Green chemistry in action

In recent years, the principles of green chemistry, and in particular the emerging field of bioscience research, have been actively applied as a key approach to sustainable innovation at Givaudan.


Green chemistry is a positive response to the need for reducing environmental damage in the process of producing ingredients. Optimising energy, materials and water, and reducing waste in our product design and manufacturing processes is critical. Below we reference the increasing role that bioscience programmes play as part of Givaudan’s integrated green chemistry approach to create a more sustainable palette of ingredients. 

Givaudan has made considerable developments in green chemistry, both at commercial and research levels. Since the recent acquisition of active cosmetic ingredients companies Soliance and Induchem, Givaudan is building on its previous work in this field, to create innovative products, which have highly functional active ingredients with proven efficacy, using green chemistry techniques that include biocatalysis.

Denis, Business Development Manager Biosciences, explains some of the areas of expertise being explored at Givaudan, and provides two examples that illustrate how green chemistry, and biocatalysis in particular, is bringing Givaudan, customers, and ultimately consumers, a wide range of sustainability benefits.

“The aim of using techniques such as biocatalysis, in which enzymes from microorganisms or plants are used as catalysts to perform chemical transformations, is to leverage sustainable manufacturing processes for our products in an environmentally friendly way.”

From two steps to one

Givaudan produces a molecule, known as a natural Hyaluronan precursor, which is an essential active cosmetic ingredient used in anti-ageing skin product formulas to help make the skin appear less wrinkled. Denis picks up on how our biocatalysis expertise is helping to deliver a much more sustainable version of the molecule to the cosmetics industry.

“We have been able to simplify the process, from two steps to just one, by using phosphates from a natural mineral origin. The enzyme reaction with the natural material allows the formation of the molecule in a single phase, which has a positive impact on the entire process.”

The procedure is more environmentally sound as it is carried out under water and uses neither organic solvents nor hazardous chemicals, yet the resulting product is high in purity and yield. There is also significant savings on energy usage, because the traditional process requires intense heat to provoke the chemical reactions. Reduction in waste is another plus.

High yield returns, low energy and waste

A second successful example of Givaudan’s biocatalysis technology platform relates to the production of an antioxidant compound used in skin protection cosmetics. Denis explains its benefits: “This antioxidant compound slows down the destruction of collagen exposed to UVB, helping to stimulate skin cell longevity, and it enhances skin regeneration.”

As with the natural Hyaluronan precursor, biocatalysis expertise enables a new, green way to produce the antioxidant compound directly from a naturally occurring green tea extract. Again, the process has been simplified to just a single step process, and Denis explains in more detail some of the additional benefits:

“We use a natural glucose material to specifically transform the relevant molecule directly. One very impressive aspect of the process is that it allows us to convert 75% of the molecule present in tea extract into the final product, compared to the traditional approach, which only yields 10%.”

The bioscience approaches in these two examples produce similar benefits. Both reduce the number of processes required, which saves energy, and the solvents needed for the synthesis. Equally, as fewer raw materials are input at the front end, waste output decreases in the two cases. 

Horizon 2020: Givaudan partners in the ROBOX Consortium Programme

Givaudan is also developing in partnership other avenues of exploration in bioscience, further strengthening our capabilities in applying the principles of green chemistry to product development. The ROBOX Consortium Programme is a significant project in this area.

The European Union has launched the biggest Research and Innovation programme ever, named Horizon 2020*. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market. Givaudan is one of 19 partners working within the ROBOX Consortium Programme*, which aims to identify and engineer robust enzymes and demonstrate their industrial use, which will lead to new green chemical processes.

Boris, Head of Biosciences, provides an insight as to what this evolving innovation will mean to the industry: “We currently have the know-how, expertise and manufacturing capabilities for many chemical processes to make fragrance ingredients. However, the use of enzymes has not been fully exploited yet.

“The ROBOX programme is helping us to develop a novel approach in using enzymes as biocatalysts, which demonstrates the economic viability of bio-transformations in the production of fragrance materials. It will give us yet another major leap forward in the sustainable production of ingredients.”

Givaudan is using green chemistry in ever-new innovative ways to create a range of products for the fragrance and cosmetics industry that are proven effective, more sustainable and safe for the environment in which we live.

This project has received funding from the European Union (EU) project ROBOX (grant agreement n° 635734) under EU's Horizon 2020 Program Research and Innovative actions H2020-LEIT BIO-2014-1. Givaudan has received funding from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) in Switzerland, SBFI Nr. 15.0123-1.