Geneva, Switzerland, July 21, 2017 – Building on its commitment to diversity and inclusion, Firmenich is expanding its collaboration with blind and visually impaired people as “sensory panelists” to assess flavors and fragrances. Following successful pilots in Mexico and the U.K., involving 20 visually impaired panelists, the Group is expanding its commitment to inclusive panels across Geneva, Mumbai and Singapore in 2017.

“As a family company, we are committed to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion, to positively contribute to our customers, colleagues and communities,” said Gilbert Ghostine, CEO of Firmenich. “I am proud of our inclusive panels, as they harness visually impaired peoples’ acute sensory capabilities, while offering these talented individuals a path to financial independence and social recognition within their communities.”

Firmenich currently employs 100 sensory panellists around the world, including 20 percent of blind or visually impaired professionals. “Creating an inclusive culture takes both commitment and action. By working with local associations for the blind, we are strengthening our diversity and sharpening our capabilities, while creating sustainable job opportunities,” said Mieke Van de Capelle, Chief Human Resources Officer at Firmenich. “Building on the success of our pilot programs in Mexico and London, we look forward to expanding the diversity of our sensory teams worldwide.” 

"Blind and visually impaired panellists are a step ahead of those who can see," said David Lyon, Global Sensory Director for Perfumery and Flavors at Firmenich. “They often demonstrate an acute memory for flavors and odors, and their motivation to train as panellists often results in them becoming highly proficient sensory professionals in a short timeframe.”  

Blind and visually impaired panellists undergo the same rigorous training as other panellists to learn how to identify and describe highly complex smell and taste profiles. To recruit panellists, Firmenich works closely with organizations such as Comité Internacional ProCiegos in Mexico, Middlesex Association for the Blind in the UK, the College of Fragrance for the Visually Impaired (COFVI) in India, the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, and the Association pour le Bien des Aveugles et Malvoyants in Geneva. 

Firmenich also supports the Kilimanjaro blind trust, working with visually impaired people for consumer testing of its Body and Home Care products. Furthering its commitment to inclusiveness and diversity, Firmenich also offers a range of opportunities for professionals with disabilities, for instance, its decades-old partnership with SGIPA, a Geneva-based social enterprise dedicated to integrating the disabled into society through work and education. Today, 21 people with physical or mental disabilities are successfully employed in various support functions at Firmenich headquarters, from on-site maintenance and deliveries to canteen logistics and recycling. Similarly, Firmenich Brazil is working with a local non-profit organization to recruit and train 10 employees with mental disabilities.

About Firmenich

Firmenich is the world’s largest privately-owned company in the fragrance and flavor business. Founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1895, it has created many of the world’s best-known perfumes and flavors that billions of consumers enjoy each day. Its passion for smell and taste is at the heart of its success. It is renowned for its world-class research and creativity, as well as its thought leadership in sustainability and exceptional understanding of consumer trends. Each year, it invests 10% of its turnover in R&D, reflecting its continuous desire to understand, share and sublimate the best that nature has to offer. Firmenich had an annual turnover of 3.2 billion Swiss Francs at end June 2016.