Geneva, Switzerland, March 27, 2019 – Firmenich, the world’s largest privately-owned perfume and taste company, today launched its third case study with Wharton School’s Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at the University of Pennsylvania. Demonstrating how business can be a catalyst for societal innovation, the study highlights Firmenich’s pioneering work in sanitation with its breakthrough malodor control technologies. Firmenich is reinventing the toilet experience in low income countries by eliminating the unpleasant smell of public toilets helping to contain the spread of diseases from human waste. After launching this case study with the next generation of business leaders at Wharton, Firmenich’s CEO, Gilbert Ghostine, also shared this work with World Bank executives demonstrating how business can effectively advance the UN SDGs.

“When we realized that smell was the greatest barrier preventing people from using toilets, we decided to become part of the solution, as we have been investing in the science malodor since the 1930s,” said Gilbert Ghostine, Firmenich CEO. “Empowering students and young professionals is a critical building block to securing a sustainable future and the foundation of our engagement with Wharton and the World Bank to stimulate “inclusive capitalism” business models.”

Today, 4.5 billion people worldwide lack access to safe sanitation facilities, causing serious epidemics and a child mortality rate of 500,000 children under the age of five every year. Following a 4-year research partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with a co-investment of USD 13 million in total, Firmenich launched a range of breakthrough malodor control technologies in 2017. These solutions have started to play a key role in affordable cleaning products in South Africa and Bangladesh, to make safe toilets smell good in an affordable way.

From Left to Right: Dominic Johnson, Director of Business Operations at the Wharton School and leader of the Ideas for Action Initiative; Gilbert Ghostine, CEO, Firmenich; Dr. Bérangère Magarinos-Ruchat, Global Head of Sustainability, Firmenich; Dr. Djordjija Petkoski, Lecturer and Senior Fellow at the Wharton School.

“At Wharton we want to inspire our students to follow Firmenich’s pioneering model, connecting breakthrough ideas with the execution of tangible solutions that advance the SDGs,” said Dr. Djordjija Petkoski, Lecturer and Senior Fellow at the Wharton School. “Firmenich’s cutting-edge science will sustainably improve peoples’ quality of life, while contributing to countries’ economic and social development.”

“Mobilizing today’s youth is one of the most critical preconditions for delivering the SDGs at scale”, said Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank Group Senior Vice President. “That’s why we partner with universities around the world and companies like Firmenich, to mobilize youth as change agents across our Ideas for Action program. This sanitation case study is a good example of how a company can put its expertise to work to solve real life problems”.

Following his dialogue with Wharton School students, Firmenich’s CEO met with leaders at the World Bank in Washington to discuss how to advance the new sanitation economy together, from creating innovative financial instruments, such as low-cost loans, to funding sanitation-improving projects.

Each year, Mahmoud Mohieldin of the World Bank together with Wharton School’s Zicklin Center, organize Ideas for Action, a youth competition for 18 to 35-year olds, to develop innovative ideas to advance the SDGs. The Firmenich sanitation case study will be shared with all applicants to push their thinking on societal innovation. This year’s study builds on two prior papers developed in partnership between Firmenich and Wharton School’s Zicklin Center, on the responsible sourcing of vanilla in Uganda and on consumer insights amongst low income consumers in India.

The new toilet economy is estimated at $200 billion globally, with $62 billion in India alone by 2021. Be it waste upcycling into organic fertilizers or biofuels, building and cleaning new toilets, or shaping smart health solutions, such as digital toilet sensors to detect diseases, this new market opens up a realm of opportunities for all sectors.

About Firmenich

Firmenich is the world’s largest privately-owned perfume and taste company, founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1895. Driven by its purpose to create positive emotions to enhance wellbeing, naturally, Firmenich has designed many of the world’s best-known perfumes and tastes, bringing delight to over four billion consumers every day. Renowned for its world-class research and creativity, as well as its leadership in sustainability, each year, Firmenich invests 10% of its turnover in R&D to understand and share the best that nature has to offer responsibly. Firmenich had an annual turnover of 3.7 billion Swiss Francs at end June 2018.