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Maggie Kohn headshot

Global Fragrance Company IFF Uses Uncommon Sense to Tackle Common Challenges

By Maggie Kohn

Is it possible for a fragrance to solve the world’s greatest challenges? According to Kip Cleverley, vice president of global sustainability at International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), it is.

Speaking during the first day of 3BL Forum, Cleverley shared his company’s pursuit to focus not simply on doing less bad – for example, by reducing water use, something they have done – but by doing more good.  “Our vision is all about driving transformational change by developing products that are truly circular and do no harm,” he shared.

Find like-minded partners who share your vision

Enter Michele Pfeiffer. Yes, the actress known for her roles in such movies as Bat Man and Married to the Mob. It turns out that Pfieiffer is also an ardent environmentalist who sits on the board of the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), dedicated to improving human health and the environment. After struggling to find a fragrance that she could feel good about wearing, both for the safety of the ingredients and the scents themselves, she decided to create a line of her own called Henry Rose named after her two grown children.

She approached companies, including IFF, with the challenge of producing the first EWG-verified and Cradle to Cradle-certified fragrance. IFF, arguably one of the world’s leading innovators of taste, scent, nutrition and ingredients – took up the challenge, beating out the competition.

With that, Cleverley said, the real work began. Under the EWG criteria, IFF’s perfumers were limited to a palette of roughly 300 ingredients, compared with the typical 3,000. In addition, every single ingredient had to be disclosed in order to receive verification. IFF also had to abide by Cradle to Cradle’s five quality categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness practices.

Cleverley boiled down the process for others, outlining a few core steps: “You start by getting rid of anything in your product that does harm. Next, make sure your ingredients are plant-based, and that your suppliers are employing sustainable farming practices,” he said. “Then, you manufacture your product using 100 percent renewable energy. Finally, you ensure your product is biodegradable.”

“It’s actually not that hard,” he quipped.

 Voila. After five years of work,  IFF had created a truly circular fragrance for Pfeifer – in fact, five distinct scents for the Henry Rose line that debuted online this spring. According to the company, the fragrances are the first to receive the distinction of EWG Verified and Cradle to Cradle Certified at the gold level, with a material health score of platinum.

IFF challenges employees to be bold

The Henry Rose line is just one example of how IFF is working to do more good through its core product line as part of its new corporate purpose and brand identity rolled out earlier this year.

Based on the theme “Uncommon Sense,” the new brand image encourages IFF customers and employees “to reject convention in favor of delivering what the world needs” and “to create a culture where ideas and possibilities flow.”

“This is the type of approach that has led to some of the biggest dreams and greatest inventions of our world,” said Andreas Fibig, IFF Chairman & CEO, announcing the company’s new brand. “These are the ideas that have allowed us to fly, that have sent humans to the moon; that let us dream of living on Mars. Uncommon sense opens the door for us to make the impossible, possible.”

And hopefully consumers will think it smells good, too.

David Bartus/Pexels

Maggie Kohn headshot

Maggie Kohn is excited to be a contributor to Triple Pundit to illustrate how business can achieve positive change in the world while supporting long-term growth. Maggie worked for more than 20 years at the biopharma giant Merck & Co., Inc., leading corporate responsibility and social business initiatives. She currently writes, speaks and consults on corporate responsibility and social impact when she is not busy fostering kittens for her local animal shelter. Click here to learn more.

Read more stories by Maggie Kohn