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Scents Inspired by Sustainability: How the Fragrance Industry is Doing its Part for the Planet

Featured Image: FreePik [11]

Sustainability is a growing trend in the cosmetics industry driven by the awareness of consumers toward more eco-conscious and ethical purchases. Nowadays, consumers are more interested in positive health benefits and an environmentally friendly lifestyle [1, 2]. They are making a conscious effort on how to better protect the environment for future generations, starting in simple ways like the purchase of cosmetic products. This shift towards “greener” personal care and cosmetic products in effect requires the development of natural and sustainable raw materials to meet the increasing needs of eco-consumerism [1].

Fragrances, in particular, have caused some concern due to issues with allergens, biodegradability, and their impact on biodiversity [3]. However, fragrances cannot simply be removed from cosmetics to address these issues.

Fragrances are a unique and complex combination of natural and synthetic compounds that are added to a particular product in order to give a distinct scent or mask unpleasant odors [4]. Fragrances are also one of the key driving factors in consumer purchases, as it creates an intangible olfactive link to our emotions – bringing about joy, relaxation, improving self-esteem, and even a sense of escape [5]. That’s why fragrance manufacturers are taking a step forward in creating innovative solutions to maximize sustainability while keeping the beauty and complexity of a scent profile.

Upcycled Fragrances

Figure 1. agricultural wastes for upcycled materials (Source: Unsplash)

According to Givaudan, upcycling is the creative re-use or transformation of side-stream materials into new raw ingredients that have a higher value, better quality, and uniqueness than what it was in the beginning [6, 9]. In particular, wastes from the agricultural sector can be upcycled into fragrance raw ingredients. Givaudan has created specialized methods to extract clean aromas from leftover apple juice pulp, and discovered that second-time extraction of rose petals can bring a different kind of facet to the classic floral note [6].

Symrise has also produced a collection of 100% natural oils from upcycled food industry wastes. Drawing inspiration from the garden, they make use of vegetable materials like artichoke, asparagus, cauliflower, onions, and leeks, to create upcycled and plant-based fragrances that give a new twist to fine fragrances with their natural olfactive appeal [7].

For Firmenich, some other materials like unsold jasmine flowers, damaged cardamom pods, discarded lemon peels, and even sawdust from cedarwood can be re-used by doing extraction procedures to produce essential oils that can be included as components for fragrances. The inclusion of upcycled ingredients can even enhance the overall character and longevity of a fragrance [8].


Figure 2. Pure fragrance compounds from biosynthesis (Source:

Biosynthetic processes make use of metabolic engineering in the production of essential oils or pure compounds. In this process, microorganisms are genetically modified to produce enzymes that can synthesize terpenes, terpenoids, and other molecules. Particularly, patchouli and sandalwood essential oils that give off woody notes can be gained through this way [10].

Recombinant organisms have also been used to produce a number of pure olfactive compounds such as ambrox (in ambergris), zizaene (in woody vetiver), nootkatone (in citrus, grapefruit, and vetiver), muscone (musk and civet notes), and hex-3-en-1-ol (grassy green note) by enzymatic synthetase [10].

This naturally sustainable process of biocatalysis is beneficial because of high enzyme selectivity and specificity, use of common substrates, less waste, and requires fewer resources (ex. Chemical reagents and energy). Another important advantage is that the nature-identical molecules produced are biodegradable [10].

With all these new innovations and technology, this marks the continuous commitment of industries to preserve biodiversity and take a step toward greener and more responsible practices.

Key Words: Fragrance, sustainability, upcycling, biotechnology, green chemistry


[1] Rocca, R., Acerbi, F., Fumagalli, L., & Taisch, M. (2022). Sustainability paradigm in the cosmetics industry: State of the art. Cleaner Waste Systems, 3, 100057.

[2] Pagliaro, Mario & Delisi, Riccardo & Ciriminna, Rosaria. (2016). Green fragrances: A critically important technology for the new cosmetic industry. Household and Personal Care Today. 11.

[3] Bom, S., Jorge, J., Ribeiro, H. M., & Marto, J. (2019). A step forward on sustainability in the cosmetics industry: A review. In Journal of Cleaner Production (Vol. 225, pp. 270–290). Elsevier BV.

[4] The European Green Deal How the fragrance industry can help make it a success IFRA Policy recommendations (2022-2024) on the European Green Deal and Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. The International Fragrance Association (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2022 from

[5] Culliney, K. (2020, May 12). The 'intangible value of fragrance' in beauty cannot be ignored, says IFRA. cosmeticsdesign. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from

[6] From leftovers to luxury: Pioneering upcycling in fragrances. Givaudan. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2022, from

[7] The new frontiers of naturals: Garden Lab collection enriches fine fragrances palette with five natural veggie ingredients. The new frontiers of naturals: Garden Lab collection enriches fine fragrances palette with five natural veggie ingredients - Symrise. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2022, from

[8] Scents and Sustainability. Firmenich. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2022, from

[9] Wanninger, A., Deckenhoff, V., Goj, C., Jackszis, L., Pastewski, J., Rajabi, S., Viktoria Rubbert, L., & Niederrhein, H. (2022). Upcycling of plant residuals to cosmetic ingredients. In International Journal of Agriculture, Engineering Technology and Social Sciences Review Article (Vol. 1).

[10] Lecourt, M., & Antoniotti, S. (2020). Chemistry, Sustainability and Naturality of Perfumery Biotech Ingredients. In ChemSusChem (Vol. 13, Issue 21, pp. 5600–5610). NLM (Medline).

[11] Featured Image: Image by <a

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