FairWild looks to a sustainable future at Biofach 2019

news-biofach-2019.jpg

Nuremburg, Germany, 13–16th February 2019—The FairWild Foundation once again exhibited at BioFach, the world’s largest organic trade fair, helping to spread awareness and uptake of the FairWild Standard. Together with partners we worked to raise awareness of sustainable harvesting issues and to facilitate connections between companies participating in the FairWild certification scheme.

BioFach is a key annual event for all those involved in the trade of organic and wild plant ingredients. In 2019 51,500 visitors came to the fair, where FairWild Foundation was among the 3,273 exhibitors from a total of 98 different countries. FairWild again exhibited at the “Organic Africa Pavilion”, which provided a meeting point for stakeholders engaged with the sustainable trade of wild plant ingredients. Producers, manufacturers, traders, brokers, NGOs, standard-setters, and certifiers from the world over visited the stand to learn more about the FairWild Standard and third-party audited certification scheme.

FairWild Foundation event: FairWild Today & Tomorrow

On Friday 15th February, the event “FairWild: Today & Tomorrow” provided updates on the FairWild certification scheme and explored how to scale up successes achieved to date. Discussion among a panel of FairWild stakeholders was facilitated by Ann Ambrecht, Director of the Sustainable Herbs Program at the American Botanical Council. The event also provided a practical opportunity for stakeholders to meet and make new connections under the certification scheme.

Read Ann's summary of the event on her blog here.

Exploring how to scale up the FairWild system – reflections from participants

The panel representatives were drawn from certification scheme members Traditional Medicinals Inc. (FairWild Licensee), Organic Herb Trading (FairWild Trader) and B’Ayoba (FairWild Certified Collection Operation) as well as those seeking to enter the FairWild system (Himalayan BioTrade and NuHerbs Co.).

Josef Brinckmann from Traditional Medicinals Inc. started the discussion by recapping the benefits of FairWild. The traceability, transparency, and data generated through implementation of the Standard are especially important for a growing company – to ensure the stability of supply and allow the business to plan ahead.

news-biofach-2019-standard.jpg

FairWild is hence an important building block of their quality assurance system, and provides a framework for building open, long-term and transparent relationships with their suppliers. Brinckmann commented, “FairWild certification can be seen as a relatively inexpensive insurance system for future planning, enabling companies to make a determination on supply chain capacity.”

Mike Brook from Organic Herb Trading then continued by highlighting some of the challenges of building sustainable herbal product supply chains. In general, the requirements of western markets are strict – to meet them can be a considerable burden on the producers and can require a big cultural change.

Organic Herb Trading believes in the value of FairWild and has invested in implementing the standard and certification system – but long-term success requires sufficient economic incentives for the participating wild collection operations. There is a need to financially support the collectors and motivate them to harvest sustainably, but this in turn leads to higher sales prices – will the market be ready to respond?

However, there is a growing opportunity to meet the increasing consumer demand for sustainable, fair and biodiverse products. Speaking after the event, Brook explained that his ultimate hope is that the world at large develops the insight to support the benefits that sustainability standards deliver – and developments at the grassroots, such as the recent surge of interest in vegan products, gives him encouragement in this regard.

Giving a perspective of a potential new entrant to FairWild, Wilson Lau from NuHerbs Co. reflected that there has to be a sustainable, reliable quantity of a resource for industry to include it in product formulations.

“To get started with the FairWild system requires taking a leap of faith and trying it – but it is a worthwhile endeavour and makes world a better place. To sustain it in the long term, all companies have to be supported throughout the supply chain.”

Wilson Lau from NuHerbs Co

Gus Le Breton from B’Ayoba, a FairWild-certified collection operation, also stressed the need to be realistic about pricing. The company has to date only sold a relatively small quantity of ingredients as FairWild-certified – not close to the amount needed to cover the certification costs. However, there are other benefits that are much harder to quantify.

Le Breton reflected that the fact that the company is FairWild-certified and has a rigorous, annual sustainability audit gives other customers confidence – and it may well have been a factor in B’Ayoba’s increasing sales overall. Right now, implementing FairWild is expensive and hard work – but it has great potential, and Le Breton would like to see to grow.

