The challenges facing companies and society today are immense: scarce resources, demographic change, poverty, climate change and dwindling biological diversity, to name just a few. Between now and 2020, the world’s population is expected to grow by some 78 million every year, further exacerbating these problems. This calls for comprehensive solutions – and quickly. In September 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with the intention of obligating the international community to make the shift to sustainable development. Its 17 objectives replaced the previous system of Millennium Development Goals, and they expanded the older plans’ focus on combating poverty by including a global ecological aspect. Achieving these ambitious sustainability objectives will not only require the right set of framework conditions for political activities. Companies and society as a whole are also called on to make their active contribution.
Symrise is aware of its responsibilities in this regard. Our industry and our company are directly affected by the global challenge. Our business model means that we play a role in meeting basic human needs concerning health, nutrition, care and well-being. Many of the traditional production processes are energy-intensive, release potentially harmful emissions and consume precious natural resources. At the same time, if we want to deliver innovative and sustainable products, we are dependent on a new generation of well-educated employees as much as on rich biological diversity from which we can derive our inspiration and creative ideas.
As a result, it is not possible for us to view our business activities in isolation. Instead, we exemplify and promote environmental and social responsibility in the social context around us. We want to make a contribution to shaping this context so that our company and its customers, our employees and society in general can develop and grow within it in a positive and sustainable way. In line with our guiding principle of “Sharing Values,” we are constantly seeking out approaches and solutions along the entire value chain, from the raw material suppliers to the end consumers, that benefit everyone. After all, this is the only way forward if we want to ensure that Symrise enjoys sustainable growth as well.
The four pillars of our sustainability agenda, Footprint, Innovation, Sourcing and Care, form the foundations of our integrated corporate strategy. In these fields, we want to make a concerted effort to reduce the negative impact of our business activities and to enhance our societal added value. This will see us actively contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Detailed short-, medium- and long-term targets are the yardstick by which our ambitions will be measured. We provide honest and transparent information about the successes and setbacks that we encounter on our path to acting sustainably. We will be elaborating these targets over the coming years as part of our drive to integrate our reports as planned. We want to coordinate our financial and non-financial performance indicators to a greater extent and so emphasize further the importance that our commitment to sustainability has for our operations.
We minimize our environmental footprint along the entire value chain. In doing so, we contribute to conserving resources and lowering environmental impact on the one hand while performing active risk management on the other. We also save on costs by increasing efficiency.
We maximize the social and environmental added value of our products. With a constant focus on sustainability criteria in product development, we create resource-conserving and business-enhancing effects not only within our own value chain, but that can also positively influence consumer behavior.
We create lasting value for our employees and our local communities. Along with strengthening the infrastructure and sense of community, we gain new talents and increase motivation among our employees.
We develop the sourcing of our raw materials and their supply chains sustainably. The focus is on a long-term, stable supply of high-quality raw materials as much as the greatest possible transparency and oversight of environmental and social impacts.
As an international company active in the Flavor and Fragrance industry, we actively support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We performed a materiality analysis during the reporting period to enable us to assess the relevance of our different objectives and the reach of our influence. The relevant results are listed here.
Group-wide responsibility for managing sustainability lies with the Symrise Sustainability Board, a global committee that spans all segments. Some of its main tasks include ensuring that sustainability plays an ever-larger role in our core processes, and identifying sustainability objectives that can then be put into action in our various divisions. The Sustainability Board comes together several times per year to ensure that sustainability-relevant topics and the concerns of our important stakeholder groups are considered along the entire value chain. Together with the representatives from the Corporate Compliance and Corporate Communications departments, the sustainability officers from the two segments Flavor & Nutrition and Scent & Care comprise the Sustainability Core Team, which is responsible for the operational management of the sustainability agenda. The team reports directly to the CEO of Symrise AG every quarter.
We manage sustainability in corporate processes using our Integrated Management System. It is based on the international standards on quality (ISO 9001), environmental protection (ISO 14001), work safety (OHSAS 18001), sustainability (ISO 26000), energy (ISO 50001), social responsibility (SA 8000), the generally accepted audit standards of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and other recognized local standards.
