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Givaudan Pushes Sustainability in Laos

Swiss flavors and fragrance supplier Givaudan cofunds a secondary school in a region where benzoin is harvested.

PARIS — Givaudan has added another component to its sustainable development activities.

The Swiss flavors and fragrance supplier has teamed with Agroforex Co., a sustainable and ethical agricultural concern based in Vientiane, Laos, to cofund a secondary school in one of the country’s agricultural regions producing benzoin, a sap often used in perfumery.

Givaudan is already involved in a sustainable-development venture in Australia, which revolves around sandalwood, and another focused on Tonka bean, in Venezuela.

Rémi Pulvérail, Givaudan’s natural specialties category leader, explained that for each project the idea is to build on the production chain of a natural ingredient the company utilizes in abundance.

“We use tons and tons of benzoin,” ensuring its stock and seamless production are key, he said. The objective also is to be closer to its source.

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To that end, Givaudan and Agroforex funded the secondary school building’s construction, training of local teachers and purchasing of books. The institution, which also has in its syllabus some teachings about the agriculture of styrax — the benzoin-producing tree — and local produce rice and red ginger, is now under the auspices of Laos’ ministry of education. It was opened last September.

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Another of Givaudan and Agroforex’s goals is that the facility helps stem an exodus of denizens looking for higher education generally found only in Laos’ city centers, said Francis Chagnaud, Agroforex’s founder and director.

There’s also the ambition to develop monetary revenues. What’s rung up from benzoin provides the most money locally, but the list of raw materials that can ultimately be used in perfumery is growing.

“It’s only the beginning of the story,” said Pulvérail.

“Another school is foreseen in another district,” said Chagnaud of possible upcoming projects.

For its part, Agroforex continues its quest of sustainable agricultural development. Among its wishes is to have a 20-year crop rotation, so as not to deplete the existing benzoin-producing trees, which are being tapped ever younger to their detriment, he said.

For the first time in perfumery, Givaudan has just started commercializing the red ginger and wax notes from raw ingredients produced in Laos. The fragrance supplier said it will be involved in other sustainable-development projects in years to come.