Environmental, sustainability, ethics and diversity issues are increasingly important not only to consumers, but also to employees and other stakeholders in the flavor industry. They want to know if the company they are working for, selling to, or purchasing from is a “good citizen” and holds the same values as they do. But how do you know if a company is “walking the walk?” And how does a company effectively communicate its values?
An excellent way to do this is by becoming a B Corporation, also referred to as a "B Corp." B Corporations are for-profit businesses that use their business as a force of good. They emphasize a holistic approach with a common Theory of Change:
• Stakeholder Economy: People and the planet must be of equal, or higher, value than short-term profits.
• Racial Equity: True racial justice requires listening and learning.
• Climate Justice: There is no “Planet B.” Humanity depends on our planet to survive, and the planet depends on humanity.
Globally there are currently over 6,200 B Corporations. Including some food ingredient and food manufacturing companies.
Areas of Concern Unique to the Flavor Industry
The flavor industry is renowned for processing numerous raw materials from all over the world. Some extracts may come from small farmers in developing countries, or from a site at risk of deforestation. Is the harvest sustainable? Can the farmers make an adequate return for their labor? What is the impact of climate change? The impact of population growth and the effect on wildlife? Biological diversity? What is the environmental impact of getting the materials to the factory? Are there any concerns about labor practices? These questions are important throughout the value chain, from farmers to flavorists.
These questions also refer to flavor chemicals. Are the plants grown in an environmentally friendly manner? What is the carbon footprint? Are the chemicals safe and free from contamination? Are working conditions healthy and respectful of the workers? Are there problematic ties to parties of concern, such as military dictatorships, corrupt organizations, or organized crime? Can the chemicals be safely transported to the next location?
Flavor extraction processes involve many inputs, such as raw materials, extraction solvents, energy and labor. Improving extraction efficiency, “green solvents,” renewable energy and worker safety are crucial. It’s also worth considering what is left in the biomass after extraction. In many cases, the spent material is landfilled. Are there ways to get more valuable products from the spent material rather than disposal? Better alternatives may be composting, upcycling for animal feed, or repurposing for biofuel.
Opportunities exist to reduce carbon footprints and especially volatile organic compound emissions. Emissions can expand carbon footprints, cause unpleasant or unsafe aromas and may have other negative environmental impacts. Water usage is another major concern, with water being increasingly expensive, and a factory’s usage competes with environmental, residential and agricultural concerns in what is no longer a plentiful commodity. The flavor industry strives to use less water and at the same time be very careful about wastewater.
To discover the benefits of B Corp certification and next steps, visit the Perfumer & Flavorist+ Decemeber 2023 issue.