International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. and Unilever are joining forces to support the source of a common fragrance ingredient, vetiver, in Haiti.

“Vetiver is one of our key ingredients and it is also one of the ingredients that we supply to Unilever, so we were jointly looking for a product and ingredient that we could have a social and environmentally positive impact,” said Kip Cleverley, vice president of global sustainability at IFF. “The best vetiver comes from Haiti because of the climate … it’s one of the notes that really brings a perfume to a scent that you would recognize.”

The program, Vetiver Together, aims to support small vetiver farmers. The plan is to improve food security, increase yields, diversify income, support women’s empowerment and conserve the environment. Economic pressure often cause farmers to harvest the roots before they are fully mature, leading to low prices, poor oil yields, deforestation and soil erosion, according to the groups. Vetiver oil is found in Axe and Impulse, as well as other Unilever brands.

“This is really a pilot,” Cleverley added. “It is a model on which we believe is very innovative, [and] our ambition is that once we have this model really understood and that it works well, that we can use this model for other ingredients.”

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“IFF relies on small farming communities for many natural products. These farmers, their families, and communities are an important part of our supply chain,” said Andreas Fibig, chairman and chief executive officer of IFF.

Vetiver Together is hoping to provide training about crop and livestock production, soil conservation and nutrition to farmers as part of the program. The program is supported by the Enhancing Livelihoods Fund, a partnership between Unilever, Oxfam Great Britain and the Ford Foundation that backs organizations that aim to improve agricultural practices and have a positive social impact, especially for women.

“Sustainability is integral to how we do business at Unilever – we aim to enhance the social and economic livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in our supply chain,” said Dhaval Buch, chief procurement officer of Unilever. “Creating a more resilient supply chain is essential to make real impact on the ground. Partnerships like Vetiver Together are instrumental if we are to achieve the level of systematic change that is necessary across industries and supply chains.”

Heifer International will provide access to livestock as part of the initiative, aiming to provide a food source and diversified income. “Livestock is a vehicle to support families and communities, provide highly nutritious foods, empower women and manage economic risk,” said Pierre Ferrari, chief executive officer of Heifer. “Coupling livestock with improvements in the quality of the vetiver crop through optimized conservation practices makes Vetiver Together a true example of the good that can happen when multi-stakeholder partnerships are managed and executed with care.”

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