At a recent CPhI meeting held in Barcelona, Spain, Indena received an Excellence in Pharma: Corporate Social Responsibility award for a project it has undertaken in an impoverished region of the island nation of Madagascar where is sources Centella asiatica, an important raw material.
Centella asiatica, also known as gotu kola, is eaten as a food and is an important ingredient in a number of traditional medicine systems, where its uses range from topical preparations for skin health as well to internal use as an anti inflammatory and for cognitive support among other indications. Indena derives a range of ingredients form the plant, including one which is paired with the company’s proprietary phytosome technology for increased bioavailability.
Purchasing manager Renato Iguera told NutraIngredients-USA that the Madagascar project was part of Indena’s Sustainable Sourcing initiative, which has been under development for several years.
“We started the project three years ago. Indena works with 110 species collected in various countries around the world. We carried out a risk analysis and we identified priorities within the supply chain,” Iguera said.
Risks posed by region’s poverty
The stock Indena uses is wildcrafted in the Alaotra Mangoro province of Madagascar, an inland region that is part of the country’s semi-arid central plateau. It is an impoverished part of a poverty-stricken nation. According to the CIA World Factbook, the per capita GDP in the country in 2015 was approximately $1,500, calculated on a purchasing power parity basis, ranking the country at No. 217 in the world.
“Centella asiatica is growing wild in Madagascar, and it was considered from the beginning as a priority. We identified a social risk—Madagascar is very poor, especially in the region where Centella asiatica is collected. We also wanted to be sure that the impact of collecting the plant was not too severe in terms of biodiversity in the area,” Iguera said.
The project in Madagascar started in 2015 and focused on improving the social fabric in the community from which the harvesters come, said Indena communications specialist Laura Bo. The project, backed by the Italian NGO RTM —Volontari nel Mondo has provided school materials and teaching support.
“The project was focused on the social realities there and the improvement in the quality of life for the population involved with the collection of the plants. We focused on five primary schools, where 1,400 primary school children received scholarships,” she said.
The results have been promising, she said. Attendance is up at the schools where the project as been in place, and individual student performance has improved, too.
“The project will not end here. We are focusing on improving the language skills of the teachers (French and Malagasy are spoken in Madagascar along with some English) and we will help improve their pedagogical skills. And we also want to help the parents understand the importance of education for their children,” she said.
Bo said future goals for the project will include structural improvements to the schools including better sanitation and the addition of libraries.
Program adheres to third party standards
Iguera said the Sustainable Sourcing program brings together a dedicated multidisciplinary team—including botanists, communication professionals, quality system managers, regulatory experts, cultural and linguistic operators—assesses the supply system for raw materials, monitoring and evaluating supply sources from 55 countries. As part of the program Indena adheres to the Good Agricultural Collection Practices as laid out by the American Herbal Products Association. Its sourcing program also incorporates World Health Organization guidelines for the collection of medicinal plants.
In addition to the humanitarian aspects of the program, Bo said it improves Indena’s market position, as more customers and consumers are asking for products that are in line with these kind of values. As a vertically integrated ingredient supplier, Indena is positioned to deliver on those needs.
“Consumers are more and more sensitive to these issues. It is something that everyone is asking about. And it is our contribution to making a better world,” she said.