Firmenich: giving back to local communities

Firmenich: giving back to local communities

Today, consumers are drawn by the goodness of Nature, actively seeking out products that are natural, traceable, sustainable and environmentally-friendly. Increasingly they want to know where products have come from, how they are sourced, and how farmers and producers benefit from collaborating with large manufacturers.

Firmenich has a long legacy of leading its business responsibly. As an industry-leader in sustainability, the Group has set itself the most ambitious 2020 environmental goals in its industry with the vision to become carbon neutral. Advancing this objective, Firmenich is committed to sourcing the best of nature in the most sustainable way possible, to offer world-class taste and scent experiences to its customers and their consumers.

Building on his previous experience at multinational manufacturer Procter & Gamble (P&G), Corporate Vice President and Chief Purchasing Officer Bhavesh Shah seized the opportunity to join Firmenich. The possibility to contribute to the company’s vision to be carbon neutral, while making a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of farming families confirmed his decision to join the company.

“My experience with P&G was very entrepreneurial, and I was looking for a company where I could truly make a difference,” Bhavesh says. “The opportunity to build a world-class, global purchasing team to support the company’s long-term vision was very exciting.”

Bhavesh has brought in a new era of purchasing excellence, introducing best-in-class, sustainable purchasing management practices to advance the company’s ambitious sustainability agenda.

Engaging his passionate team, he has successfully positioned Firmenich as a leader in naturals based on innovative partnerships at source to drive the most sustainable value chain from field to shelf. He has also established Firmenich as the number one player in the use of renewable energy across its operations by refocusing its energy purchasing strategy.

Leadership in Naturals

Firmenich has the broadest and finest portfolio in the industry, cutting across natural, synthetic and bio-based ingredients. Having access to the most pristine natural ingredients is essential for Firmenich’s creators, as these ingredients are the essence of their unique olfactive signature. From jasmine sourced in India and oud from Bangladesh, to patchouli from Indonesia and vanilla from Madagascar, Firmenich’s mastery of naturals is second to none.

When you consider it takes 3.5 tons of rose petals to produce 1 kilo of rose essential oil; and 1 million roses to produce the 3.5 tons of rose petals; there is no other option than to harvest them sustainably.

“We partner with smallholder farmers around the world to harvest the earth’s most precious resources sustainably,” explains Bhavesh. “Today I am very proud that Firmenich supports the livelihoods of 250,000 farming families at the source of our 170 varieties of natural ingredients”.

Naturals Together: Driving Excellence from Field to Shelf

Firmenich is committed to operating the most traceable, sustainable and ethical value chain in the industry from field to shelf. Through its “Naturals Together” initiative, the company builds long-term partnerships with some of the world’s best natural producers. Firmenich works with the producers to address pressing challenges, such as rural exodus, climate change, and access to healthcare services, education or training.

One of the most important achievements of its Naturals Together initiative is the forming of two Joint Ventures between Firmenich and Naturals Together members: one with Jasmine Concrete, the leader in Indian florals, and one with Essex Laboratories, a world-leader in natural mint solutions based in the USA.

Deep Roots: Supporting Sustainable Livelihoods

Taking its commitment to the next level, the company’s ‘Deep Roots’ program, brings Firmenich’s entire supply chain closer together, to enhance the livelihoods of 100’000 smallholder farmers by 2020. Working with farmers, as well as distillers and suppliers, key customers and NGOs, the program focuses on supporting the sustainable livelihoods of its farming communities. Together they explore new business models and share innovation to turn their challenges into opportunities, from the selection of crop varieties, crop rotation, soil management, all the way to irrigation technologies.

Firmenich develops sustainable financial models which enable the company to invest in projects that enhance the sustainable livelihoods of the local farming communities, from healthcare and education to hygiene and sanitation.  For instance, last year, the company opened a kindergarten for 100 children in Indonesia, built a school in Haiti and established a dispensary, as well as wells for water access in Madagascar.

Award-winning Naturals

This sustainable, global sourcing focus has not gone unnoticed. Partnering with Indonesian manufacturing company Indesso, Firmenich supports patchouli farmers in Indonesia, who produce this signature perfume ingredient. Supplying more than 90% of the global market, patchouli oil from Indonesia is considered the highest quality in the world. Consistent with its responsible sourcing approach, Firmenich buys approximately 20% of this highly sought-after crop, working hand-in-hand with local patchouli farming communities. 

