Tougher regulations: obligation or opportunity?

An ever-changing regulatory landscape is driving manufacturers to use more environmentally friendly ingredients, by way of changing materials or formulations. The challenge is how to react quickly to these new legislations and how to design replacements – whilst maintaining business as usual for customers.


As the world seeks to become more sustainable, legislative bodies and governments are questioning the make-up of many products to ensure that ingredients are safe, non-toxic, and more environmentally friendly than ever before. This is good news for the planet, but nevertheless challenging, as replacements and new formulations must often be found, fast.

Over the last five to ten years, the notion of sustainability has grown in scale and stature. This sweeping catch-all term now goes beyond in-house recycling bins and general ‘green’ efforts to become, as is the case at Givaudan, a strategic business imperative.

The desire to operate and manufacture in a more sustainable way impacts not only how our products are made (efficiently: as little waste or emissions as possible), but what they are made from.

Together with these internal imperatives, companies must also respond to the pressures of an external business landscape. This is particularly true in the field of product regulations, as manufacturing companies are now faced with stricter regulations and are frequently required to significantly reformulate ingredients or whole products according to new sets of standards.     

Clamouring for greener ingredients

Givaudan is the world’s largest flavour and fragrance manufacturer, yet it is a relatively small player within the broader make-up of the speciality chemical industry. Our aim is to help our customers create myriad beautiful and inspiring everyday products for consumers around the world. But these special flavours, or fragrances, whether natural or synthetic, are also subject to regulations, as they are based on chemically produced, created or modified formulas.

As a Company, we set our own high internal safety standards for everything we manufacture, but remain subject to regulations from governments, agencies, as well as consumer product customer standards, lobby and consumer groups. All these agencies are clamouring for greener ingredients and greater ingredients disclosure. Understandably, because people want to know what goes in their end products, on their skin or down their sink.

Staying ahead of the game

Givaudan has long-standing expertise in the regulatory field, and the domain of science and technology – the engine that drives safe, newer formulations or modifies existing products. These capabilities are of great support to customers, enabling them to continue ‘business as usual’ despite a fast-moving and often complex regulatory environment. This is how we not only help customers fulfil green objectives for their manufactured goods, but ensure that we ourselves are compliant with all regulatory requirements pertaining to more environmental, allergen-friendly or non-toxic ingredients. This is a positive direction to be moving in, but one that is not without challenges. Despite this tough business climate, Givaudan sees many chances to stay ahead of the game, turning new legal obligations into opportunities, and continually re-affirming our position as leader and innovator.

Thierry, Head of Global Fragrance Science & Technology, describes the innovative edge that Givaudan can seize: “Admittedly, it’s complex to keep abreast of the various materials regulations, particularly as we don’t always know if a specific molecule will be phased out completely, or if legislation might stall, mid-way, it’s an uncertain playing field. However, we strive to do everything we can to stay ahead of the game. 

Replacing banned synthetics

Thierry continues: “We want to consistently serve our customers and not be caught short. A good example of how we did this – with the help of our Regulatory Affairs and Product Safety team – was when a ban was proposed on the synthetic molecule Lyral by the European Commission in 2014. Lyral, which also goes under the trade name Cyclohexal, has a lily-of-the-valley character, useful for perfumers, but which potentially provoked dermatitis-like allergies. Being aware of the threat allowed us to work on a replacement molecule, Mahonial™. We researched this new synthetic for three years and it was successfully phased in as Lyral was being phased out. It enabled fine fragrance and consumer products perfumers to seamlessly continue their floral, lily-of-the-valley creations.”

Greg, as Global Head of Givaudan’s Regulatory Affairs and Product Safety, Fragrances, adds his point of view: “Essentially, regulations seek to adapt product standards to meet higher safety and environmental requirements. This means that in some cases ingredients that have been used for many years may no longer meet some of these newer regulatory standards, which is understandable given developments in science and a greater awareness of sustainable practices. With a new focus on sustainable ingredients, some materials are phased out and we must develop others to phase in.

“Over the years, we’ve amplified our in-house resources, scaling up from a team of around four people in the early 1990s to over 80 today, made up of toxicology, chemistry and environmental experts, as well as regulatory affairs experts. We also meet the demands of approximately 13 specific country chemical regulations, a number that has doubled over the last 10 years.” 

Regulatory demands have also instigated new tools and large structural changes to Givaudan, which, despite their costs, are a strategic long-term investment, which enables the Company to take the lead in delivering state-of-the-art compliance. Greg elaborates: “We took a strategic decision to install a unique and specially designed SAP system which captures the profile of all our molecules. This means our perfumers and chemists, before they embark on a new creation, can check the status of an ingredient and know if it is safe and viable to use. Undeniably this was a significant investment, but a necessary one.”

“We believe regulation not only makes the world and our products safer and greener, but compels us to drive innovation, too.”