Biodiversity regulation and sourcing practices

How to share benefits from biodiversity to be decided at national level

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Biodiversity Sustainability

Companies sourcing from plants are subject to a new international regime which demands the sharing of benefits resulting from the use of biodiversity, but the details of what to share and with whom remain to be decided at the national level.

Recent talks in Nagoya, Japan organised by the Convention of Biological Diversity resulted in the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, which aims to provide for the equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources, in turn contributing to the sustainable use of biodiversity and its conservation.

In a series of articles exploring how the Protocol will affect cosmetics and fragrance companies using natural resources, looks at what the regime means in practice for benefit sharing.

What to share and with whom

Although the international regime has now adopted the Nagoya Protocol, the details of what to share, how to share it and with whom, remain to be discussed at the national level, explained Maria Julia Oliva from the Union for Ethical BioTrade (which aims to promote the ethical trade of biodiversity-based products).

“There will be formal discussions at the international level including an intergovernmental committee that was set up during the Nagoya discussions, but most of what this actually means in practice will be determined at the national level,” ​she told

Shaping partnerships, which need to include access rights and details on benefit sharing acceptable to both the sourcing company and the country or community of origin, is complex; but, this is what makes early adoption so important, Oliva said.

For companies already active in this area sharing experiences with policy makers and other stakeholders is an important way of shaping the arena, she said.

In addition, a number of countries already have some form of access and benefit sharing regulation in place at the national level.

Not all benefits are monetary

Commenting on the extent of the profits that should be shared with the source communities, Oliva said each partnership would be different: “There is no magic number.”

In addition, there is nothing to say that benefits have to take a monetary form.

“…the benefits are in the partnerships, that’s where the real opportunities are to be had. Benefits can come in a monetary form, but that is not the only or even the most important one,”​ she said.

In many of these partnerships, it could be premiums for traditional knowledge, or capacity building projects that might be the most significant, she added.

Geographical origin

As much relies on national interpretation of the international regime, it is unclear how benefit sharing will work if the origin of the plant species in unknown.

The Nagoya Protocol has called on countries to consider a global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism as a possible response to this challenge.

This would be a global fund to which benefits could be paid if the origin of the species is unknown, or in transboundary situations, and funds obtained through this mechanism must be used to support the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

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