Ask-the-Expert: How is dsm-firmenich driving sustainable change this Earth Day 2024?

By:  Talking Nutrition Editors



  • The Earth Day organization is the world’s largest environmental movement, working with more than 150,000 partners in over 192 countries to drive positive action for the future health of our planet. To celebrate Earth Day 2024, we’re taking a closer look at what sustainability means at dsm-firmenich and how we’re contributing to this initiative.
  • We sat down with Nelleke Barning, our Vice President and Global head of Sustainability for the Health, Nutrition & Care business, to explore how we’re working to create what is essential for life, desirable for consumers and more sustainable for the planet. 
  • Delve into this inspiring conversation to discover how dsm-firmenich is driving sustainable change by reducing its environmental impact, addressing global nutritional challenges and helping customers keep up with rising consumer demand for sustainable products. 

To celebrate Earth Day 2024 (April 22nd), we are taking a deep dive into what sustainability really means to dsm-firmenich. Since the very first Earth Day, over 50 years ago, the global celebration has turned into an impactful movement, bringing together more than one billion people who want to protect the planet.1

Today, Earth Day is recognized as the world’s largest annual civic event, where people worldwide carry out activities such as cleaning rivers, planting trees, and advocating for environmental education. However, as society becomes more environmentally aware, it puts mounting pressure on companies to demonstrate that they’re taking sustainability seriously too. 

Within this climate of heightened accountability, dsm-firmenich is transparent about the bold steps it is taking to ensure sustainability is woven into every aspect of its purpose, products and operations. To take a closer look our commitment to sustainability, we sat down with Nelleke Barning, the Vice President and Global head of Sustainability for dsm-firmenich’s Health, Nutrition & Care business. In this insightful interview, Barning reveals why sustainability is more than just a buzzword for dsm-firmenich and how the company continues to champion it.

1. How does dsm-firmenich implement sustainability into its core business operations?

“dsm-firmenich is recognized for leading the way in integrating sustainability into its operations and business strategy. Our goal is to provide the best available health benefits with the lowest possible environmental footprint, driving health for people and the planet. This dual focus on health shapes everything that we do, from the raw materials we source to how we manufacture our ingredients. We strive to minimize our operational footprint through energy efficiency, renewable energy usage, water conservation and waste reduction programs – to name just a few. But we also constantly look at the full lifecycle impacts of our products to continuously enhance their sustainability profile.”

2. What specific initiatives has dsm-firmenich undertaken to reduce its environmental impact?

“The latest climate data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that while climate change is intensifying, it is still possible to limit global temperature rise to the 1.5°C threshold set by the Paris Agreement in 2015. We believe that everyone has a part to play to effectively curb climate change. One way to do this is by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, limiting the ‘greenhouse effect’ whereby these gases heat up the earth’s atmosphere. 

"We're determined to do our our bit and have therefore submitted new GHG emissions commitments to Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), with the aim to reduce scope 1 and 2 absolute emissions by 42% and value chain (scope3) absolute emissions by 25% by 2030. We also plan to achieve 100% purchased renewable electricity by 2025 and become a net-zero company by 2045, across all scopes."

“In addition, we apply our Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) expertise to accurately measure and minimize the environmental footprint of individual ingredients, from initial sourcing through manufacture and delivery. 

This allows us to identify emission hotspots and implement targeted improvement plans. For example, our Imp'ACT Card™ for vitamin C – produced in Dalry, Scotland, the only site to produce vitamin C in the Western world – leverages our LCA expertise. It demonstrates how this pioneering ingredient generates 51% lower GHG emissions compared to alternative vitamin C products on the market. The Imp'ACT Card™ also covers other important environmental indicators like water usage, certifications and social impact – empowering customers to make more eco-conscious decisions. In addition, we also offer our LCA expertise to our strategic partnerships.

