Cosmetics industry called on to help protect biodiversity

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sustainability

The cosmetics and fashion industries have been called upon to help preserve the world’s biodiversity at a two day event organised by the United Nation’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

To mark the start of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, UNCTAD organised a two day event to help promote ethically and environmentally sustainable production and business practices.

"We need to ensure that production and consumption processes work for the benefit of biodiversity and generate social, economic and environmental benefits for all countries, and, in particular, for developing countries,"​ said Secretary-General Petko Draganov.

Delegates to the ‘The Best Use of Nature’ event were advised by Draganov that protecting the world’s resources would require collaboration between both the private sector and governments and international agencies.

“The private sector has the opportunity and responsibility to become increasingly involved in the management and conservation of biodiversity. However, they cannot do it alone,"​ he said.

The role of governments and international agencies is to ensure access to markets for sustainably produced goods, to make credit and technology available and to promote sustainable production and consumption, he explained.

Focus on fashion and cosmetics

According to UNCTAD, as they are regular users and beneficiaries of biodiversity, the fashion and luxury industries have the opportunity to help manage and conserve natural resources.

“Biodiversity creates the opportunity for businesses to innovate and develop by presenting a source of raw materials, technology and business opportunities. Unfortunately, the relationship is not always mutually beneficial,”​ UNCTAD said before the conference.

As well as using biodiversity, spokesperson for UNCTAD Eduardo Escabedo also said the industries have a strong influence on consumers and therefore may help pave the way for more sustainable consumption patterns.

Speaker at the two day event held in Geneva, Switzerland, Michel Mane, president of fragrance ingredients supplier Mane USA, explained how biodiversity represents a source of inspiration and new products for the perfumery industry.

For Mane, supply chains must be transparent to ensure natural ingredients are responsibly harvested and valuable plants are not exhausted. He said techniques that allow for the cultivation of perfume ingredients in developing countries that provide jobs without harming the environment are currently being established.

Transparency in supply chains was also emphasised by Unilever’s external affairs representative Guilia Di Tommaso, another of the speakers at the event.

According to Tommaso, the importance of transparent, sustainable supply chains is growing in tandem with the consumer’s interest in environmental standards. Unilever concentrates on the sustainable use of water and soils as well as respecting the flora and fauna of rainforests, she said.

During the conference it was agreed that the cosmetics industry would put forward a strategy to be presented to the next Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in October outlining how to effectively engage in biodiversity policy issues and recommendations on how governments and the international community can support this engagement, Escabedo told

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