19 Jul, 2019
Asia was the highlight of the May 2019 Paris conference on 'Beauty of Sourcing with Respect' organised by the Union for Ethical Biotrade (UEBT). The theme focused on rising consumer awareness in Asia, how companies cope with different Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) frameworks in the continent, understanding the complexities of Nagoya Protocol on ABS, ethical sourcing of wild collected ingredients, and due diligence in human rights.
UEBT is a non-profit association that promotes sourcing with respect and has developed a Biodiversity Barometer that measures consumer’s awareness about biodiversity and how it affects purchasing decisions. The 2019 study indicated that the Asian barometer reading was overall higher than that of Europe and North America. However, India was ranked way below (40%) its Asian counterparts (China 95% , South Korea 72%, Japan 71%, Vietnam 95%). The study indicated that much needs to be done to increase consumer awareness for buying products based on the principle of ethical and sustainable sourcing. It was also observed during the conference that while awareness about biodiversity conservation, sustainable and ethical sourcing is rising, the awareness is not manifesting itself into practice. The greater challenge now lies in addressing the gap between awareness and actual practice. This is a question that many companies are facing and unless this awareness can be practiced, no incentive mechanisms to the companies will prove to be beneficial.
Given that the market for bio-resources is largely unorganised in India, with traders playing a key role in the supply chain, it is common to come across cases of exploitation. Therefore, simply complying with ABS regulations is not enough. Sustainable sourcing and contribution to economic development of the providers also needs to be ensured. A fair price for procurement of bio-resources should be standardised and cannot be left to the discretion of the individual. It is advisable to facilitate businesses in establishing efficient supply chains that look beyond mere compliance with ABS provisions. For e.g. – adulteration of bio-resources is a common practice. Addressing this issue through sustainable sourcing where the required bio-resources can be directly accessed from the communities at fair prices can be a potential value proposition for companies. This eliminates the middle men, ensures traceability and provides a source for the supply chain as an alternative to the traditional practices of going to the mandi where adulteration is rampant.
The BMZ supported ABS Partnership Project in India is developing a mechanism wherein the pilot Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) at the local level, get the required support from Village Development Committees (VDC) when it comes to access, documentation of trade-related transactions and application of a levy fee component with the trader or manufacturer. This fee is deposited in the LBF (Local Biodiversity Fund) for the BMC to utilise for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity of the area. This multi-pronged approach works in two ways. Firstly, the BMC is able to generate a portion of its own finances. Secondly, sharing of benefits by the user via the implementation of ABS mechanism is facilitated by the respective State Biodiversity Board. A key concern regarding traceability is also addressed to a certain extent by eliciting cooperation from VDCs in supporting the BMC. Benefits shared with communities could then be used to improve and strengthen the supply chain creating a win-win scenario for both the providers and users. After all, the entire ABS mechanism is based on the principles of Fair and Equity for all the stakeholders.
By Shreyas Bhartiya
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