Published 24 June 2011


Sustainable sourcing sought for wild plant industry in Japan

Tokyo, Japan 24th June 2011—TRAFFIC has launched a new project to promote sustainable production and consumption of wild medicinal and aromatic plants traditionally used in Japan. 

A new TRAFFIC project will encourage the plant industry in Japan to seek raw materials sourced sustainably elsewhere in Asia. © Arpana Basappa

“Wild plants are hugely important in Japanese culture for a variety of purposes, including traditional ‘Kampo’ medicine, as traditional ‘Kodo’ incense, in cosmetics and as ornaments, and more recently they have been imported as ingredients in herbal teas and as cooking spices,” said Kahoru Kanari of TRAFFIC East Asia’s office in Japan. 

“As environmental awareness and the demand for a healthy lifestyle grow among Japanese consumers, it is now more important than ever to promote sustainable use of these resources.” 

The new project, Saving Asian medicinal and aromatic plant species through involvement of the Japanese private sector, will help Japanese companies to introduce responsible production and sourcing practices for wild plant ingredients. At the same time, consumers will be encouraged to seek sustainably-sourced products. 

According to The State of Wildlife Trade in Japan, a report from TRAFFIC, in 2007 Japan was the fourth largest importer (in terms of value) of medicinal and aromatic plants used in the pharmaceutical industry—some USD118 million.

Many of the plants came from within Asia, with the top three suppliers being China, Thailand and India. 

“Worldwide, many wild plant species are threatened through over-exploitation, and Japan is a major consumer of wild plant resources,” said Anastasiya Timoshyna, TRAFFIC’s programme leader for medicinal and aromatic plants. 

“A long-term commitment by Japanese industry to adopt sustainable sourcing practices would have a significant impact on the conservation of medicinal plants in the wild. 

“Through this project, Japan can demonstrate to the world its leadership, awareness and commitment to the responsible consumption of wild plants.” 

The project will encourage implementation of the international best practices for sustainable plant harvesting laid down in the FairWild Standard, and is supported by the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund (KNCF) as part of TRAFFIC’s work on medicinal and aromatic plants. 

“The Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund is delighted to support this project and fully supports its conservation aims of promoting sustainable use of medicinal plants to improve human welfare,” said Kikuko Fukui, Deputy Executive Director of the Keidanren Committee on Nature Conservation.

“We believe FairWild certification is an effective tool to link consumers and producers and the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund is also proud to be part of a specific initiative that can help meet the targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) new strategic plan.” 

Japanese industry representatives will be visiting plant harvesting sites in Asia to see sustainable collection practices in operation, enabling a better understanding of how the challenges to sustainable sourcing can be addressed. 

Results of the visits will be shared in meetings and through internet websites, with industry leaders encouraged to exchange information and ideas through discussion groups. 

The project will also encourage participating companies to take an active lead in buying plants sourced sustainably within Asia. 

TRAFFIC’s work in Japan is part of a global initiative to support implementation of the FairWild Standard, which TRAFFIC helped to develop and promotes through its partnership with the FairWild Foundation.

Previously KNCF has supported TRAFFIC’s studies of medicinal and aromatic plants used by Japanese industry and public outreach events during Japan’s hosting of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP 10) in Nagoya, October 2010. 

Plant Conservation in Japan, the recent national response to the CBD’s Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), lists the FairWild Standard among the useful tools for implementing Target 12 of the strategy, which states: ‘All wild harvested plant-based products sourced sustainably’. The FairWild Standard is also relevant to achieving Targets 3, 11, 12 and 13. 


1.    Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund provides assistance for nature conservation efforts implemented by NGOs in developing countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, and assistance for nature conservation efforts and sustainable use of nature resources in Japan.

2.    The FairWild Standard is maintained by the FairWild Foundation. It provides best practice guidance in 11 key areas, including:

1. Maintaining wild plant resources
2. Preventing negative environmental impacts
3. Complying with laws, regulations, and agreements
4. Respecting customary rights and benefit sharing
5. Promoting fair contractual relationships between operators and collectors
6. Limiting participation of children in wild collection activities
7. Ensuring benefits for collectors and their communities
8. Ensuring fair working conditions for all workers of the FairWild collection operations
9. Applying responsible management practices
10. Applying responsible business practices
11. Promoting FairWild buyer commitment