly three quarters of those surveyed have heard of biopiracy.
Comparing these figures to results for Europe and the USA, where 60 per cent of consumers surveyed had heard of biodiversity and only 23 per cent biopiracy, suggests the Brazilian population is particularly concerned by the preservation of its natural heritage.
The findings of the Barometer, organised by the Union for Ethical BioTrade in partnership with survey body IPSOS, also cover the way biodiversity is reported on in the media and in company reports.
Covering Brazil for the first time, the findings of this second edition of the Biodiversity Barometer were presented at the recent ‘Sourcing with Respect’ conference organised by the Union.
Awareness of biodiversity improving
Overall results suggest that consumer’s awareness of biodiversity is improving, with 60 per cent in the USA and Europe saying they had heard of the term in comparison to 56 per cent last year.
However, as 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity this awareness is expected to improve significantly by next year.
Importantly for cosmetic companies, it appears the consumer has a low level of trust in the sector. Only one out of three consumers surveyed in Europe and USA are confident that companies pay proper attention to ethical sourcing of biodiversity related products.
In addition, there is an overwhelming appetite for more information and third party verification.
Over 80 per cent of consumers surveyed in Europe and USA would like to be better informed about how companies source their natural ingredients, and a similar percentage said they would have more faith in a company whose commitment to ethical sourcing of biodiversity is verified by an independent organisation.
Furthermore, 81 per cent of consumers surveyed in Europe and the USA said they would stop buying a brand if they knew the company did not take good care of the environment, or did not respect ethical trade practices in its sourcing and production practices.
While Rik Kutsch Lojenga, executive director of the Union for Ethical BioTrade, warned against assuming consumers will always act upon these statements, the findings do illustrate that companies need to protect against a loss of reputation in this domain.
Lack of information from companies
Investigating the way companies themselves report on biodiversity and related issues, Kutsch Lojenga explained that only a small number of cosmetics and personal care players touch upon the topic.
Out of the top one hundred companies in the sector (from a list published by Women’s Wear Daily) just over half report on sustainable issues, but only 21 mention biodiversity. And only three explain policies on traditional knowledge and intellectual property rights.
Looking at the media, the coverage given to biodiversity increased by 32 per cent in 2009 in Europe and the USA. However, there was a warning to companies that the general tone of articles related to sourcing from biodiversity within the industry was negative.
In particular, cosmetic and personal care manufacturers need to expect heightened scrutiny according to Kutsch Lojenga, as consumers become increasingly informed.