Finally, Khailendra Gurung from Himalayan BioTrade Ltd (HBTL) gave some reflections from the perspective of a developing country producer. Implementing FairWild gives a structure through which to address traceability issues, which are particularly important for trade in CITES-listed plants such as Jatamansi Nardostachys jatamansi. It should lead to benefits for the collectors and helps embed sustainable wild-collection principles which are important to the company.

HBTL is currently working on implementation gaps, including documentation; confirming resource availability through the resource assessment and management planning; improving the distillation process; training of collectors; and developing a concept for setting up the FairWild Premium Fund. HBTL is also working to establish trade connections with ethical buyers who will recognise the value of the FairWild label.

Following the panel discussion, Bryony Morgan, Executive Officer of the FairWild Foundation, reflected that the Foundation would need to look further at cost calculation issues together with the stakeholders. There is also a need to find ways to make new potential entrants to the FairWild certification scheme more visible, so that they could make the business connections they needed – and the Foundation is developing new ideas and tools in this regard.

Updates from FairWild Foundation and making a FairWild “match”

In providing updates on the FairWild Foundation’s plans, Morgan highlighted the FairWild Forum taking place in Budapest, Hungary in April 2019. This training, capacity building and experience exchange event will provide a mixed audience of wild collection professionals with the opportunity to go in depth on the FairWild Standard. It will be held in conjunction with a meeting of FairWild-accredited Control Bodies.

A review of stakeholder feedback and implementation experience is also continuing in 2019, feeding into revision plans for the Standard.

The FairWild Foundation is currently working on technical guidelines for the certification of fungi and seeks partners for a potential pilot application to take place in 2019/2020. Building on the success of previous years, FairWild’s partner TRAFFIC is leading on plans for “FairWild Week 2019” – an online celebration and awareness-raising event taking place 24-28 June 2019. Everyone is invited to get involved.

The event participants then explored some practical ways to support an expansion of the FairWild initiative, including use of the new “Ingredients” section of the FairWild website and other ways to help connect supply and demand for sustainable herbs. Breakout groups with the audience allowed in-depth discussion as well as providing an opportunity for people to meet each other.

BioFach Congress event: “Die Wildnis im Bio Produkt: Ein Überblick über den Handel mit Wildpflanzenrohstoffen”


Around 50 participants joined the German BioFach congress event which discussed the important role wild plant resources play and will continue to play in future. Panelists from different sectors – Andrea Rommeler, Martin Bauer GmbH & Co. KG, Dr. Uwe Schippmann, Bundesamt für Naturschutz (BfN) and Dr. Christoph Schunko, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), explored the responsibility of the German industry and market to take action on wild harvesting issues and shift towards ecological and social sustainability. Elisabeth Rüegg, FairWild Foundation Board member, was also a member of the panel and presented the opportunities the FairWild scheme has to offer.

The German translation of the Wild at Home report: “Die Wildnis zu Hause” was also launched at this event and presented by Kirsten Palme, TRAFFIC. This report highlights wild plant trade facts and figures in infographics; emphasises the need for change in the industry and presents opportunities by showcasing best-practices and success stories, including those based on FairWild Standard implementation. The report also provides a resource for consumers and companies to find guidance on where to begin and steps they can take towards sustainability.

Acknowledgements
The FairWild participation at BioFach 2019 was supported by Friends of FairWild donations, in-kind donations from licensees and partner organisations, including TRAFFIC and ProFound – Advisers in Development, and through connections with a number of projects worldwide that draw on the FairWild Standard as a sustainability framework. These projects include LENA project in Europe’s Danube region to strengthen joint and integrated approaches and policies for the conservation and sustainable use of protected areas, and the UK Darwin Initiative funded project “Succeeding with CITES: Sustainable and equitable Jatamansi trade from Nepal”.

We would particularly like to thank Ann Armbrecht and Terence Youk for their support to the event "FairWild - Today & Tomorrow". Read Ann's summary of the event on the Sustainable Herbs Program blog here.

Marcus Cornthwaite