Access and benefit sharing and the ethical sourcing of biodiversity
The fair and equitable sharing of benefits is a central pillar of the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, as recognized by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Yet access and benefit sharing (ABS) remains little known in many of the sectors researching and working with biodiversity-based ingredients, including cosmetics, food and beverages. Lack of clarity on the scope of ABS and limited implementation in national legislation means companies are not aware of how ABS is relevant or how it could be put in practice – even as they often do engage in sustainable development initiatives with local partners. As awareness of biodiversity and calls for ethical practices increase, however, equitable benefit sharing is becoming more and more important. A new international regime on ABS will likely be finalized in 2010. This is where the work of the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT), which promotes the „Sourcing with Respect“ of biodiversity, plays an important role. Indeed, the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity is at the core of Ethical BioTrade. ABS principles are included in the Ethical BioTrade standard and the UEBT third-party verification system, through its assessment of company policies and their implementation, can determine gaps and issues to be addressed in regards to ABS. In addition, UEBT provides technical advice and support on ABS issues, including through practical tools and workshops. By addressing ABS in its outreach activities, UEBT is also helping to raise awareness of ABS within industry.