»We’re looking for partners who share our ideas about sustainability.« mark birch Director of Purchasing Sustainability at Symrise
The SAI developed criteria based on sustainable agricultural practices and an easy-to-use evaluation tool, the “Farm Sustainability Assessment.” It allows the companies involved to directly compare suppliers all the way down to the individual growers in a simple and independent way. Furthermore, farmers who have already been verified are listed with their products in the database. “This creates a network of sustainable growers that the members of the platform can work with.”
Here in Germany, Symrise used the Farm Sustainability Assessment with its onion farmers, for instance. “We looked at production and farming practices together and then collected the data.” The company is using this approach for assessing and qualifying the sustainability of raw materials. This method also satisfies the sustainable agriculture requirements of key customers, such as food corporations that buy onion juice concentrate. Symrise intentionally placed responsibility for this with the Purchasing team. “Those who work with the suppliers on a daily basis have the best overview,” says Birch, who is also responsible for purchasing tea at Symrise.
Whether it will ever be possible to purchase all raw materials according to these strict standards is a difficult question according to Birch. Of the roughly 10,000 materials, many of them are bought in very small quantities – such as certain nuts, barks or herbs. Some raw materials are harvested in forests, collected by cooperatives and then sold to Symrise in very small volumes (ten to 50 kilograms per year) via a network of traders. “In such cases, we have limited leverage,” says Birch. “We do, however, try to partner with like-minded organizations that share our sustainability ideals. In doing so, we pave the way for an increasingly responsible handling of biodiversity and our natural resources.”
Bergamot represents one example of the company’s commitment to biodiversity and sustainable purchasing. The citrus plant is grown in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. Its oils are used in perfumes and give Earl Grey tea its distinct citrus note. Symrise cooperates closely with the company Capua 1880, which has been producing bergamot oils for five generations. The family-owned company processes more than half of the entire harvest in the region, which accounts for four-fifths of global production.
Other partners include the University of Calabria, the Unionberg Association and the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT). Together, they invest in research and development regarding issues like the more efficient use of production by products – such as flavors from the previously unused juice and the oils in the fruit rinds, which can be extracted via innovative technologies. Furthermore, Symrise and its network partners in Calabria are working with 500 growers in the region to make their farming more sustainable.
An important component of their commitment is the protection of biodiversity. The parties develop standards for procuring and using raw materials in a way that promotes local diversity. For example, bergamot is grown relatively close to the Mediterranean and Ionian coasts. Symrise and its partners want to find out what impact this has on the local marine life. This allows them to protect living beings on land and in the sea.