Two years ago the Swiss fragrance house embarked on a program called Innovative Naturals to develop sustainable links with suppliers of natural raw materials.
Laotian benzoin is now the third raw material to join the program following the signing of partnerships with suppliers of Australian sandalwood and Venezuelan tonka beans.
Givaudan’s partner in the latest project is Agroforex, a Laos-based producer and exporter of pharmaceutical and aromatic plants, which arranges benzoin production with local communities.
The project will involve economic and social initiatives and aims to ensure the sustainable supply of benzoin.
Extracted as gum or ‘tears’ from Styrax tonkinensis trees in northern Laos, benzoin is a vital source of income for rural communities.
To support these communities, Givaudan has financed the construction of a secondary school in Phongsali province with the participation of Agroforex. The company is also funding the purchase of materials and the training of teachers for the school over three years.
Givaudan said the building of the school should discourage the rural exodus that is threatening both social cohesion and the future of benzoin production.
As part of the new partnership, Givaudan is also participating in a program launched over a decade ago by Agroforex for the long-term management of the mountain forest ecosystem. This is helping to improve planting techniques and has led to the discovery of new qualities of raw materials.
Rémi Pulverail, of the Innovative Naturals program said: “Our approach is different to that of fair trade projects because we are trying to develop additional natural products in parallel to benzoin, to help village communities to diversify.”
“The villagers are mostly farmers, and benzoin collection is their only means of bringing in an income that is in addition to their staple crops of rice and vegetables.”
Givaudan plans to add at least one new partnership a year to its Innovative Naturals program.