Biodiversity is becoming an increasingly important topic and companies have a role to play in protecting and supporting biodiversity and ecosystems. In this position statement, we dive into the various aspects of biodiversity that matter for AkzoNobel.
- At AkzoNobel, we’ve made it our business to deliver the sustainable and innovative solutions that our customers, communities – and the planet – are increasingly relying on.
- We’ve assessed biodiversity related to 1) Our own operations; 2) Upstream with our suppliers; 3) Downstream with our product portfolio; 4) Our societal role
- From a biodiversity perspective, carbon emissions are the most material topic for AkzoNobel. In 2017, we committed to becoming a carbon-neutral company by 2050. We’re turning this ambition into reality by setting aspirational, science-based targets. As well as aligning with the 1.5°C pathway, this means we’ll increasingly deliver sustainable solutions to our customers
Biodiversity in own operations
Biodiversity in own operations: Land use and key biodiversity areas
The land use of a paints and coatings factory is relatively small when compared with the footprint of other industries, such as extractives industries or the broader chemicals industry. Additionally, based on the IUCN’s Key biodiversity areas, none of our production sites are located in areas of significant biodiversity value.
Biodiversity in own operations: Waste and water management
We’re on a journey to becoming a zero waste company by 2030, which involves focusing on reducing both our waste and water. We continue to promote a circular economy as part of our focus on reducing waste in our manufacturing processes, and we’re committed to reusing and recycling 100% of obsolete materials. In addition, we have an ambition of zero waste to landfill.
For water, our ambition is to reuse water at all our most water intensive sites. We mainly use water for cooling at a handful of our production locations in low water risk areas. Water is also used as a raw material in production and for cleaning. We’re improving by focusing on recycling and reusing process water by treating our wastewater on-site, or via third parties.
The above metrics are disclosed in our annual report. We also provide additional disclosures on marginal emissions on our website.
Our objective is to ensure that as we conduct our business activities, we prevent or minimize negative impacts to the environment. This is driven through the implementation of rigorous targets and programs using our ISO certified HSE&S management system. More details are available in our HSE&S position statement, which can be read here.
Biodiversity in own operations: Carbon emissions
One of the indirect impacts of our Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions is climate change, which has been shown to impact biodiversity1. In 2021, we announced an ambitious target of reducing carbon emissions across our full value chain by 50% by 2030, taking 2018 as our baseline. Our ambitions are aligned with the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit climate change and ensure that global temperature doesn’t rise more than 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels. Our ambitions are approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and will help drive our innovation and collaboration with our value chain partners, including customers and suppliers.
Within our own operations, we therefore seek to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 emissions through dedicated programs, with the key underlying ambitions of moving to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and reducing our energy consumption by 30% (versus 2018).
For detailed information on our approach to climate change, including Scope 1, 2 and 3, please see our position statement on climate change.
Biodiversity in our upstream value chain: Suppliers
We monitor the sustainability performance, including biodiversity, of our suppliers through assessments carried out by EcoVadis and on-site audits via our Together for Sustainability (TfS) partnership. Suppliers in scope are based on country and/or category risk.
We additionally assess our relevant suppliers through our Supplier Sustainability Balanced Scorecard, which we use to review the eco-efficiency performance of our suppliers on several KPIs, such as waste, energy and greenhouse gases. We invite our top suppliers who contribute to our Scope 3 upstream emissions to collaborate on our goals, in line with our science-based targets.
Biodiversity is part of our decision-making process in the transition to renewable (bio-based) materials.
Biodiversity in our downstream value chain: Product portfolio
For a large part, our sustainable product portfolio is aimed at reducing carbon footprint and waste, both of which have an indirect impact on biodiversity.
Through our priority substance management program, our R&D focuses on minimizing the impact of our products on the environment, as well as adverse health effects. This includes substituting substances that have, or are suspected to have, a negative impact on the environment or on human health.
An example is our high-performing antifouling paint, essential in helping to reduce the fuel consumption of ships, preventing translocation of non-indigenous species and minimizing underwater hull cleaning. Increasingly, the direction for our marine fouling control coatings is towards biocide-free, low VOC and longer lasting, adding to the sustainability benefits of these products.
At the same time, we’re actively monitoring the current debate around microplastics in the (marine) environment. Together with our industry partners, we participate in studies, as there’s a need for more research about the origin of microplastics and how we can best address concerns about the emission of microplastics to the environment. We continue to invest in developing longer lasting coatings and recycling programs, as well as educating our customers and the users of our products to minimize the impact of our products (e.g. “dry dock discipline”, ensuring waste from maintenance and repair activity is appropriately collected and disposed of).
In the years to come, we expect the transition towards a circular economy will push companies – including AkzoNobel – to further innovate towards circular solutions.
Examples of making a positive impact on biodiversity via our societal role
At our Mauá site in Brazil, we’ve been restoring part of our 70 hectares (equivalent to around 100 soccer pitches) of rainforest to native woodland. This return to natural habitat benefits both plant and animal life.
Various employee actions have also been organized at our sites around the world, such as planting trees and bee protection initiatives at our Sassenheim facility in the Netherlands.
AkzoNobel actively contributes to the societal debate on sustainability and supports climate positive policies. In 2021, we became the first paints and coatings company to receive the Terra Carta seal, which recognizes global companies driving innovation and demonstrating their commitment to – and momentum towards – the creation of genuinely sustainable markets.
AkzoNobel is also supporting the Polar Pod, which will enable scientists to study the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which has a major influence on the Earth’s climate and contains an immense reserve of marine biodiversity.