A global network of voluntary sustainability ambassadors actively raises awareness for our sustainability agenda: “care teams” contribute to a deeper integration of sustainability into our daily actions by implementing targeted initiatives locally at all of the company’s regional headquarters as well as numerous other international sites. It is our declared goal to have every single employee acting as a sustainability ambassador, aware of their individual role and contribution.
No matter their division, managers have a particularly important role to play in operationalizing the topic of sustainability in their teams and laying out clear goals. Since 2013, we have made sustainability objectives part of the professional goals of each and every one of our managers. Items such as the reduction of our CO2 emissions (Scope 1 and 2), the sustainable orientation of our innovation process or the sourcing of raw materials from sustainable sources are rewarded. In a move to raise awareness of the issue still further, at the end of 2014, we held a series of integration workshops for managers on the topic of sustainability. These workshops took place at our offices in Paris, New York and Holzminden. Concentrating on specific case studies and personal targets helps to promote the ongoing integration of sustainability into day-to-day interaction throughout the Group and into our operating business.
The Sustainability Board is extremely important for the further development and elaboration of our integrated corporate strategy. In 2014, it led a comprehensive review of the strategic orientation of our sustainability commitments. Against this backdrop, we took our “Sharing Values” approach and used it to revise our fields of action, assessing them according to their “value for society” and “value for Symrise,” and identified topics with the greatest potential for shared value creation. We used our stakeholder management process, modeled on the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard, to ascertain the priorities of our most important stakeholder groups. The process is centered on close communication with important groups. We believe that the most important among these are our customers, employees, shareholders, neighbors, political figures, NGOs and business partners.
Given the developments which took place during the course of the reporting year and the integration of the Diana Group, we undertook a validation of the results in 2015, and we assigned a higher “value for Symrise” rating to the fields of action “Ensuring Utmost Product Safety,” “Investment Security,” “Compliance with Human Rights” and “Compliance.” We also included a brand new topic, “Animal Welfare.”
Along with our strategic orientation, identifying key issues also serves as a basis for structuring our reporting pursuant to the GRI G4 guidelines. We provide a full report on topics that were viewed as having a high value for both Symrise and society. We provide a report with at least one indicator on topics that have a high relevance in only one dimension. We provide comprehensive, transparent information on our sustainability activities and key figures in our sustainability report.
The impact of our activities on the environment range from the extraction and processing of raw materials to product development, production and logistics. This is why we evaluate the entire value chain. Our goal is to conserve resources, minimize the effects on the environment and eliminate risks.
We demonstrate our progress regarding resource conservation and emission reduction in a number of ways, one of them being our annual participation in the independent investor initiative CDP. In 2015, Symrise was included in the Climate A List with the best possible rating of 100 A. This move recognizes Symrise as a leader in the Energy & Materials sector for the DACH region and the MDAX and puts us among the top 100 companies in the world that CDP includes on its Climate A List. In conferring this honor upon us, CDP acknowledges Symrise’s ambitious strategic thinking and targets, in addition to the exceptional measures we have adopted to combat climate change. For example, we have been recording and reporting our indirect emissions according to Scope 3 of the GHG Protocol ever since 2011. We are currently evaluating all of our key Scope 3 emissions.
We focus our efforts on achieving more efficient use of raw materials. This encompasses, for example, the development of our own technological solutions such as our patented SymTrap® process. This procedure allows us to fully extract flavor-active components from the side streams of raw material processing – thereby achieving a maximum and simultaneously energy-saving resource yield. Enhanced efficiency not only has environmental implications. It simultaneously cuts spending while also displaying our Symchronize™ initiative in action (Innovative Spirit). We joined forces with customers to develop this integrated supply chain management system, which serves to identify areas of action and issues with the potential for reducing not just our consumption of energy, water and resources, but also our emissions. Our Goal: Excellence in the Supply Chain.
