Leading voices: An interview with Gaston Vizcarra, President of Candela

 
 

Tell us a bit about Candela and your commitment to support local people and biodiversity.

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Candela Peru works with producers/collectors of natural products from different parts of Peru, and especially from the Amazon basin.

Gaston Vizcarra, President of Candela

Gaston Vizcarra, President of Candela

After 30 years of existence, based on the principles of fairtrade, organic certification and sustainable sourcing, we are feeling that our business model has been the right choice. However, it hasn’t been easy to navigate in these competitive, price-driven markets, with more and more regulations to meet, and increasing requirements from buyers on quality.

 We have revisited our mission and feel that we really are a team of people focused on local communities, and the sustainable use and conservation of ecosystems where the natural resources we process and trade come from.

We aspire to see the Amazon forest standing, while harvesting natural resources with respect for local people and the environment.  We reach out to those companies that value these ingredients and want to be part of a sustainable value chain that generates income for local people.

What does the concept of ‘ethical sourcing’ mean for Candela and your work in the sourcing areas?

Based on the principle of sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity, we focus on transparent, open information; a direct relationship with our producers and long-term commitments and purchasing agreements for them; technical assistance and support for local projects; and respect for local communities.

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You founded Candela with your partners 30 years ago. What has changed over the years? What do you see as today’s biggest challenges in sourcing in the Amazon, both for your company and for the wider industry?

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There are several complex interactions that take place in this region of the Amazon Basin. On the one hand, the forest is still seen as an endless supplier of natural resources. Most of the population that migrates from other parts of the country still believes that the rainforest is a place where you can extract as much as you wish with no limit. The region has a large population made up of indigenous peoples and lower-income migrants.  People are often poorly connected with the local economy and government engagement with the local population can be weak.  In terms of the forest, there are many illegal activities such as illegal logging and gold mining.

On the other hand, there are institutions and companies fostering ecotourism and non-timber forest products.  There are NGOs building awareness of the importance of protected areas and reserves, as well as the importance of sustainable forest management. I also see that the actions of the new generation show that they are well-informed about the importance of the rainforest and I think this will play an important role in the future economic activities of the area. 

Our biggest challenge is two-fold: we must develop and maintain a high-quality and competitive supply chain, but also, we must promote the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity in the forests where we extract these ingredients. 

What is the strategic importance to Candela of working with UEBT?

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We are part of a UEBT because we believe in the Ethical BioTrade principles. Throughout the 10 years of UEBT’s existence, we have experienced and witnessed that UEBT doesn’t only develop the standard, but they take actions that help us create and realise ethical BioTrade in our company.  We know that our fellow UEBT members are committed to work under UEBT standards, and they are looking for partners that have the same philosophy.  We believe that the companies that belong to this ethical community will continue to grow and create more and more positive interactions within their sourcing areas.  UEBT is the best space to be in, and to find partners to build sustainable supply chains.

Vision and engagement from top management are crucial for companies to successfully adopt more sustainable business models. How are you personally doing this?

Candela has been driven from the start under fairtrade practices and principles, and after that we developed our organic certification program.  Then, UEBT came along with a standard to secure a sustainable approach to supply chains of natural ingredients.  Sustainability has been in our DNA from the start of the organisation.