EU Parliament has passed legislation to protect and restore biodiversity, here’s what is means for beauty

by | Jul 11, 2023

This week, the European Parliament passed the nature restoration law which aims to reestablish biodiverse habitats, protect pollinators and restore marine life.

A healthy relationship between nature, wildlife and the land is vital for the production of numerous beauty products, here’s why the new legislation is important…

According to the European Environment Agency, 81% of Europe’s ecosystems are in a ‘poor’ or ‘bad’ condition, which is having substantial knock-on effects on the climate, human health, food sources – and importantly for beauty – access to natural ingredients. As part of it’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, the European Parliament’s new commitment to better biodiversity is the first legislation of its kind passed in three decades.

From Neal’s Yard Remedies’ Save the Bees campaign to Weleda’s Save Earth’s Skin collaboration with charity Dirt, biodiversity and soil health is at the top of beauty’s sustainability agenda. With the production of essential oils, pigments, surfactants and more relying on healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity, it comes as no surprise.

Alongside the wider biodiversity laws, lawmakers are prioritising soil health due to the adverse affects of intensive farming on climate change. Farming, and other similar land-use, is thought to be one of the biggest causes of biodiversity loss however it is well known that healthy soils are a natural route to preventing global heating. In fact, soils around the world might store enough carbon to keep the world within 1.5C of global heating.

On the European Parliament’s biodiversity legislation, Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet and Sustainable Beauty Coalition Steering Committee member, said: ‘Soil health is everything and yet we treat it like dirt, destroying its delicate ecosystem with toxic chemicals and of course with plastic. There is already up to 23x as much plastic in our soils as in our oceans. Nano-plastics, and then chemicals we use to give plastic its extraordinarily varied properties, are now found in every inch of our planet – in our waterways, in our air, in rain and of course in our own bodies. We urgently need to protect this vital carbon sink that gives us everything and we return nothing but trash.’

Whilst this biodiversity legislation passed through European Parliament incredibly narrowly, the UK Government has been criticised for failing to recognise the vital role of soil in sustainable farming as part of its recently published Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP)’. It is now hoped that the passing of the Europe’s nature restoration law will be influential in promoting increased environmental legislation on UK soil.

The Soil Association’s COSMOS certification is the benchmark for organic British beauty brands which implement measures throughout their supply to protect biodiversity. Speaking on behalf of the organisation, Paige Tracey, Business Development Manager, said: ‘Soils are one of our most vital resources in the fight against climate change as they are a huge carbon sink. It is a positive step forward to see this proposal from the EU.

‘Decades of overuse of fertilisers have had a catastrophic impact on our soils, driving erosion, degradation and pollution. Organic farming is an obvious solution, with no artificial fertilisers and using farming practices rooted in supporting soil health. Anything designed to protect soil should naturally lead you to organic farming and, from that, organic certified beauty. We anticipate greater interest in organic certified beauty as a result of this initiative, as consumers and businesses increasingly come to realise how their practises and habits can be altered to help in the fight against climate change.’

The British Beauty Council recognises the importance of soil health in maintaining a thriving ecosystem, and supports the passing of the nature restoration law. It is also continuing to work with the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs in respect of the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to ensure the policy remains fit for purpose when it comes to implementation for beauty brands and to ensure it tackles the issues it was created to address.

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