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Diversity is priceless. Our livelihood, health, food sources and ecosystems depend on it. Organisms have a reciprocal relationship with each other, along with the air, water and soil. Every species plays a key role in providing us with clean water, food, oxygen, medicine and raw materials for industry and economic development. Nevertheless, the world’s diversity is shrinking. Global organizations, local governments and companies such as Weleda are stepping in to reverse the trend.

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, of 270,000 known plant species, between 60,000 and 100,000 (22 to 34 percent of all known species) are threatened worldwide, and 34,000 face extinction. Current and imminent endangerment is primarily due to over-collecting of wild plants by humans, destructive agriculture and forestry practices, urbanization, pollution, climate change and the proliferation of non- native species in local environments.

Regrowing the future:

Nature and its invaluable resources can, and in some cases must, be used by people to support regeneration. It is imperative, however, to balance consumption with sustainability and conservation. In an attempt to halt and reverse the loss of environmental resources, “The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation,” developed by the Convention on Biological Diversity, outlines clear goals for national governments and businesses to achieve by 2010. Key areas of focus include documenting all known plant species, expanding protected areas and improving the sustainable use of plants through organic agriculture, fair trade and benefit sharing.

At the ninth United Nations Con-ference on Biodiversity, held May 2008 in Bonn, Germany, “The Business and Biodiversity Initiative” was enacted to incorporate businesses in proactive environmental protection. As one of 34 committed international companies, Weleda signed a leadership declaration pledging to support biodiversity. “While the UN’s new biodiversity protocol is no different from what Weleda has been doing for many years, we will now work to create a long-term plan,” says Bas Schneiders, managing director of Weleda Naturals. “As part of this plan, we will continue to follow the concept of ‘protection through use.’ In this way, we support and use natural habitats without endangerment.”

Projects supporting the sustainable, wild-collection of the valuable medicinal plant Arnica montana demonstrate this principle. In Romania’s Carpathian Mountains, Weleda—in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund—developed a project to train farmers in the sustainable collection of organic arnica. Additionally, they have been taught how best to dry the fresh flowers for the highest-quality end product, making them market-ready for fair and immediate monetary return.

To the west, in the Vosges Mountains of France, a 12-year partnership between Weleda, the local University of Metz, the regional environmental protection park and the Association for the Preservation of Mountain Areas resulted in the regrowth of arnica, which had faced endangerment from land over-use and treatment with synthetic fertilizers. The plant’s golden yellow flowers, along with the other native flora and fauna, continue to flourish while being sustainably picked and used in medicinal and skin care products.

“In many places, people are not aware of the value of a plant species,” says Schneiders. “This value can be generated through use, as in Romania, where the mountain farmers can ensure their livelihood by cultivating the local arnica meadows.”

To support and protect ecosystems and resources throughout the world, the Convention on Biological Diversity has set a global goal that by 2010, 30 percent of all plant-based products be derived from sustainably managed sources. Through the mutual preservation and protected use of natural resources, biological diversity can prosper for the benefit of all.