For the coming years, Symrise has also taken up the issue of occupational safety as part of its sustainability strategy, which only plays a role for extreme events in the public eye. But we need to keep in mind that there is a person behind every accident. With the Symsafe campaign, the company is now making sure across the Group that safety and health are part of everyday work.


It’s 1:00 p.m. A special shift awaits the warehouse team of the Symrise subsidiary Symotion in the atrium of Symrise AG: This team, consisting of eight men and women who ensure every day that the products of the Group are sent out all over the world, were about to take part in their first kick-off event as part of Symsafe – the occupational safety campaign that Symrise started last year across the Group. The two-hour workshop, intended to achieve the objective of the long-term campaign with different modules – more occupational safety, fewer accidents, and therefore also fewer health risks for the employees – then started after a short introduction.

The meeting, which is held as a kick-off event at all departments at Symrise, started off by asking participants for all kinds of information. Cosima Hebestadt, member of the project team, who is currently completing her cooperative studies towards a Bachelor of Business Administration in the communications department, carried out the safety culture check. This check determines the status quo of occupational safety within the particular department. In the questionnaire, the employees answer around 25 questions on issues such as leadership, communication, participation, error culture, teamwork and safety organization, which Symsafe is based on. During the remainder of the workshop, she evaluated the responses and concluded by presenting the fields that showed the greatest need for development. Philipp Müller, external occupational safety consultant, and Kristin Frese, external coach for changing work culture, then took over together with the Symrise occupational safety team. They introduced initial occupational safety concepts and got the employees actively involved, for example with a “World Café.” During this activity, they asked employees questions about specific topics at three different tables and then asked them to write them down on the tablecloths and discuss them afterwards. One of the discussions centered around why you should be mindful of occupational safety in the first place. In the end, the participants had written down keywords such as “consequences,” “involvement in decisions,” “teamwork” and “risks” on the tablecloth.

At the Symsafe kick-off event, employees learn about the measures that make up the occupational safety campaign. The main focus here is on employee participation.

An MAQ value of less than 1.5

These keywords describe very well what Symsafe is all about. Bernhard Kott, who is responsible for all sustainability issues at the company as Chief Sustainability Officer, also attended the event that day. He explained why Symrise launched the campaign: “For one, our accident numbers are very high. In Germany alone, there were 270 accidents in 2021,” said Kott. While the number itself is one thing, each number represents an individual who has suffered an injury. “We don’t want to just accept that anymore,” said Kott. He followed this up by pointing out that many accidents at Symrise did not result in serious consequences, but that they always could end up being more severe injuries. This is why the company has set itself the goal of achieving a MAQ rate of less than 1.5 by 2025. This rate represents the number of workplace accidents with at least one lost day per one million work hours.

Occupational safety should become a core component of day-to-day work. And that will only work when we get employees involved and see them as experts for their workplace.Jessica Hildebrandt, Communications Expert at Symrise

A host of measures and tools are meant to pave the way to fewer accidents. Symsafe is a comprehensive system that is founded on numerous pillars. “It doesn’t really take much to avoid most accidents. This is why we primarily want to sensitize and train employees so that they are in a better position to recognize, assess and prevent hazards,” said Jessica Hildebrandt, a project leader. She went on to explain that the technical equipment and safety features that Symrise offers represent the framework, but that the attitude with which employees approach their work is just as important. At the same time, the company intends to impart significantly more knowledge, such as with tools like short daily meetings or analyzing accidents that actually occurred as well as almost-accidents. “Occupational safety should become a core component of day-to-day work,” said Hildebrandt. “And that will only work when we get employees involved and see them as experts for their workplace. If we fail to do that, we will only find short-term solutions that will not result in sustainable safety culture.” Overall, around 30 different tools are in use, according to Peter Asche, who as head of the Symrise occupational safety team at the Holzminden site was decisively involved creating Symsafe together with his employees. “We have laid out all the measures on a five-year roadmap, which we also introduce in the kick-off workshop. We will install these measures selectively or permanently at the company on this basis.

Executives take on a particular role in the process, which is scheduled to last several years. They are meant to not only see this campaign as an important component of their work for themselves, but to also promote it and hold their employees to it. Special workshops are held for these employees – all the way to the top – to increase their awareness of the topic and their responsibilities, rights and duties. To support this, the occupational safety objectives will also be included as part of the portion of executive bonus compensation linked to the non-financial company objectives starting in 2023. “The issue belongs to the ‘Care’ pillar of our sustainability strategy. For this reason, it should be viewed in the same way as all other annual targets,” Hildebrandt explained.

Symsafe also evolved once again in late 2021. Since the issue of occupational safety plays an important role in many cases, colleagues in the Taste, Nutrition & Health segment in France had also set out on the path to develop a new safety culture. In most cases, both approaches netted the same results – but there also were nuanced differences in the approach. “We combined both processes into one campaign, which resulted in an excellent outcome,” said Bernhard Kott. One example is the guidelines that the teams developed. “While the eleven guidelines of the experts from Germany were based more on behavior, the ten guidelines from the French experts focused on safe working, identifying hazards and creating conditions for a safe workplace,” explained Kott. “We, along with many other parts of the Group have also benefited from the synergies that the different ways of thinking have produced. Now, after intensive planning, we will also move into successful implementation.”