Certifying plants’ wild collection: sustainability is more than conservation
Organic certification bodies may ensure that collection methods are sustainable and do not damage the ecosystem and natural yield of wild products. Other non-organic initiatives, like WHO guidelines on Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP) for medicinal plants, mainly aims at quality control and safety. Furthermore, FairWild standard (FWS), initially based on the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP), covers responsible collection practices, legal and ethical requirements and responsible management and business practices.
Wild plant ingredients are in thousands of products we consume every day: pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, supplements and wellbeing products, food, spices, drinks and also homewares. Wild collection (WC) is an important economic activity for some of the most impoverished communities. In addition, it often takes place in important wildlife habitats and reservoirs of biodiversity. Then, WC activity is facing several environmental and social challenges. Different organisations are certifying this activity, but with different purposes.
FWS started in 2006 with the ISSC-MAP, defining guidelines and providing tools to collectors, producers and decision makers for the planning and implementation of a sustainable resource management based on the GACP guidelines. It was later updated, based on Fair Trade principles and International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, jointly implemented with other organic or ecological ones. In 2008 FairWild Foundation was created and in 2010 FWS v 2.0 was published combining the former standards. FairWild mission is to enable transformation of resource management (including plants, fungi and lichen) and business practices to be ecologicaly, socially and economically sustainable throughout the supply chain of wild-collected products.
FairWild encourages all business to implement the FWS. Then, FairWild Certification is addressed to producers (benefiting the longevity of target species, as well as the harvesting communities), to traders (connecting companies with certified suppliers and helping brands to market their products using FairWild mark) and to retailers (to source responsible products and to build consumer awareness). Several guidance resources are provided: FWS Overview Documents; FWS Principles and Implementation Guidance (Resource assessment, Management planning, Management plans for low risk species, Sustainable WC practices, Internal control system, Quality assurance and Social and fair trade aspects) and; Labelling, Trading and Certification Procedures.
Impacts and weaknesses
In 10 years, FairWild has helped 1,000s of wild collectors, protected ecosystems across 4 continents, and helped bring sustainable wild plant ingredients to global market: + 400 t/year of wild plants traded, + 25 wild species currently certified from over 10 different countries, and + 20 companies engaged.
A WC success story in the Mediterranean area is the certification of wild liquorice: since 2013, Herbes del Molí, in cooperation with collectors in northern Spain, has worked together with UK company Organic Herb Trading to bring FairWild liquorice to tea lovers around the world.
With the COVID-19 outbreak, the use of wild medicinal plants has increased. The future availability of herbal ingredients is dependent on the conservation and sustainable collection of their source species. Some of priority actions led by TRAFFIC include: all stakeholders to support the assessments of use, trade and threat status of key plants; contribute to the development of species and area management plans and; companies proactively to build targets to demonstrate the commitment to moving all supply chains to verifiable sustainability, and implement the FWS and certification scheme.