IFF Leads the Way Towards Clean Fragrance

In May 2016, IFF debuted PuraVita, the world’s first Cradle to Cradle Certified™ fragrance. Certified at the Gold level, PuraVita achieved a platinum material health rating and served as a pioneering proof of concept for the clean fragrance. IFF and its perfumers, Yves Cassar and Pascal Gaurin, worked with Michelle Pfeiffer to develop Henry Rose, a range of five luxury fragrances Cradle to Cradle Certified at the Gold level. Here, IFF Vice President of Global Sustainability Kip Cleverley discusses IFF’s sustainability strategy, and how the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program is helping the company meet its sustainability commitments plus deliver value to customers.

What role does sustainability play in IFF’s business strategy? 

Sustainability is an integral part of who we are as a company, and this is reflected in our purpose: to redefine how we live in and care for the resources of our world. More than a flavors and fragrances company, we are committed to advancing our promise to do better for people and planet and to supporting our customers in their efforts to do the same. Our brand mantra of Uncommon Sense encourages our customers and employees to reject convention in favor of delivering what the world needs. 

Sustainability is also a key component of IFF’s Vision 2021 business strategy to achieve accelerated growth. Our sustainability strategy is comprised of four pillars:

                      - Reducing our environmental footprint

                      - Strengthening responsible sourcing                                                        

                      - Driving sustainable innovation

                      - Embracing people and communities

To support the shift toward a restorative and regenerative economy, we have embedded our commitment to circular design across our business, including the earliest stages of our research & development and product development processes. We track our progress against our material health and circularity commitments with a set of internal metrics to ensure we are moving forward as a market leader and meeting the demands of customers and consumers. 

In 2018, we launched EcoEffective+, a set of 2025 goals to further support sustainable production patterns, product innovation and a circular design mindset at IFF by reducing our energy, water and waste impacts. We are on track to achieving these goals, including our science-based target of reducing our absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2015 levels by 2025. We also uphold commitments and policies related to responsible procurement and supplier engagement, including supporting all internationally recognized human rights standards and ensuring that the small amount of palm oil in our supply chain comes from sustainable sources.

When it comes to delivering products with a positive impact on people and the planet, what are some of the most critical challenges faced by the fragrance industry today?

Increasingly, consumers are demanding transparency from brands and shifting their preferences toward sustainable products, yet the definition of “sustainability” can be extremely diverse depending on their personal concerns or priorities. The challenge of achieving holistic product sustainability given various stakeholder expectations can be a complex process that requires close collaboration with all our stakeholders and full alignment with our business functions.

Building consumer trust is also a business challenge. For example, if a product is good for people and planet in terms of its carbon footprint or social impact but there is a lack of public awareness or clarity about it, it may not do well in the marketplace. Similarly, clarifying negative perceptions or disinformation is a challenge across many industries, fragrances included. With so many competing sources of content out there today, consumers may not necessarily know what products or ingredients to trust and, in the absence of clear information, may choose to avoid a category of products altogether.

Another challenge for our industry and for our customers is lack of agreement on what a “sustainable fragrance” is, and how to measure it. The principles of Cradle to Cradle as expressed by William McDonough in his two books – Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things and The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability, which are operationalized by the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard –offer a comprehensive third-party framework for defining and measuring how circular and “sustainable” a product (in our case a fragrance) truly is.     

How is the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard helping IFF address sustainability on the product development side as well as the customer delivery side? 

Because of the broad definition of sustainability, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly what a “sustainable” or “natural” fragrance is. For IFF, sustainable innovation requires a comprehensive approach that considers a product’s full life cycle – from responsible sourcing (i.e., ensuring ethical practices throughout the supply chain) and material health to reducing our environmental footprint. 

Because the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard touches on all the relevant aspects of sustainability, it serves as an important guide to help us effectively and comprehensively respond to consumer needs and create products we are proud of. 

Cradle to Cradle Certified recognizes this and identifies five of the most important categories of environmental and social performance, then rates the entire product based on the lowest of those scores. When a customer asks us to create a “sustainable” product, we can refer to Cradle to Cradle Certified’s common language and lean into different attributes (such as renewability or biodegradability), depending on the customer’s objectives. 

Cradle to Cradle Certified also helps us build credibility and trust with customers and consumers. Material health is among the most important sustainability attributes we can deliver because it bridges the gap between consumer perception and data-driven science. A fragrance ingredient that warrants a platinum Material Health score can be natural or synthetic, and Cradle to Cradle Certified helps us respond to the market demand for ingredients people can trust while communicating about it in a way that doesn’t require a PhD in chemistry to understand. Since our products are often just one ingredient within a product category, such as laundry detergent or soap, this clarity can be critical for delivering trusted products that perform and delight the senses. 

IFF has now certified a fragrance as proof of concept and developed the collection of Henry Rose fine fragrances with Michelle Pfeiffer. What opportunities do you see next for improving the safety, circularity and responsibility of products within the fragrances sector and across the cosmetics industry?

Henry Rose achieving the first Cradle to Cradle Certified fine fragrance was a breakthrough in sustainability, circular design and transparency for the industry, and we were proud to contribute to this effort. We believe that this trend among our customers, as well as the consumer demand for material health and sustainability in fragrances, will only grow over time. 

As the first in our industry to embark on this journey – and now with many years of experience with the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard under our belt – we have a sizeable and growing subset of our ingredient catalog that is pre-assessed at the Cradle to Cradle Certified Platinum level for material health. 

Combined with other advantages of our supply chain and manufacturing processes, our product development experience makes Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold with Platinum material health performance more readily attainable. 

In addition, we are continually making the sustainability metrics of our fragrance ingredients even more transparent for our perfumers, enabling them to more easily find ingredients that meet their standards when creating sustainable perfumes. This flexibility supports a robust pipeline of future opportunities in which we are further embedding circular design principles into our approach. 

Our experience in this arena presents many potential directions for our customers. No matter where they are on the sustainability spectrum, we are ready to innovate with any company who is interested in developing Cradle to Cradle Certified products. The more certified sustainability attributes we can deliver through our products, the more we will achieve both our own and our customers’ objective of doing better for people and planet. 


Pictured above: Kip Cleverley, IFF Vice President of Global Sustainability