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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Firmenich Asia Pte Ltd bags SBR International Business Awards for Manufacturing

Leading fragrance house integrates the blind and visually impaired amongst its workforce.

Firmenich is the world’s largest privately-owned company in the fragrance and flavor business. To develop great perfumes, the company needs to evaluate its products via application using trained assessors. This is to make sure that its creations meet the requirements of clients and meet the expectations of consumers. These people are employed as "external panelists" who are screened, selected, then trained to become expert assessors. Once trained, their role is to provide insightful data on fragrance performance that is used to support the development and sale of winning fragrances.

In 2017, Firmenich Singapore needed to recruit a new descriptive panel of trained assessors. The company saw the potential to act in a socially responsible way and proactively offer job opportunities to blind or visually impaired people (VIP) in Singapore who often find it difficult to find employment elsewhere. To achieve this, Firmenich worked together with the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped in the recruitment of visually impaired people for the job as “sensory external panelist." Firmenich won the Singapore Business Review International Business Award for Manufacturing for employing people with visual impairment as sensory panelists.

Working with blind and VIP is a global project for Firmenich and is a concrete example of its Sustainable Development Goals on inclusivity. Firmenich employs over 100 external panelists globally of whom more than 30 are blind and visually impaired. It has similar programmes in London, Mexico, Geneva, and Mumbai. In working with blind and VIP, Firmenich has found that they are quick to train and become highly motivated panelists. This has helped Firmenich to have high productivity and performance in delivery of its sensory data to the business. Positive impact was also observed on other staff members of the company. Staff members support the initiative by participating in awareness training on how to help, guide, and interact with their blind and VIP colleagues. With this positive experience, Firmenich expects the number of blind and visually impaired panelists it employs to increase in all locations, including Singapore, in the coming years.

Firmenich’s commitment to blind and VIP people has been described as "truly unique" by a London-based partner. They said they had never experienced a commercial company approaching them in this way with such a passion to help their clients. Firmenich's clients, including those based in Singapore, also see this project as a key differentiator. They also come to learn from Firmenich how they can adopt similar practices for their businesses.

The SBR International Business Awards was held on May 17, 2018 at the Conrad Centennial Singapore.

This year's nominations were judged by a panel consisting of Ng Jiak See, executive director and head of corporate finance advisory at Deloitte Singapore & Southeast Asia; Choo Eng Chuan, ASEAN markets leader and partner, international and corporate tax services at Ernst & Young Solutions LLP; Toh Kim Teck, assurance partner at Foo Kon Tan LLP; and Henry Tan, managing director at NEXIA TS.

If you would like to join the 2019 awards and be awarded as one of the most outstanding international companies in Singapore, please email eleonor@charltonmediamail.com.

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