The FairWild Foundation
Kajal Darshan Patel, MSc Ethnobotany, is an intern with the FairWild Foundation—a non-profit initiative with the mission to secure a fair and sustainable future for wild plant resources and people. Find out more at fairwild.org.
It’s Sunday evening, you’re sitting in your living room with your aromatherapy diffuser on—you’ve decided it’s about time you pamper yourself. You’re sat on your sofa sipping herbal tea, with your feet enjoying the feel of your rattan rug and then you decide to open a box of chocolates and enjoy the delicacies inside.
Did you know many of those aromatherapy oils come from the wild? That the herbal tea you’re sipping may contain a wild ingredient from as far away as the remote mountains of India? Or that the rattan rug your feet are enjoying may come from wild palms harvested from South-East Asian rainforests? Even the chocolate you’re eating likely contains shea butter that comes from a West African savannah tree, quite possibly from Burkina Faso, where some of the world’s poorest people rely on its harvest for their survival and livelihoods.
Many flavourings, foodstuffs, perfumes, cosmetics and herbal remedies contain ingredients that are harvested from the wild—for example, between 60–90% of the medicinal and aromatic plant species in international trade are estimated to be sourced in this way. This means that rather than being grown in agricultural conditions, these ingredients are harvested from forests, mountains and other delicate habitats all around the world. The people collecting these ingredients are also often reliant on these harvests for some or all of their income. And most of us, that’s consumers, retailers, wholesalers and sometimes even manufacturers, are unaware of this.
What can be done?
FairWild, the only in-depth certification targeted specifically at wild harvested plant, fungi and lichen products, has developed a set of principles and criteria for best practices in sustainable harvest and trade of wild plants; businesses can also be independently audited to certify they meet or exceed these criteria. Their aim is not only to conserve wild plant populations but also to protect local ecosystems and sustain the livelihoods of collector communities around the globe.
Companies like Pukka Herbs and Dr Jackson’s Natural Products based in Bristol are already among those using FairWild certified ingredients in their teas. Organic gin company Juniper Green uses FairWild certified juniper in their drinks. They are supplied by Organic Herb Trading Co. based in Somerset, a FairWild registered trader. In this way, the South-West of England is an important part of the UK where FairWild already has had a big impact and there is potential for many other businesses to use the FairWild label on their products or gain certification.
What can you do?
Each of us has a role to play in helping to secure a sustainable future for wild plants and their collectors. If you are a business that uses plant, fungi or lichen products, survey your supply chains for any wild sourced ingredients. Get in touch with FairWild to assess the sustainability of any wild ingredients you’re using. Secure long-term supply and demonstrate your commitment to the planet and to ethical and responsible sourcing—show consumers that you care about the people who help bring your products to the shelf.
Retailers can also assist by stocking products that carry the FairWild logo, while consumers can read labels and look out for the FairWild symbol. If it’s not there, hold businesses accountable by asking them what they are doing to ensure that the wild ingredients used in their products are fair and sustainable. Together, we can secure a sustainable future for wild plants and people.