Small Ideas,
Huge Effects

Symrise achieved the ambitious climate goals it had set itself for 2020 four years ahead of schedule. The company isn’t resting on these laurels, though, as is evident from the many awards and certifications. Three profiles of employees from around the world who make a contribution to the greater good are also an example of extraordinary dedication.

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important success factor for global industrial companies – including Symrise. At the same time, the company also fulfills customer and consumer expectations with its sustainable and economic activities. How important this is to the company is evident in the position of the Corporate Sustainability Officer. It is held by experienced manager Hans Holger Gliewe.

»Our efforts are not random, they are in keeping with Agenda 2030 and the 17 goals connected to that for sustainable development that were laid out by the United Nations.«

Hans Holger Gliewe Corporate Sustainability Officer

His work is part of a clearly defined, integrated sustainability strategy. “Our efforts are not random, they are in keeping with Agenda 2030 and the 17 goals connected to that for sustainable development that were laid out by the United Nations,” explains Gliewe, who has been with the company since 1980. “We apply them to our four pillars of sustainability: to our carbon footprint, to our innovative power with which we improve products and processes, to our raw materials procurement and to our responsibilities to our stakeholders. By doing so, we are becoming a global leading company in terms of sustainable business activity.” Symrise aims to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions by 17.5 % by 2030 based on these pillars. An ambitious but attainable goal: The company achieved its 2020 climate goals four years ahead of schedule, after all. The entire climate strategy was also approved by the “Science-Based Targets Initiative.” This initiative aims to drive climate protection while also making it easier to assess.
Symrise’s commitment in 2017 is also evident in many areas. For example, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) certified that Symrise is on a leading global level in the categories of climate, water and forests. The company is in the top 25 in the world in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, using water responsibly and protecting forests in its own production sites as well as along the supply chains. Symrise received a good evaluation once again from the British sustainability index FTSE4Good and was certified as a “green company” by DQS CFS GmbH, the German Society for Sustainability.

Synthetic menthols are one of Symrise’s primary products. The company sells them to roughly 500 customers, who use the biodegradable material in toothpaste and mouthwash, in pharmaceuticals or, in its spray-dried form, in sweets and chewing gums. It is extracted using a complex multi-step process at the Holzminden location and in Bushy Park, South Carolina in the USA. The nature-identical aromatic substance has many advantages to natural menthol: It is purer, availability and prices fluctuate less, manufacturing is less dependent on harvests or climate effects. And it is more sustainable: It would take vast swaths of cultivation space to cover global demand for menthol. It would also require massive amounts of fertilizer, water and energy to grow and process the plants.

Symrise has systematically updated and expanded its production in Holzminden over the past years in order to produce synthetic menthol even more sustainably. An expansion and modernization project is also underway in the USA, where Christoph Schlüter is responsible for the design and dimensioning of the individual machines and process development. He also coordinates the various players involved in the projects, such as architects or construction and pipe assembly companies. Once the process steps are up-to-date, then the process will be significantly more efficient. At the same time, Symrise will be saving a great deal of energy with the new plant because the menthol cycle is now closed. The new technology is also more environmentally friendly in another way: Manufacturing does not produce wastewater and a heat recovery system is used to create cooling for production with minimal amounts of energy.

With an investment in the € millions, Symrise will reduce its carbon emissions in its main site in Holzminden by roughly 31,000 tons each year. The first step was completed in November 2016 with the construction of the new highly efficient power plant based on combined heat and power, which replaces heavy heating oil with low-emissions natural gas. The project isn’t over yet, though. As part of it, an additional new boiler will be installed in 2019 that produces energy from manufacturing byproducts. Heating oil will only be used in peak times in the future. The company is also expanding the existing waste conditioning plant to add storage capacity for waste collection. The reason: The boilers run significantly less in the summer because not as much energy is needed to create steam, for example. One side effect: Collecting the byproducts also means less CO2 is produced through the reduction in transport.

The stage has been set. And to ensure that the system runs perfectly and as sustainably as possible, Juan Antonio Gallardo and his colleagues get to work. The boiler operator in each team is responsible for making sure that the system runs day and night to create energy. The new plant produces about 40 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year. 80,000 tons of steam are generated from the waste heat. Gallardo also has to ensure that compressed air, nitrogen and cooling are available and that the air intake and output are regulated. He does this by controlling the system using the central computer, but can turn the boilers on or off at any time as needed. He has a lot of responsibility: He helps ensure that there is enough energy to power production. If he does his job well, then manufacturing can run smoothly – and at the same time, increasing amounts of energy are saved.

Flavors are often spray-dried so that customers can process them easily. The products also keep their flavor longer or only release it after a while. In order to achieve this, the liquid flavor compositions are emulsified in water with their carriers and pushed through nozzles using high pressure into the spray-drying chamber, where they are then encapsulated in tiny balls – sometimes with a diameter of only 0.1 millimeters – at very high temperatures in a short amount of time in more than ten Symrise locations.

The company has been using this technology for decades. But there is always room for improvement. Manuel Bobillier in Singapore is experimenting in his spray drying towers with the amount of water used to produce flavors, for example. The principle that the head of the industrialization and process innovation team for the Asia-Pacific region uses is simple: The smaller the amount of water in the product when it is being dried, the smaller the amount of heat that has to be used in processing in order to steam out that water. At the same time, the flavor mixture can’t be too viscous in order to get good results.

The process optimization is the result of a project that was first tried out in Holzminden. The flavor solutions usually consist of 60 % water. In a series of trials, the experts have already managed to do with 5 to 10 % less water across all recipes, which no longer has to be steamed off in spray drying.

The principle worked for hundreds of products. Symrise saves water, electricity and steam this way – and manufacturing times are also reduced. Another sustainable change also enhances efficiency. Using heat recovery, the condensation that is formed in spray drying is used as a source of heat in other processes: An increase in efficiency across the board.