The American Cleaning Institute (ACI)

Rising to the 1.5°C Challenge: IFF Reducing its Production Carbon Footprint


Here at ACI, we have challenged our members to align their corporate climate strategy and targets with the 1.5°C ambition, which strives to reach net-zero global emissions by 2050. Across the cleaning products industry, companies are taking bold action to limit the global average temperature rise to less than 1.5°C.

IFF is taking on climate change with a multi-pronged strategy to minimize its carbon footprint and with the ambition to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Simultaneously, the company delivers innovative solutions that support its customers to meet their net-zero targets while enhancing everyday tasks like dishwashing and laundry.

ACI spoke with Michael Babicki to learn how IFF improves its environmental footprint while supporting the industry's transition to a bio-based economy. Michael Babicki provided examples of IFF’s use of biotechnology to create essential cleaning ingredients, such as enzymes.


ACI: How is IFF working to reduce its carbon footprint in relation to production?

IFF: Sustainability is at the heart of IFF's culture. We have committed to Science-Based Targets for 2030, aligned to the 1.5°C pathway. It is our ambition to achieve net-zero by 2040, which requires evaluating all aspects of our operations. To achieve this, we're focusing on renewable energy and waste reduction. For example: 

  • Our research site in New Jersey is fully powered by solar energy which covers 100% of the facility's electricity needs.
  • All our manufacturing plants are committed to using electricity from renewable energy by 2030.
  • In our enzyme production, we've made significant process changes and invested capital to utilize the residual cell mass from our fermentation processes. Instead of going to landfill most of the cell mass is repurposed.

As the climate challenge intensifies, we must also explore new avenues. In addition to reducing our carbon footprint, we have been working for over a decade on developing biopolymers, called “Designed Enzymatic Biomaterials” or DEB for short, that can help replace fossil-based polymers for the cleaning industry. Polymers are commonly used in laundry and dish detergents to enhance the cleaning performance and prevent redeposition of soils on fabrics or dishes. As we collectively work to prevent more fossil carbon from entering the atmosphere, IFF is working on innovative solutions, like DEB, to augment or replace existing technologies.

ACI: What other strategies will IFF take to become Net Zero by 2040? 

IFF: Part of our strategy to reach net zero by 2040 is for all new IFF innovations to have a sustainability value proposition by 2030. In 2022, we developed our Innovation for Sustainability assessment model as a scoring tool. It uses a proprietary methodology to evaluate the sustainability performance of our innovation projects. In 2022, we screened more than 250 innovation projects against the model’s criteria, resulting in key insights related to environmental or social risks and benefits that informed our new product development processes.

ACI: How does IFF transition all manufacturing sites to renewable energy by 2030?

IFF: Our strategy for transitioning to renewable energy by 2030 focuses on two main areas: 1) procuring renewable energy and 2) reducing energy consumption. As a member of RE100, a global initiative uniting corporations committed to 100% renewable energy, we pledge to source all our electricity needs from renewable resources. To achieve this, we employ strategies such as traditional and virtual power purchase agreements, green energy contracts, and utilizing credits when necessary.

Furthermore, we collaborate with local engineering teams to execute energy efficiency projects. For instance, 95% of our major manufacturing facilities, based on production volumes, have achieved ISO 14001 certification, which is an international standard for environmental management systems. A fundamental principle of ISO 14001 is the dedication to ongoing improvement, with energy reduction being a crucial component of this commitment. 

ACI: What is an enzyme and what is its role in detergent?

IFF: Enzymes are proteins that speed up biological processes. They are found throughout nature - in microorganisms, plants, animals, and humans - and were introduced into cleaning products in the early 1960s. They operate under mild conditions, meaning they work at low temperatures and neutral pH levels. They're effective in small concentrations and are readily biodegradable. 

ACI: How does IFF’s innovation in enzymes contribute to sustainability for detergent manufacturers and consumers?

IFF: Enzymes are small yet powerful. They significantly enhance cleaning performance and, along with other detergent components, allow for shorter, colder wash cycles in laundry and dishwashing. Our tests show that using enzymes can often achieve similar cleaning results with shorter or colder cycles compared to a non-enzyme detergent. Reducing cleaning cycle times can conserve energy and is also more appealing to consumers. 

ACI: How can individuals save energy when doing dishes?

IFF: Everyone has a part to play in combating climate change. One significant way consumers can reduce the environmental impact of dishwashing is by using a dishwasher, which is typically more water and energy-efficient than washing dishes by hand. Consumers should also avoid unnecessary pre-rinsing to conserve water. Quality detergents are typically effective enough without pre-rinsing. Lastly, use the dishwasher's eco-cycle.

We recognize that eco-cycles often take too long for many consumers. In simple terms, cleaning is a function of time, mechanical action, chemistry, and temperature. If reducing one of the four factors, another must increase to compensate. Eco-cycles compensate for lower temperatures with longer cycle times. IFF has developed enzymes that work well at lower wash temperatures, opening possibilities for energy-efficient wash cycles that are also faster.

ACI: What is next for IFF in the realm of climate action?

IFF: Addressing climate change is an urgent and crucial challenge that requires collective effort. At IFF, we believe our most significant contribution lies in fostering innovation and sustainable product solutions within the biological sphere. The 21st century will be marked by groundbreaking advancements in biology, which will play a vital role in promoting a circular economy. 

To achieve our goals, we are not solely focused on advancing our biotech innovations in enzyme technologies. As previously mentioned, IFF is also working on other bio-based solutions, such as our our novel polymer platform, DEB, designed for the cleaning industry among other applications. This cutting-edge technology is not only bio-based and biodegradable, but also delivers performance properties comparable to those of traditional fossil-based polymers.