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Firmenich targets net zero with a natural capital focus

© Shutterstock / T. SchneiderA screen with the headline DSM and Firmenich

Firmenich is the first fragrance company to receive The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) approval for its net zero emissions, including natural capital in move to rounded sustainability and beyond a narrow focus on emissions.

World’s largest privately-owned fragrance and taste company first in industry to have targets approved by SBTi.

The company is setting its sights on rolling out a sustainability drive to its supply chain, committing that 80% of its supply chain by spend will have science-based targets by 2026.

Firmenich’s approach is not just based on emissions, but waste, water and biodiversity.

Firmenich is a global business-to-business company developing ingredients, flavours and fragrances, and has received SBTi validation for its targets, which embrace its supply chain. Focusing on more than emissions, the firm points to how recognition of natural capital in the goods nature provides can be integrated into a rounded sustainability approach.

Verified SBTi targets stretch to Scope 3

Firmenich, the world’s largest fragrance and taste business, has committed to both near- and long-term science-based emissions reduction targets to comply with the 1.5°C target set in the Paris Agreement.

These have been verified and approved by the SBTi. Targets are evaluated during the validation process and SBTi has methods and criteria to ensure alignment with the Net Zero standard.

The company says that sustainable practices have been part of its operational approach for decades, and it is one of only two companies in the world to have received a Triple A listing for climate change, forest and water management from CDP for four years in a row.

Near term science based targets help to build credibility

The company has also been clear about the importance of near-term goals for action, with a 2025 target for the company to be carbon neutral in its operations. These targets include a 50% reduction in Scope 1 and Scope 2, an 8% reduction in Scope 3 GHG emissions vs. 2017, zero waste to landfill, 100% renewable energy and 100% plastic packaging fully recyclable or reusable.

Overall commitments made to the SBTi include a 90% reduction in absolute scope 3 GHG emissions from a 2021 base year. The supply chain to which this applies is also bound through the SBTi commitment, to a nearer term target of 80% GHG emissions by 2026.

Robustness lies at the cornerstone of the SBTi and the organisation is currently in the process of developing a new measurement, reporting and validation (MRV) framework to measure impact, as its 2021 progress report found that only half of companies with validated targets disclosed their emissions to CDP as was intended.

Commenting on the SBTi link, Senior Vice President Global QHS&E, Firmenich, Neil McFarlane said: “Acting on the climate emergency via a scientific approach is key to effective decarbonisation and by establishing a framework, the SBTi is enabling companies to lead the path to a low carbon future. At Firmenich, we are taking the necessary measures to minimise our impact and aim to lead our industry towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

The importance of going beyond net zero

The company has said that it recognised the importance of nature in supplying its goods and as a company that innovates on taste and smell, Firmenich pays tribute to nature as giving it “everything.”  The notion that nature should not be harmed through business operations is becoming an increasingly important part of a credible approach to ESG and sustainability goals.

The company is applying innovative biotechnology approaches intended to ensure lower environmental impacts, including its “Green Gate” principle to ensure biodegradability, non-bioaccumulation and non-toxicity for aquatic organisms.

Firmenich is also compliant with the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing. This is the legal framework set up to allow for the implementation of one of the key objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity – which is about access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use.

It also aims to achieve group validation against the Union for Ethical Biotrade (UEBT) standard, which ensures proper risk management systems across its natural sourcing portfolio and was set up to hold companies accountable for their conformance to the UEBT’s seven principles:

  • Conservation of biodiversity
  • Sustainable use of biodiversity
  • Fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity.
  • Socio-economic sustainability (productive, financial and market management)
  • Compliance with national and international laws
  • Respect for rights of actors involved in BioTrade activities
  • Clarity about land tenure, right of use and access to natural resources

Plant-based diets help preserve water

Part of the company’s goal is to provide leading food and beverage companies with options that ease the transition to more planet-friendly dietary choices without loss of taste. It is currently working on developing taste in meat alternatives. The company claims that such ‘smart proteins’ will help save 285 billion litres of water per year, a 230% reduction vs 2020.

Firmenich says that due to its approach to the management of water, by 2030 it will reach water neutrality in its operations in water stressed areas.

Firmenich merger with DSM

Firmenich merged with DSM in June 2022, becoming the leading creation and innovation partner in nutrition, beauty and well-being. This is expected to lead to a €500m annual sales uplift particularly from combining DSM’s Food & Beverage and Firmenich’s Taste & Beyond businesses.

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