Complying with innovation and biodiversity rules



Laws and regulations around the world increasingly require permits and agreements for R&D in natural ingredients for food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Ensuring legal compliance and ethical sourcing practices is a challenge, but also provides opportunities. UEBT guides and verifies compliance with rules and best practices on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) through its membership and certification systems. Additionally, UEBT provides training and advisory services. It is an expert on assessing ABS issues in research projects, supply chains and ingredient portfolios. UEBT also supports governments in establishing more practical and effective approaches to ABS, and companies in developing strategies and systems for ABS compliance.


ABS principles

ABS principles were established by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992. The CBD recognised the right of countries to regulate how biodiversity is accessed and used for innovation. It also established guiding principles for biodiversity-based innovation, including prior informed consent, mutually agreed terms, respect for traditional knowledge and the fair and equitable sharing of resulting benefits.

In 2010, the Nagoya Protocol built upon these ABS principles, clarifying their scope - which includes R&D  not only on genetic material but also on biochemical compositions - and establishing measures to ensure compliance around the world. To date, 100 countries have committed to implementing the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol. Moreover, the Nagoya Protocol has prompted the growing number of laws and regulations establishing ABS requirements, outlining permitting systems, and sanctions for cases of non-compliance.

National rules on ABS

Over 30 countries require permits or registration for biodiversity-based R&D, including key countries in the sourcing of natural ingredients, such as Brazil, India, France, Madagascar, Malaysia, Peru and South Africa. These requirements aim to safeguard the rights of countries and communities over biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge. It also ensures research, development and commercialization activities contribute to local livelihoods, sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity. Nevertheless, ABS procedures are still often difficult to navigate. Support may be required to define applicability, as well as to engage with local stakeholders and develop practical and effective approaches. In 2014, the European Union adopted compliance requirements on ABS. That is, companies conducting biodiversity-based innovation in the European Union are now required to exercise due diligence: to gather, keep and transmit information to ensure compliance with ABS laws and regulations in other countries. Moreover, companies must make a declaration of due diligence when receiving research grants or reaching final stages of product development.

ABS as a tool for ethical sourcing of biodiversity


Ethical sourcing of biodiversity requires respect for people and nature. The fair and equitable sharing of benefits resulting from biodiversity is inherently linked to its conservation and sustainable use. Benefit sharing addresses the social, cultural and equity considerations that are essential for any successful approach to protecting and promoting biodiversity. ABS requirements focus on innovation and biodiversity, seeking to ensure that R&D activities also incentivize and support ethical and sustainable practices.

This is why UEBT works on ABS. ABS principles are an integral part of the Ethical BioTrade Standard. UEBT has elaborated a range of tools to support companies in complying with ABS rules and best practices. In addition, UEBT works with international organizations, governments, companies and civil society to develop concepts and approaches on ABS that promote innovation, strengthen partnerships, and contribute to positive impacts on biodiversity and local livelihoods.