Interview with Dr. Marcus Eh, Senior Vice President Global Marketing, Aroma Molecules Division, Symrise

Dr. Marcus Eh

The question of sustainability is a main marketing tool for almost all consumer products meanwhile. How do you tackle this issue for fragrances?

Consumers today look closely at the products they buy considering their impact on nature, people, and society as a whole. They want to purchase products with a purpose.

Bearing this in mind, we rather consider sustainability a strategic approach than a marketing tool. Because at Symrise, we believe that economic success, sustainability, and social acceptance go hand in hand. This helps continuously increasing the value of a company and minimizing risks, thus strengthening its future viability – for us, our customers, consumers, suppliers, and all stakeholders along our value chain alike.

Also, our business model benefits from the diversity of nature and its resources. We manufacture our approximately 35,000 products based on around 10,000 – mostly natural – raw materials such as vanilla, citrus products and flower and plant materials. Nature acts as a source of inspiration and innovation for us. For this reason, we have committed ourselves to protecting biodiversity.

Within our integrated corporate strategy, we are focusing on five steps:

  1. Raw materials: We aim at helping to conserve biodiversity, protect the climate, and respect human rights.
  2. Product development: We want to use natural raw materials as efficiently as possible and offer biodegradable products.
  3. Production: We are working on implementing processes using the principles of green chemistry in our production processes. Also, we are working on reducing or avoiding waste, and we try to reuse raw materials and solvents from our own processes or that of other industries.
  4. Customers: We aim at communicating transparently and offer environmentally friendly products.
  5. Consumers: We support our customers in raising awareness for sustainable products.

Upcycling in the world of fragrance; a new approach? Is it a sustainable solution?

Let’s start with the second part of your question. Upcycling represents one of the most sustainable approaches in the fragrance industry. Actually, our company began that way 150 years ago. Our founding fathers Wilhelm Haarmann and Ferdinand Tiemann discovered as first how to synthesize vanillin from coniferin, the cambial juice of pine trees. With this discovery, back in 1874 they laid one of the foundation stones for the fragrance industry by using side streams of the wood industry.

Today, we are again using sides streams from wood, this time via the paper industry. BTW, we have received an FSC Chain of Custody Certification for processing natural feedstock coming from pine trees and have successfully passed recertification several times as the first company in its sector. We are using this approach for many fragrance ingredients today. Wherever possible, we derive them from by-products of other industries using complex processes based on the principles of green chemistry: We are using raw sulfate turpentine oil for instance, which occurs as a natural component of pine during the paper production process. From it, we produce Dihydromyrcenole and Linaloole, Cyclodumol Acetate und Ecomusk R. The latter offers particular benefits in regard to resource efficiency, processes used and carbon dioxide footprint. Another example relates to L-Carvon from Limonene that we obtain from side streams from orange juice production. It also serves as a basis for our Cannabidiol as well as our recently awarded Lilybelle. We are looking into other production processes too what side streams or by-products we could obtain from them or which renewable raw materials we could use. In general, we aim at replacing fossil-based raw materials for renewable ones.

In this process, we are using the Green Chemistry Score (GCS) for all ingredients. It helps us develop and implement ways to improve the sustainability of each product. This relates for example to our fragrance ingredient Globanone. It is readily biodegradable and comes from a very effective manufacturing process. The latest capacity expansion helped achieve further progress towards better sustainability: The effectiveness has significantly improved with the use of catalysts. At the same time, it allowed us to considerably reduce the use of solvents. Now, we also use solvents made from renewable raw materials that are also recycled. The holistic process improvement of the Globanone process also includes efficient energy recovery and an enormous reduction in water consumption. The process works almost waste free.

You won the "Best Sustainable Ingredient for Fragrance" Award at the 5th Barcelona Perfumery Congress for your fragrance Lilybelle®. What are the raw material for this fragrance?

The core of Lilybelle®'s success lies in its composition. Utilizing D-Limonene, a side-stream raw material from the orange juice industry, Symrise has created an ingredient that is both, readily biodegradable and renewable and upcycled. This aligns perfectly with the principles of green chemistry, reflecting the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

What characteristics does Lilybelle® have?

Lilybelle® goes beyond the characteristics of a sustainable product alone. It stands out for its exceptional scent profile, offering floral, lily of the valley facets, alongside ozonic-green, watery, and airy undertones. This unique Aroma Molecule also incorporates creamy-caring aspects, making it a versatile addition to any fragrance creation. Lilybelle® embodies transparency, performance, and freshness, enhancing any scent with its distinctive qualities.

What are your future ideas for responsible and sustainable fragrances?

We are always looking for areas to innovate. This includes existing and novel paths, such as:

  • We will further focus on green chemistry and develop methods and processes that treat our environment well, use less energy, and produce fewer byproducts. To do so, we use the Green Chemistry Score. This metric helps us track the environmental, social, and economic impacts of our products and processes. The GCS refers to the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry.
  • At the starting point of our products, we want to understand the environmental impact of fragrance ingredients from production to disposal. For this, we are building on lifecycle analysis. This comprehensive approach helps in identifying areas where we can improve our processes to reduce environmental impact, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • This also includes applying eco-design principles to fragrance products, focusing on every aspect from the sourcing of raw materials to packaging. This holistic approach aims at minimizing environmental impact throughout the product’s life cycle.
  • Another aspect relates to further exploring into biodegradable fragrance ingredients to reduce their environmental impact.
  • Our circular economy approach forms one big area of innovation to support the principles of green chemistry. Within this area, we are exploring the use of further by-products and side streams from other industries as raw material. This includes innovative extraction techniques that will allow us to extract scents from previously unusable or hard-to-process natural sources.
  • The industry is moving towards more ethical and sustainable sourcing of raw materials. Sourcing should respectfully treat the environment and respect the rights and wellbeing of workers in the supply chain.
  • We are also working towards maximizing our resource efficiency - this means using fewer raw materials, water, and energy in the production of fragrances. This includes techniques such as process optimization, energy recovery systems, and minimizing waste in manufacturing processes.
  • Another field aims at reducing our CO2 footprint. This includes using renewable energy sources and optimizing logistics and distribution to lower emissions. We are also looking into the use of bio-based feedstocks, to lower our carbon footprint compared to fossil-based inputs, such as side streams from the paper and orange juice industry.
  • On the consumer side, we see people purchasing more consciously and looking for clear and transparent labelling. We address this wish by honestly communicating the origin, safety, and environmental impact of our ingredients.
  • On the creative side, we will widen the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This helps us to predict and create scent combinations, streamline production processes, and customize fragrances for individual consumers.
  • And finally, our research and development is increasingly developing high-impact molecules. These potent fragrance compounds work effectively in smaller quantities, thus reducing the volume of substances used and potentially lessening the environmental impact.

These measures contribute to the areas of sustainability, environmental responsibility, and the efficient use of resources, aligning with global efforts to combat climate change and preserve natural resources.

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