Safeguarding biodiversity is one of our key fields of action. At Symrise, the diversity found in nature is an irreplaceable source of raw materials and inspiration for new flavors and fragrances. Our biodiversity concept extends far beyond the geographic locations of our offices and plants. We not only promote a close-to-nature design for our business facilities and enhance the environmental awareness of our employees, but we also want to create an international supply chain that protects biodiversity and encourages its sustainable usage. This will see us secure the long-term supply of high-quality natural resources while at the same time actively implement the targets of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity, an undertaking committed to the interests of future generations.
We also take into consideration issues which will, in the future, impact on our business activities or be impacted by the latter in a negative manner. One of these issues is water. Over the coming decades, many regions on the planet will experience severe shortages of this essential resource. Currently, no Symrise site is located in a region under threat of a water shortage, nor does it seem we are at risk in the immediate future. We want to identify negative developments early on, so we monitor our supply chain and are in constant communication with our suppliers regarding the matter. Our commitment to water management was acknowledged by the CDP Water Program 2015, where we received the second-highest grade (B), putting us well ahead of the CPD average (D).
Innovation forms the foundations of our work and is, at the same time, our core competency. We foster it by undertaking considerable investments in research and development, which also sees us enter into close partnerships with universities, research institutes and our customers ( Endless Diversity). The challenge is to develop products that meet the various demands and expectations of our customer base and, at the same time, are capable of generating long-lasting added value for our customers and society as a whole.
Innovative and sustainable solutions for products are something we can achieve by focusing on green chemistry, natural raw materials, efficient use of resources in production, progressive technology and intelligent networking. We create a customized sustainability concept for each strategic product group. To this aim, we devised a new evaluation system in 2015 that enables us to identify each product’s specific impact on sustainability, be it in terms of energy consumption or water usage. This way, we and our customers can steer product development with even greater precision and optimize the relevant end product.
Consumers prefer products that contain natural ingredients over synthetic ones. The proportion of natural raw materials in our portfolio has grown further, in particular from our acquisition of Diana. We are, however, not pursuing a complete changeover to natural raw materials. In many cases, this would have complex social and ecological repercussions. For one thing, producing synthetic ingredients generally requires less energy and water than growing, harvesting and transporting their natural equivalents. And, for another thing, the enhanced use of natural raw materials often results in competition with food production for farmland and results in a situation where monocultures pose a threat to biodiversity. Taking menthol as an example, the synthetic variant (in use at Symrise for over 30 years) has a CO2 footprint some ten times below the level of menthol derived from peppermint itself.
Safety always takes precedence with all of our products. The Global Product Compliance Competence Center is responsible for ensuring outstanding product safety. It oversees the handling of regulatory requirements, performs toxicological studies on raw materials and products, and supplies data about the findings for customers and employees over the world.
Our product safety policy and good manufacturing practice is the global basis for responsible behavior with products and manufacturing processes. These guidelines steer quality control for both production processes and the production environment and apply to the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and active ingredients as well as for cosmetics, food and animal feed products. They are defined by the laws governing pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and foods.
Many requirements apply across product groups, such as quality requirements, clear product labeling and hygiene requirements. Independent audits and recognized certifications provide us with support as we strive to reach the highest standards and provide transparent evidence for our achievements. For example, 100 % of our production sites in the Flavor & Nutrition operating segment are certified using standards recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative.
The success of Symrise is dependent on the long-term stability of its access to high-quality raw materials. Our supply chain is incredibly complex in this regard: For our portfolio of approximately 30,000 products, we use some 10,000 different natural and synthetic raw materials sourced from over 100 countries. As a result, we face an array of challenges ranging from negative environmental effects from the sourcing of raw materials to protecting social standards in countries that experience, to some degree, problematic socio-political conditions.
