Bridge builders

With its „Bridging the Gap” project, Symrise is committed to knowledge transfer between generations – and making a significant contribution to the development of sustainable value chains.

The smell of freshly cut mint fills the air above the fields in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, a few hours’ drive east of Delhi. This is where Symrise obtains the mint oil it processes as an ingredient in flavors and fragrances. The company is active locally – not only as a purchaser, but with its “Bridging the Gap” sustainability project.

“When Symrise sends me to the mint growing regions in India, I learn a lot,” reports Hamish Taylor, Advisor on Sustainability. Since 2010, Hamish has helped the company ensure that its ecological, economic, and social commitment will be successful in the long term.

He works from Scotland, and “Bridging the Gap,” or BTG for short, is his most important sustainability project. “Working with Symrise team-mates to build value chain relationships is inspiring and challenging in equal measure. BTG projects are already being implemented in India, the Philippines and Madagascar; with Indonesia, Ecuador and South Africa in the design phase with others to follow soon. Together with GIZ and supported by BMZ, private sector partners and NGOs, we are working on sustainable development to strengthen agricultural communities,” Hamish explains. Collectively the team receive many requests for consideration as future projects. “Though the Covid-19 pandemic is slowing down our activities, existing projects are continuing thanks to our partnership network,” he adds.

IMPORTANT SUCCESS FACTORS All BTG projects meet three important considerations. Success factor number one: Partnerships. These differ depending on the country, business partners, communities and crops, and the unsustainable problems they are facing. “A holistic approach fueled by Symrise’s passion drives each project to success”, according to Hamish. A genuine pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG#17 “Partnerships for the Goals” is the shared commitment by the “Symrise and friends” teams that deliver the multi-year projects.

Success factor number two is profitability. “This is part of our business model,” says Hamish. “It might be surprising that we openly talk about profit” – however we ensure everyone in a Bridging the Gap project understands what we mean. Everyone in the value chain must benefit. Hamish: “We will only be successful if the project is profitable for farmers and their families, the intermediate traders, Symrise, our customers, and the benefits must also be valued by consumers . Experience shows if you don’t ensure this, partners may lose interest, and we all lose more than we gain.”

Success factor number three is multi- faceted: It’s the way things are managed. This includes being active locally, communicating and respecting each other, listening to farmers and their needs, continuous learning, from our successes and our setbacks. “It’s mutuality,” says Hamish, and for sure such complex demanding projects demand leadership agility. “We know this and act accordingly, together “Symrise and friends” make the impossible possible, the possible probable and turn the probable into a profitable reality for all.”

We create new opportunities for agriculture, which provides us with access to natural, high-quality products.
Heinrich Schaper, President Flavor

While Hamish works as an advisor, Symrise employees are the key drivers of the individual projects – internationally and locally in the project areas. Take, for example, Mark Birch, Sustainability Director Flavor, and Marion Lettenmeier, Key Account Manager BU Beverages: both are involved in the most recent BTG project, which is located in the Philippines and focuses on coconut cultivation. The partners are Symrise customer Pernod Ricard with its Malibu brand; coconut processor Franklin Baker; and the German government backed GIZ. “Naturally, the Philippines farmers are also part of our partnership,” explains Marion. Mark adds: “Everyone brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the table, which provides our engagement with momentum.”

If you understand coconuts in the Philippines, it is clear which gaps need to be bridged. “One of the most pressing problems in agriculture is the ‘generation gap.’ This arises because younger people don’t want to take up their parents‘ profession – and also because parents want a ‘better life’ for their sons and daughters,” Mark explains. Addressing this gap is about strengthening the viability of smallholder farming for the current generation of farmers and therefore making it more attractive to the future generation.

“And there are risks that an individual can’t control,” Mark continues. We appreciate the difficulties our farmers face living at, or even below, the poverty line and disaster is often only a tropical storm away. There are other “gaps” – for instance, in knowledge and access to finance. “How do our suppliers learn about sustainable best practices? How does regenerative agriculture work? Are age-old cultivation methods the most efficient? What kind of palm tree is best to replace trees that are too old? Is there a secure supply of clean drinking water? How to cope with climate change?” BTG helps people find answers. “For me, this is a very emotionally engaging project – especially since I visited the coconut plantations myself and saw and understood the challenges on site,” admits Marion.

Deepak Chamola, responsible for finance products at GIZ India, and Dorothea Kilb, co-head of SDG Compact “Bridging the Gap” project.

NP Singh, field team coordinator at Tanager, an NGO, holds up a verification card used to assess soil health.

The coconut project in the Philippines supports farmers and their families with the economic cultivation of the fruit.

All project participants meet on a regular basis to discuss the processes.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals formulated by the United Nations

Through its business activities, Symrise aims to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals formulated by the United Nations. Impressive moving images from the Amazon region, Madagascar and other parts of the world show how Symrise operates sustainably through local partnerships and how stakeholders benefit from the value creation process.

The four-year BTG project in the Philippines has clearly defined goals: The program supports and trains 500 farmers and their families, and their incomes are expected to grow by at least 15 percent. “Sustainable agriculture is better agriculture,” Mark says. This is also true of the mint project in India. “Through our BTG cooperation with MARS, we are partnering with a total of 25,000 farmers,” says Ramkumar, VP Global Sustainable Sourcing for Scent & Care. Ram explains the key achievements so far, “Our team are impressed by the key figures that followed a pilot phase: 256 mint farmers mint trained, production costs down 14 percent, productivity up 34 percent, and income increased by an amazing 157 percent.”

“In the long term, our Bridging the Gap project will make a huge difference,” says Laurence Briand, Sustainable Development Manager and co-lead for the Indian mint and Madagascar vanilla projects. Mint provides a livelihood for many people; India produces 80% of the world’s mint supply, grown by more than 750,000 small-scale farmers. BTG can make a big impact because it promotes change at farm and community level. “Our Indian team consists of employees from Mars, our Indian supply chain partners, GIZ and the training-focused NGO Tanager,” says Laurence. “This reach really helps us establish sustainability throughout the value chain.”

Heinrich Schaper, President Flavor explains Symrise’s future plans for “Bridging the Gap.” “There will be new products, partners and cultivation areas. Heiner’s made it clear, our holistic approach is underpinned by a ten year commitment to the BTG project and its projects together with GIZ. Acting together, “Symrise and friends” will make us an even more reliable partner for farmers. We’re here for them and our customers today, tomorrow and for the long term.”


With the “Bridging the Gap” project, which is in line with the SDG Compact, Symrise enables learning partnerships between suppliers and customers, making unique direct connections across the entire value network. These transparent networks allow Symrise to help design effective intervention programs that improve local conditions for farmers and give customers confidence that they have a continuous overview of their extended supply chain. By 2023, we want to ensure that more than 70 percent of the farmers involved are applying climate-intelligent farming practices, that they have easier access to financial resources, and that young entrepreneurs receive targeted local support. Symrise and its project partners from the private sector will invest ten million euros in these goals over the next four years.

Discover more about the 17 SDGs in the SymPortal:

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