"A big part of achieving our sustainability targets is ensuring that our employees are invested in building a more sustainable future alongside us. That’s why we developed a training program, combining virtual and in-person sessions, to cover everything from sustainability basics to product-specific deep dives. Recently, we also organized a climate event at our headquarters in Kaiseraugst, Switzerland. The event, a so-called Climate Fresk, provided a selection of employees from different businesses and functions with a truly science-based workshop on climate change, where we explored how we can take action, both as a collective and as individuals.”

3. How does dsm-firmenich help to address major global challenges like food security, nutrition and climate change specifically? 

“As global challenges like food security, nutrition and climate change are all linked, we take an integrated approach to addressing them. Let’s look at building more sustainable food systems as an example. 

“First, our food fortification initiatives play a vital role in enhancing the nutritional content of staple foods like rice, wheat flour and cooking oils. This helps combat micronutrient deficiencies – also known as hidden hunger – which affect over three billion people globally, especially in developing countries.2 By boosting the nutrient density of foods through fortification, we can improve nutrition and food security in an environmentally sustainable way. In addition, we develop innovative ingredients that relieve pressure on strained environments, like marine ecosystems. Our life's® portfolio of algal-based omega-3 ingredients is a good example of this. They provide a 100% plant-based source of crucial nutritional lipids – helping to preserve ocean and marine life. Being a scalable solution, our life’s® portfolio has the ability to support millions of people globally that do not get enough from their diet alone.3"

4. How does consumer demand for sustainability influence product innovation at dsm-firmenich? 

“We are constantly evolving to keep up with growing consumer demand for environmentally-friendly, ethical and sustainable products. A recent survey investigating the behaviors and attitudes of vitamin C supplement users found that 74% of respondents consider it important or extremely important that supplements are eco-friendly.4 Similarly, 74% expressed a preference for products with sustainability claims.These insights reinforce that we're on the right track, with initiatives like our Imp'ACT Card™, in making it easy for customers to transparently communicate environmental claims to their consumers.

“Taking a look at ‘greener’ ingredients specifically, the same study found that consumers consider sustainability when it comes to purchasing vitamin C.4 Specifically, over 50% of respondents revealed that they would be willing to pay a premium price for a vitamin C product with a low carbon footprint.4 What’s more, over 60% would consider buying a vitamin C product claiming to have ‘the lowest carbon footprint in the world’.Brands can make meaningful sustainability claims that resonate with today's environmentally-conscious consumers with our low carbon vitamin C ingredient.”

5. What’s next on the sustainability horizon for dsm-firmenich? 

“A key priority going forward is taking our integrated sustainability approach to the next level, with initiatives working simultaneously across climate and nature, health and nutrition, and social impact. We want to push the boundaries of what's possible. This looks like developing environmentally-friendly ingredients, collaborating closely with local communities to improve nutrition access, and accelerating our route to net zero with science-based targets – among other initiatives. 

“However, our vision only matters if we take the little steps every day to get closer to our purpose of bringing progress to life. It is making these small actions, combined with working closely with our customers and our suppliers towards joint ambitious goals for a more sustainable world – that’s what excites me and my team most.”

Get in touch to find out how together, we can go beyond the essential, to co-develop desirable and sustainable science-backed products, powered by expert services. Connect with us here: 

Published on

17 April 2024


7 min read

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1 Earth Day. History, [website], accessed 21 March 2024.

2 Stevens GA, Beal T, Mbuya MNN, Luo H, Neufeld LM. Micronutrient deficiencies among preschool-aged children and women of reproductive age worldwide: a pooled analysis of individual-level data from population-representative surveys. The Lancet Global health. 2022;10(11):e1590-e1599

3 Ken D. Stark, Mary E. Van Elswyk, M. Roberta Higgins, Charli A. Weatherford, Norman Salem.Global survey of the omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in the blood stream of healthy adults. Progress in Lipid Research. Volume 63. 2016. Pages 132-152.

4 dsm-firmenich survey. ​