For her masterpiece as a perfumer, Anne Dussourt explored the carbon footprint in fragrance creations. Her thesis, for which she had support from the sustainability team, is another step on the path to achieving the Group’s climate targets.


Anne Dussourt stands in the laboratory in the Symrise main building in the Clichy district of Paris. Using a pipette, she drops exactly 3.5 grams of a fragrance ingredient into a glass beaker that already contains a few centiliters of a clear liquid. She carefully shakes the beaker, dips a paper scent strip into it, pulls it out and carefully approaches it with her nose. She smells it and nods – she likes the composition.

Working in the laboratory is part of the daily routine for this 29-year-old, who studied chemistry in Strasbourg and then at the renowned ISIPCA perfumery school in Paris before graduating as a perfumer at Symrise in September 2023. She now develops perfume compositions on the computer, has them mixed together and tests them. From time to time, however, she carries out the manual process herself to get a first-hand impression. But Anne Dussourt has a much bigger goal in mind beyond her daily work: She wants to help minimize the carbon footprint of perfumes. That’s a major task, since Symrise has a palette of over a thousand raw materials which are currently actively used for new compositions.

“We face a challenge on several levels: fragrances have to continue to smell as good as they did before, work in applications, comply with regulations and be comparable in terms of price.”  

Anne Dussourt,

The Symrise perfumer Anne Dussourt examined the impact of the carbon footprint on the creation of fragrances.

Training at the Symrise Perfumery School takes five years. For her masterpiece, Anne Dussourt examined the impact of carbon footprint on fragrance creations. Although only a few grams of fragrance oil are used in a typical bottle of perfume, the quantity makes all the difference. Worldwide, millions upon millions of perfumes are sold every year in the fine fragrance segment alone. Fragrances are also used in detergents, shampoos, soaps and lotions. Anne Dussourt mentions another figure: “The average French person produces eight to twelve tons of CO2 per year. Although the fragrances only make up a tiny fraction of that, we can still contribute to reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.”

Sustainability is extremely important to Anne Dussourt. She already dealt with biodegradable and renewable raw materials for her exam as a junior perfumer. “Sustainability is part of the creation process,” she says. “We have to constantly rethink and implement it.” In her masterpiece, she took her ideas further, evaluated them and created a range of fragrances, focusing on different sustainability parameters. A panel of experienced managers, perfumers and HR managers judged the creations.

Seynabou Ndao analyzed the raw material portfolio of Symrise to determine how much CO2 is emitted by the value chain.

She was assisted by Seynabou Ndao. The 24-year-old, who focused on sustainability and green chemistry during her chemistry studies, started as an intern at Symrise. She analyzed how much CO2 is emitted during the entire value chain up to the completion of the perfume – from the cultivation of the individual raw materials to mixing in the laboratories. She spent several months analyzing the portfolio of raw materials and collecting information. “With some materials, such as alcohols or esters, it’s relatively easy because the processes are so clearly structured and well documented,” says the chemical engineer, who comes from Senegal and studied in France. The substances that Symrise produces from sidestreams at its plant in Jacksonville in the United States are relatively easy to cluster and evaluate, says Seynabou Ndao. “With essential oils that come from natural raw materials such as plants, however, it’s much more complex.” She is continuously working to improve data quality. To that end, she also involves the suppliers: “We work with them to support them and encourage them on their carbon footprint journey.”

The topic has gained huge momentum overall for Symrise since 2022. “The carbon footprint of raw materials and fragrance compositions is becoming increasingly important for our customers,” says Philippa Smith, Sustainability Director Scent & Care at Symrise. “That’s why we focused on examining our range of raw materials at an early stage and are proud of this project. It’s groundbreaking in our industry.” The degree of innovation in the masterpiece is very high. “Before my thesis, there was no clear definition of what a low carbon footprint should mean for a fragrance,” says Anne Dussourt. “Linking fragrance creation to carbon footprint data in our system was a key part of the project.”

Testing alternatives is one way to optimize fragrance compositions.

In her master’s thesis, Anne Dussourt focused on the application of sustainability data to fragrances. She created a range of fragrance compositions that Symrise customers use, for example in shampoos, shower gels and deodorants. To do so, she first created a conventional fragrance, such as a fruit-scented shampoo. In the other blends, she replaced various ingredients in order to reduce the carbon emissions and use as many biodegradable and renewable raw materials as possible. “We were able to show that we could reduce the carbon footprint by up to 20 %, for example,” says Anne Dussourt. They discovered that it’s easier to replace certain fragrance ingredients, but more difficult to do so for others. One positive result was that through careful ingredient selection, costs and performance could be maintained.

However, determining the carbon footprint alone is not enough. The industry cannot simply dispense with fragrances that have high carbon emissions. “We face a challenge on several levels: Fragrances have to continue to smell as good as they did before, work in applications, comply with regulations and be comparable in terms of price,” says Anne Dussourt. In addition, Symrise’s customers often have different demands when it comes to the biodegradability of products or the renewability of raw materials, for example. What’s more, they want to set themselves apart from each other.

“Sustainability is much more than just preventing greenhouse gases.” 

Dr. Philippa Smith,
Sustainability Director Scent & Care

Consumers also only buy what they like on all levels: They want sustainability, but also the familiar fragrance. That includes ensuring that a fragrance, for example in a detergent, doesn’t evaporate immediately. It still has to be perceptible when an item of clothing is taken out of the closet after being there for a while. Because some molecules only interact with others in a specific way, perfumers cannot simply swap raw materials. At the same time, certain substances are essential for a perfume: “We need musky base notes, for example, which often have a higher carbon footprint. They do, however, ensure longevity,” says Anne Dussourt. This is exactly where great savings can be made if there are good substitutes or other compositions.

One way to achieve that is through captives – fragrance ingredients that Symrise has developed and patented and is allowed to use exclusively for 20 years. “The substances are almost always produced according to the principles of green chemistry from sidestreams in other sectors and are therefore very sustainable,” says Anne Dussourt. Philippa Smith is also aware of several levers that Symrise can use. “We talk to suppliers about how they can use these materials to reduce the carbon footprint,” says the Sustainability Director. Symrise has a close relationship with producers, thus allowing the company to select the most sustainable suppliers. “We also decide for ourselves what we include in the portfolio and can therefore also pay attention to the CO2 values. And we have a lot of influence on the creation process, in which we can put together the best possible compositions.” To that end, the team is rolling out the findings for all perfumers around the world to answer questions and also raise awareness of the topic.

Philippa Smith and Anne Dussourt also put the work on the carbon footprint in perspective: “Sustainability is much more than just preventing greenhouse gases,” says Philippa Smith. “The topic is highly complex when we include the other dimensions of sustainability,” Anne Dussourt adds. In Madagascar, for example, where Symrise distills a range of natural substances, the focus is on social impact with the smallholder farmers, while in India the focus is on supporting farming communities through climate-smart agriculture, such as solar-powered irrigation. At the same time, natural substances have the disadvantage that they use large areas of land, but the advantage that they can support biodiversity. “We have to therefore always look at how we can improve products in all areas,” says Philippa Smith. To that end, the data will be optimized in the coming years as a basis, hence making more and more fragrance compositions more sustainable. “We’ll continue to work on the topic so that we can use increasingly better and more sustainable raw materials to develop sustainable creations,” says Anne Dussourt. “Our journey has only just begun.”