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FairWild® meets industry 2016 – stakeholder workshops held in California, USA and Cambridge, UK

Participants of the FairWild US industry meeting held in Sebastopol, California, USA. © Traditional Medicinals Inc.September 2016 – Following a tradition of FairWild industry stakeholder meetings held in the UK the past two years, last month saw the first such workshop to be held in California, USA.

The meeting, held on 1st August 2016, complemented an event for European stakeholders who met in June alongside the FairWild annual Board of Trustees meeting. The workshops were carried out with financial support from IUCN-US, and other Friends of FairWild.

US Industry meeting, 1st August 2016

Co-organised and hosted by FairWild Licensee Traditional Medicinals Inc. (TMI), the US stakeholder meeting saw a group of around 25 participants gather to discuss FairWild and experiences with sustainable sourcing. Those present included TMI employees and representatives of other herbal medicinal ingredients and products companies, and industry consultants, as well as standard-setting organisations.

The meeting was opened by Josef Brinckmann, Research Fellow at TMI and a Trustee of the FairWild Foundation. Brinckmann gave an introduction to FairWild from TMI’s perspective. The company is heavily dependent on wild crops (35% of botanical species used in 2014); with concerns over supply chain sustainability driving TMI’s innovation in the adoption of sustainability standards.

In his presentation, Brinckmann explained that only after 2001 could wild crops be certified organic. The lack of clear guidance available at that time had stimulated TMI’s interest in additional, more rigorous standards, leading to involvement in the FairWild initiative. The company had worked to pilot sustainability standards with their suppliers, experience showing that implementation of standards can improve quality of products and relationships. Brinckmann cited the need for increased equity in trade relationships; the “fair” aspect of systems such as FairWild being essential to preventing the ultimate loss of wild collection as a traditional economic activity.

In the subsequent presentation, Bryony Morgan, Executive Officer of the FairWild Secretariat, shared updates on the FairWild Standard and certification scheme globally. She highlighted projects implementing the FairWild Standard, and also explained how FairWild is now being referenced in policy and programmes worldwide, such as in the CBD’s Global Strategy on Plant Conservation, as well as providing support to implementation of national frameworks such as USDA’s National Organic Programme.

Morgan also explained the relationship between FairWild Foundation and TRAFFIC (host of the Secretariat), and gave an introduction to some of TRAFFIC’s medicinal plants projects worldwide. New projects starting up include initiatives in China, where opportunities to pilot FairWild certification are developing following FairWild Foundation’s signature of an MoU with the certification body China Standard Conformity Assessment Co. Ltd. (CSCA) in order to pursue accreditation and approval to offer certification audits in China.

The question and answer session with participants covered a wide range of topics, including:

  • Participants discussed potential government support available to wild collection operations. FairWild is being built into a development project in Pakistan. © ProFoundHistory of the FairWild initiative, including the precursor International Standard for the Sustainable Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP), and industry involvement.
  • Availability of government subsidies and other technical and financial support for wild plant ingredient producers. FairWild is listed as an eligible scheme in some bilateral programmes focused on market access, and is currently being incorporated into development aid projects in Pakistan, South Africa, and elsewhere. Companies could make more use of these potential funding sources.
  • Rural-urban migration, loss of traditional knowledge, and fading interest of young people to work in wild collection. While FairWild as a framework does not explicitly require the transmission of traditional knowledge between generations, it does require that it is respected and protected. Participants discussed experience from around the world – including in USA, where in some regions there is a revival of interest in cultural traditions of wild collection – and also the need to introduce new technology and skills into wild collection.
  • Resource assessment and availability of data for subsequent use in long-term planning. FairWild is a framework that requires mutual commitment to equitable trade partnerships; an understanding of resource availability being key to planning for responsible and sustainable growth in the herbal products industry. FairWild Foundation is currently exploring ways in which to better support B2B data-sharing through the certification scheme, as well as best practice in cooperation with relevant government agencies for resource assessment and management.
  • Communicating wild collection, including how best to position the FairWild label on the North American market, as well as the challenges of successfully communicating the social and conservation issues around use of wild plants to consumers. TMI has found their “Plant Power Journal” blog to be an effective space for sharing experience on FairWild.
  • Brainstorming ideas for new FairWild pilots, including with the native North American medicinal plant Osha root (Ligusticum porteri) in USA, and taking advantages of new opportunities that are being presented in China.

Opportunities for further meetings with US stakeholders are being explored, e.g. at Natural Products Expo West in California in March 2017.

Participants of the UK meeting discuss development plans for the FairWild certification scheme. © FairWild Foundation / TRAFFIC.UK Industry meeting, 15th June 2016

On 15th June 2016, a similar dialogue took place on the other side of the Atlantic, where a workshop was held alongside the annual FairWild Board of Trustees meeting. Held in the David Attenborough Building in Cambridge, UK, the meeting included registered FairWild Traders and Licensees, as well as others with an interest in sustainable sourcing.

The meeting built on outcomes of the previous year, which touched on the topics of FairWild business development, supply, certification scheme development, and communications, public awareness and branding.

In the morning session, chaired by Klaus Duerbeck, President of FairWild Foundation, participants received the latest news from FairWild. The session was largely focused on FairWild certification scheme development, with a preview of the FairWild certifier accreditation and auditor training programme due for roll-out in 2017. Other updates included on the FairWild licensee fee consultation initiated in 2015, as well as a review and clarification statement for certifiers on allowable uses of the FairWild Premium fund. Looking ahead, plans for a review and potential revision of the FairWild Standard are also in development.

In the afternoon session, Steven Broad, a FairWild Foundation Board member and Executive Director of TRAFFIC, facilitated a discussion on working together to further develop the FairWild system.

Topics discussed included:

  • FairWild Foundation Trustees and participants of the UK meeting. © FairWild Foundation / TRAFFIC.Experience of matching supply and demand and ways to better facilitate trade. FairWild Foundation has recently been exploring this topic through a research project undertaken by Laura Antosch, a student from Van Hal Larenstein University, Netherlands.
  • Opportunities to better differentiate B2B and B2C communications for FairWild, working with companies to reach consumers.
  • How to make FairWild and sustainable wild collection resonate with the public – exploring connections with other issues and topics, including the Sustainable Development Goals and other broader development concerns.
  • Practical tools for engaging different audiences, including suggestions to translate the FairWild animation video into more languages to make it accessible to producers and sourcing communities. New website content on the FairWild Principles and training materials for producers have also been developed.
  • Supply-side issues, particularly the need for more dialogue in the industry on issues around pricing, and supporting producers in using cost calculations as a negotiating tool.
  • Development of a list of plants that are known to be, or potentially may be, threatened due to high demand. These could be suitable candidates for proposing new FairWild sustainable sourcing projects with industry.

The meeting in Cambridge was the third FairWild workshop to be held in the UK, following those hosted in 2014 by the Organic Herb Trading Company Ltd. and in 2015 by Neal’s Yard Remedies.

For more information about FairWild, and to join subsequent meetings and workshops, please contact the FairWild Foundation Secretariat.