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Accelerating Growth Building The Toilet Economy

Through our malodor control technology developed in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we have entered a new territory, the toilet economy, conceptualized by the Toilet Board Coalition.

Aligned with our 2020 Pathways to Positive target to improve quality of life through nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation, our Malodor Control Project aims to unravel the mysteries of malodor – as olfaction (sense of smell) is one of the least understood of all the senses.


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is working to reinvent toilets and improve the lives of 4.5 billion people who lack safely managed sanitation services. Malodor control is fundamental to improving this global crisis by helping the millions of people who are not using toilets today change their habits. As a leader in the science of smell with breakthrough malodor control technologies, we are committed to developing a brand new marketplace for innovation, entrepreneurship and investment that will help drive this change.


In FY18, we accelerated progress in taking our malodor control technologies and R&D work into a variety of consumer products. With our customers and partners, we have focused on developing performing and affordable applications that are able to transform the low-income consumer toilet experience. In the process, we have deepened our understanding of consumers’ perception of malodor, as well as their preferences. To mainstream this important work, we have created a One Firmenich Sanitation community with colleagues from all disciplines to make sure that we deliver market products in the shortest possible timeframe. The first products will be available to low-income consumers in the coming six months.


A key focus of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Toilet Board Coalition is to raise global awareness of the sanitation movement – the challenges, the opportunities and the innovative technological solutions that can address people’s needs and build momentum for this developing market. Supporting this movement, Firmenich led a range of advocacy efforts in FY18, from the World Water Week to the World Economic Forum. They culminated with our CEO’s call to action to urgently tackle the sanitation crisis, which he delivered in Mexico at the annual meeting of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The Toilet Board Coalition

Firmenich is a founding member of the Toilet Board Coalition (TBC), a business-led public-private partnership, launched in 2014, that includes multinational corporations, development expert NGOs/IGOs, sanitation entrepreneurs, and investors. The TBC connects large and small companies and ensures close collaboration between all sectors to accelerate the business of sanitation and achieve universal access to sanitation before 2030.

The Toilet Accelerator, launched by the TBC in 2016, is a program that works with promising sanitation business models with the potential to overcome current barriers to access, use, and adherence at scale. More than toilets alone, the accelerator supports commercially viable businesses operating at every stage in the sanitation value chain.

In FY17, Firmenich continued its active role on the TBC’s Steering Committee by enlisting a core team of our colleagues to coach sanipreneurs (sanitation entrepreneurs) and train the sanitation community on our malodor control technologies developed with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – in alignment with the TBC’s role as an advocacy platform aiming to generate a global sanitation movement.

Firmenich’s collaboration with the TBC complements our research on malodor. The TBC helps us identify partners to ensure our new technologies will widely reach base of the pyramid consumers, particularly in India. In FY17, we supported two strategic feasibility studies with the TBC: on sanitation and digitalization, and on sanitation and circular economy. Pune: The World’s First Sanitation City

FY18 saw the first step towards the creation of the world’s first Smart Sanitation City. As part of an interdisciplinary collaboration, the Toilet Board Coalition and the Pune Municipal Corporation, in support of the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat and Smart Cities initiative, launched a Smart Sanitation program in Pune, India. Firmenich India was instrumental in shaping this program, which includes three main work streams: community toilets, with a focus on optimizing use at scale and changing behavior; waste management, resource recovery optimization; and digital technology.

Base of the Pyramid Consumer Insight

Firmenich and the Naandi Foundation have been collaborating since 2011 and have jointly developed the Shared Senses and Sensibilities Methodology, a breakthrough market research approach for low-income consumers. Our objective was to design and implement alternative market research methodologies to better understand low-income consumers in India.

In FY17, Naandi and a professor from HEC Paris, a leading French business school, created AZAO, an independent social business, and offered Firmenich colleagues who designed the Shared Senses program a seat on AZAO’s advisory committee.

AZAO works side by side with corporations, institutions, and NGOs to bring innovative solutions to social issues. Beyond consulting services, AZAO also manages a specialized training module and a research unit dedicated to base of the pyramid strategies, which will help Firmenich tackle challenges of sanitation and nutrition models for the lowest-income populations.

In FY17, with AZAO, we conducted a qualitative and quantitative study on low-income consumers’ usage and attitude towards sanitation in Pune, India. Twentyfive students of the Mahindra Pride School of Pune were recruited and trained to conduct more than 300 interviews.

The results were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Toilet Board Coalition in Amsterdam, in February 2017. The quality of the results was especially useful to the sanipreneurs who very often do not have the ability to conduct consumer insight studies.

Professor Djordjija Petkoski from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a case study on our engagement of low income consumers in India. Download the case study.
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