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Fast-Tracking Green Scientific Approach to Sustainability

New science and technology initiatives are at the heart of our research activities. We strive to create ingredients for our industry that minimize impact on the environment. We continually evaluate our processing methods to ensure energy efficiency and minimal waste.


Where our raw materials are derived from synthetic processes, the use of green chemistry principles is an essential part of our process-development activities. We continue to invest in areas such as catalytic chemistry, both organo -and metalo-, in order to devise cleaner processes. To better manage our overall environmental impacts, we are developing a new metrics system to help our synthetic chemists make further improvements. Firmenich is dedicated to developing processes based on the “Principles of Green Chemistry”.

Firmenich’s biodegradation research is changing the way we design new ingredients for the future. All new Firmenich fragrance ingredients are tested for biodegradation. Beyond regulatory requirements, we proactively subject all compounds with the potential to go to market to the same tests. We are committed to creating only biodegradable ingredients as part of our Green Gate strategy.

Biodegradation is the process by which living organisms break down carbon-based substances to inorganic end products like water or carbon dioxide and biomass. It can occur in the presence (aerobic biodegradation) or absence (anaerobic biodegradation) of oxygen and can take days, weeks, years or centuries.

To test biodegradability, Firmenich uses established guidelines, such as Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 301 and 302 tests, for each new ingredient. When ingredients successfully break down to inorganic end products, they can be described as “readily”, “inherently” or “ultimately biodegradable”, depending on how long the process takes.

Many of our ingredient structures are inspired by natural compounds. While these can contain very complex structural features, their biodegradability often fares better than compounds from other industries that might exhibit similar complexity, but lack natural counterparts for design.

Information on the biodegradation of chemical products is a fundamental component of environmental regulations worldwide. Firmenich recognized early on that building substantial in-house expertise on biodegradation was important. We assembled a team of highly recognized scientists in R&D and Corporate Compliance who fully embrace our path to biodegradable ingredients. Firmenich’s biodegradation laboratories are integrated in the R&D Division, allowing direct scientific support in state-of-the-art environmental microbiology and biochemistry, as well as access to analytical innovation and organic synthesis labs.


White biotechnology uses enzymatic or fermentation processes to make ingredients, as an alternative to chemical synthesis. This process allows us to make ingredients from renewable natural materials, such as CO2, glucose or fat, rather than petroleum. In 2014, after more than 10 years of research, we launched CLEARWOOD®, a white biotechnology fragrance ingredient. In 2016, less than two years after its release, CLEARWOOD® won the Innovation Award from the Soap, Perfume, Cosmetic and Detergent Experts Association (SEPAWA), one of our industry’s largest and most prestigious associations in Europe.


REACH (EC 1907/2006) is the EU regulation established in 2002 to help minimize the adverse effects of chemical production on the environment and on human health. Firmenich embraced this challenge early on and aims to automatically supply REACH-compliant chemicals and fragrances to our customers.

Making our perfumery palette REACH-ready, we are proud that Firmenich successfully secured the use of its entire perfumery palette in the European Union, after a decade of thorough work The REACH regulation entered into force in 2007, transferring the burden of proof to demonstrate the safety of chemical substances from regulatory authorities to individual companies who manufacture or import chemicals. The industry has had until May 31, 2018 to register by giving evidence showing safety and compliance and thus avoiding market exclusion and/or production restriction.


At Firmenich, our scientific foundation drives innovation to improve product sustainability. A safer, more sustainable environment requires less toxic and persistent materials and safer ways to produce and deliver new ingredients. It also requires information and methods to make wise and timely decisions about chemicals. Firmenich scientists work closely with customers, competitors and academic groups to develop transparent methodologies, tools and strategies for product safety in the company and the industry.
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