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The Three Pillars of Smart Sustainability

Contact Author Jeb Gleason-Allured, Editor
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This is only an excerpt of the full article that appeared in P&F Magazine. The full content is not currently available online.

Norman Bourlag—agronomist, Nobel laureate and founder of the “green revolution”—has spent the last decade and more imploring the world to take a clear-eyed view of agricultural productivity, particularly as it relates to organics. (Read an in-depth talk with Bourlag at While he doesn’t deplore organic farming, Bourlag does stress that the mechanics of such a growing system can have unintended, ecologically disastrous effects. For instance, he estimates that all of the available organic manure in the world could help feed just about 4 billion people. In addition, clearing lands for organic and natural crops and nitrogen-bearing livestock could potentially decimate already threatened forests.

Yet Bourlag’s points are far from common knowledge among consumers and even some manufacturers. The result is that the consumer continues to demand “safer and greener” organic products, customer companies place high value on launching organic lines, and the flavor and fragrance industry labors to manage and meet the demand. Is this sustainable?

Such was the tone of Firmenich global sustainable development director Boet Brinkgreve’s nuanced presentation before Centifolia's 7th International Congress on perfumery and natural raw materials. “We want to make sure the next generation has what we have now,” he said.

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Projected deforestation in Borneo—1950 to 2020

Projected deforestation in Borneo

Credit: Radday, M, WWF Germany. 2007. “Borneo Maps,” personal e-mail (Jan 24, 2007); Cartographer/Designer Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal.

The Next Chapter in Naturals: Monique Remy

Why is it that the industry seems to be talking so much about defending naturals, asked Monique Remy (founder of the eponymous IFF-owned natural material boutique) during comments delivered to the delegates of this year’s Centifolia event in Grasse, France. After all, she added, they’re able to defend themselves. Nature is capricious, Remy explained via an English interpreter. It decides quality.

This year’s event, which explored the intersections of the naturals boom, safety and regulatory burdens, ecological sustainability and (most poignantly) fair dealings with local producers around the globe, served as a summit for the fragrance industry to chart the next chapter in the history of natural materials.

What is sustainable development? Remy asked. The industry certainly doesn’t want it to be a mere advertising claim. She argued that the term means taking responsibility for actions, responsibility toward local populations. It is the reconciliation of ethics, quality, health and safety. In other words: protect the ecosystem and reduce poverty. The risk is not for the planet, she concluded, but rather for all human beings. Let’s learn to share.

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