Acknowledging the broad societal benefits of Firmenich’s work, the company recently received Indonesia’s ‘Primaduta’ Presidential Award, gifted by President Joko Widodo for its Deep Roots project in Java.

“Our vision is to have over 40 projects by 2020, impacting 100,000 farming families in a positive way,” explains Bhavesh. “This means looking at improving things like agronomy, yield factors, how producers can go to market, while providing premium pricing to secure a stable and sustainable income.”

Partnering with Likeminded Visionary Companies

To scale up its commitment to responsible sourcing, Firmenich joined the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming (Livelihoods 3F) in 2015, alongside founding investors Danone and Mars, Incorporated. Launched in February 2015, Livelihoods 3F aims to help companies sustainably source the materials they need from smallholder farmers, while improving their productivity, incomes, and living conditions. The fund will invest 120 million euros by 2025, providing upfront financing and technical support to NGOs and farmers’ cooperatives across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Bhavesh commented: “Vanilla is one of the most popular flavors in the world, and Madagascar represents 80% of its supply. That’s why Firmenich has been working with smallholder farming communities in Madagascar for many years to support their sustainable livelihoods. Taking our commitment to the next level, we are now innovating with a new vanilla farming model, based on diversifying farmers’ crops for more balance and security.”

Building on this partnership, Firmenich, together with Danone and Mars, recently announced through Livelihoods 3F, it is investing in a large-scale, innovative vanilla farming model in Madagascar. Involving 3,000 vanilla producers, the project aims to increase farmer’s food security and triple their revenues, while providing high-quality, sustainable and fully traceable vanilla over a 10-year span. This investment comes on top of Firmenich’s long-established presence in Madagascar, since 2005, having developed its first partnership with Authentic, a member of its Naturals Together program.

Advancing Firmenich’s Vision to be Carbon Neutral

As the most sustainable, perfume and flavor company in the world, Firmenich is firmly focused on delivering its ambitious 2020 environmental goals, to become carbon neutral. For instance, by 2020, the company is committed to all of its manufacturing sites being powered from 100% renewable sources or offsets; and its absolute CO2 emissions going down by 20%.

Purchasing has been a driving force in enabling Firmenich to be the industry leader in renewable energy. Most recently, Firmenich shifted its Princeton and Port Newark plants in the US to use 100% renewable energy sources. “As part of our global approach to combatting climate change, purchasing worked with a major energy supplier in North America to meet the needs of our US plants today and in the future,” said Bhavesh. “This is just one of the ways we are accelerating Firmenich’s vision of a clean and sustainable manufacturing footprint.”

“Today, we lead the industry in renewable energy with more than 65% of our manufacturing electricity generated from renewable sources globally. We have a total of seven “100%” clean energy manufacturing sites, including two plants in the US, two plants in Switzerland, one in the UK, one in Norway and one in Belgium,” adds Bhavesh. 

Expanding its commitment to value chain, the Purchasing team is also embarking its suppliers on the journey. That’s why Firmenich was the first in the industry to engage its suppliers to disclose their climate and water performance data through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Supply Chain Program.

A recognized industry-leader in environmental management, Firmenich ranked in the top 1% of Ecovadis’ “Gold Standard” companies. The Group was also featured on the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) “A List” for the third consecutive year, and was named CDP’s Best Supply Chain Company in “Switzerland, Germany and Austria”, a region that counts some of the most sophisticated and sustainable industrial groups in the world.

Future growth

In the years ahead, Firmenich is committed to investing in even closer collaboration between farmers, producers, perfumers, flavorists and its customers, to be able to successfully secure the most exquisite, sustainable and traceable ingredients in the industry.

Bhavesh concludes: “Building on our 122-year heritage of leading our business responsibly, we will continue to invest in win-win partnerships with our farming communities, while driving the most sustainable global footprint possible.  Not only does this enable us to offer our customer’s the best of nature, but it also ensure we have a lasting positive impact on the planet and society.”

Bhavesh Shah