Sustainable sourcing is something that serves our obvious own interests if we want to secure optimum quality levels, long-term access to resources and stable prices. In our responsible sourcing model, we concentrate on obtaining raw materials from regions surrounding our production sites, foster long-lasting relationship with our suppliers and enter into strategic partnerships with our key customers. Integrated social and ecological commitment on the ground is our contribution to sustainable local value creation. We believe that the issue of human rights is of particular importance. We are committed to upholding human rights, in particular the basic principles set down by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Abiding by these principles requires us to place high demands on our suppliers. These must provide information on sustainability, and we check any suppliers that are in a particularly high-risk category, i.e. one which are sources of crucial raw materials or beset by widely known problems. All Symrise production sites are listed on the international Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX) platform. This tool helps us assess how our key suppliers are faring in terms of factors such as human rights, environmental awareness, health and safety, integrity and other ethical issues. At the same time, it lets us present our own data to customers.
We have set ambitious goals for ourselves as part of our long-term drive to create a completely sustainable system for sourcing resources. In 2015, for example, we adopted a 3-step plan in regard to palm oil: By mid-2016, we will transition to 100 % RSPO Mass Balance-certified palm oil. Between now and the end of 2018, we will work with our strategic suppliers on implementing fully sustainable sourcing for our prime palm oil derivatives. We plan to expand this to include the entire sourcing of our secondary palm oil derivatives by the end of 2020. We believe that great potential lies in multi-stakeholder approaches in which we create sustainable supply chains together with our customers, other companies and figures from civil society. For this reason, we joined the Sustainable Spices initiative in 2013. This initiative works towards sustainable business models in the spice production industry. We are also a founding member of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which promotes improvements in the beef value chain.
Animal welfare is an extremely important topic at Symrise. Symrise does not process any animals itself. However, our takeover of Diana has caused a slight increase in the proportion of animal-based raw materials. We report extensively on the topic in our online Sustainability Record.
We see ourselves as an integral part of society. We therefore want to provide our employees and the communities that host our sites with an environment in which they can develop sustainably. The work this entails for us stretches from providing safe and healthy workplace conditions to supporting municipal infrastructures. Like other companies, we also have to tackle the task of positioning ourselves as an appealing company in regard to demographic changes. We have the dedication of our workforce of more than 8,000 employees from over 20 nations to thank for our success. To ensure this for the future as well, we offer our employees a host of employment benefits and career opportunities.
We have positioned ourselves as an attractive employer with a fair remuneration policy that is rooted in transparency, a logical structure and comparability. Other elements that enhance our appeal include benefits such as retirement arrangements and options for improving work-life balance.
With our targeted and comprehensive employee development and advancement measures, we are training the current and next generation of employees to meet the challenges posed by constantly changing market conditions and providing them with tailored opportunities for further education based on the precepts of lifelong learning. For example, in addition to specialized retraining programs for employees in our laboratories and production who want to become flavor or mixing specialists, we offer general career development measures such as language, project management and IT courses.
The tremendous diversity within our workforce with regard to ethnicity, cultural background, gender, age, religion and other aspects is something that we view as inspirational and valuable. We promote diversity and equal opportunities via our structured diversity program, which has guidelines for hiring processes and personnel development at its core. If, for example, two applicants are equally qualified, we prioritize the local candidate. We also use targeted incentives to increase the number of female managers and achieve structural transformations. Furthermore, wage structures are independent of gender.
Given the industry we operate in, occupational health and safety are of particular significance at Symrise. Due to the divergent local situations and needs, the specific measures and programs are implemented at the sites individually, guided by corresponding systems and working groups. Each production site has its own occupational health and safety committee, comprising employees from management as well as other levels. All employees undergo health and safety training courses designed specifically for their given activity. There are other elements too, such as a “health week,” when employees are offered information on issues such as nutrition and healthy eating, healthy sleep patterns for shift workers and safeguarding health in the workplace.
Our subsidiary TESIUM bundles our competence concerning the safety of our systems, thereby ensuring the protection of staff, environment and host communities. Alongside conventional safety-related issues, TESIUM also considers environmental and energy aspects across the entire life cycle of the systems. An important tool for this is Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). It forms a basis for cross-hierarchy teams of Symrise employees to develop new solutions and proposals.