Cosmetics companies encouraged to share benefits with indigenous communities

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Indigenous peoples

The Union for Ethical BioTrade has pledged to encourage the cosmetics and personal care industry to adhere to the benefit sharing principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The union, which helps to promote sustainable and ethical trade in biodiversity based products, will work jointly with the CBD to encourage the industry to share the benefits derived from the use of local knowledge and products with indigenous communities.

Industry events to raise convention’s profile

In order to achieve this, a number of industry events are planned including a presentation at 2009’s In-Cosmetics show in Munich. The aim is to inform companies of the CBD and to encourage them to join the union, executive director Rik Kutsch Lojenga told

In addition, the union is actively going out to talk to companies to increase awareness and membership, and a number of companies are already involved, he said.

The decision follows the publication of a CBD report that picks out the industry, along with food and beverage companies, as a particularly bad offender when it comes to sharing the benefits of local knowledge and products with indigenous communities.

The report quoted one expert who said: “the fragrance and flavour companies actively search out innovative new ingredients in nature, in particularly the ingredient supply companies, and they don’t feel any need to sign agreements, pay royalties, or otherwise provide benefits. Most have never heard of the CBD.”

Lack of awareness is the culprit

For Kutsch Lojenga, however, the issue is a lack of awareness rather than a reluctance to comply with the convention.

“The CBD has done research and found that among companies, particularly with respect to the convention, awareness is very low. They are not aware, for example, that even before doing research they may need to ask the permission of the government and indigenous communities,”​ he told

The situation is compounded by the complex nature of current regulations. A company’s responsibilities may differ significantly depending on the natural products it is using and the country in which it is operating.

International negotiations currently under way will hopefully clarify the details of benefit sharing. The Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) negotiations are scheduled to be finalised by 2010 and the union will also be attempting to up the involvement of cosmetics, and food and beverage companies, in the discussions, he explained.

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