For AkzoNobel, the circular economy goes beyond recycling. It all starts with limiting the need to recycle. Therefore, we focus on reducing waste, finding alternative sources for our raw materials and repurposing and reclaiming materials. This commitment goes beyond our own operations. It’s a responsibility which stretches across the value chain. So we work closely together with suppliers and customers, because collaborative innovation will play a crucial role in helping us to achieve our ambitions.
Paints and coatings make a vital contribution to extending the lifespan of substrates, which effectively means that circularity is built into the benefits they offer. Our products can make objects last longer, reducing the need for additional raw materials and resources, while also improving our customers’ productivity and reducing waste. Just think about how long buildings or cars would last without being coated.
Reducing waste and increasing circularity
We’re on a journey towards achieving 100% circular use of materials in our own operations by 2030. This is defined by the amount of materials reused by AkzoNobel and third parties (reusable waste and by-products) divided by the total waste and by-products. In 2022, we achieved circular use of materials for 56% of our obsolete material and waste streams.
Our programs to achieve our ambitions focus on topics such as solvent recovery, reduction of waste, packaging optimization and reworking of obsolete finished goods. We also identify new outlets for materials that would otherwise have been disposed of. For example, turning wastewater sludge into bricks and tiles.
We’re on the right track, having already achieved an 89% reduction in waste to landfill (absolute waste, versus a 2018 baseline). Our actions make an important contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goal on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SDG 12). To find out more, read our 2022 annual report.
Using more sustainable packaging
One of our goals in becoming more circular is to use at least 50% recycled content in the plastic packaging used by our Decorative Paints business in Europe by 2025, where more than half of our plastic packaging is used. By working together with our packaging suppliers, we’ve been able to achieve up to 70% recycled content in our key packs, without increasing the need for materials and packaging weight or reducing performance.
Our sustainable solutions approach includes circular criteria
One of our sustainability commitments is to develop, produce and sell more sustainable solutions. We’re well on track to deliver our 2030 target of more than 50% revenue coming from sustainable solutions, having achieved 40% in 2022. We assess the sustainability characteristics of our products and services using our externally verified Sustainable Product Portfolio Assessment (SPPA) . The assessment is based on the following criteria, which include circularity topics:
· Reduced carbon and energy
· Reduced, reused and renewed material use
· Less waste
· Longer lasting performance
· Health and well-being
 Our Sustainable Product Portfolio Assessment is based on the Sustainable Product Portfolio Assessment Framework of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). We’ve been using this methodology for the past six years to assess our entire product portfolio.
We’re continuously looking for new ways to drive sustainable innovation. By implementing circular design principles, we’re able to reduce the amount of paints and coatings used by avoiding overspray or reducing the number of layers needed. We’re also reducing waste through packaging optimization, avoiding hazardous chemicals by using better formulations and using substances with lower embodied carbon, such as bio-based materials. We consider competition with the food chain when evaluating the use of bio-based renewable raw materials.
A clear example of how we develop innovative technology with sustainability benefits is our range of decorative paints that contain up to 35% post-consumer waste paint. They include Dulux Evolve Matt and Sikkens Alpha Recycle Mat, which are available respectively in the UK and France and the Benelux. We partnered with Veolia and Interchem to develop these lower carbon footprint products which don’t compromise on quality. To learn about more examples of circular solutions, visit the sustainable solutions page.
Our commitment to scienced-based targets and circular solutions
We’re committed to halving our carbon emissions across the entire value chain by 2030 (baseline 2018). This is aligned with the Paris Agreement which aims to limit global warming and ensure that the global temperature rise doesn’t exceed 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels. We’re also proud to be the first paints and coatings company to receive official validation for our science-based targets from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in September 2021.
Collaboration is key to reducing the carbon footprint and driving circular solutions
In order to achieve our Scope 3 ambitions, we’re focusing on education, innovation and collaboration. With regards to innovation, we aim to increase our sustainable solutions (products that offer a sustainability benefit to our customers). In addition, we continue to invest in collaborative innovation, which involves working closely with suppliers, customers and other partners. Some great examples of this include our Paint the Future initiative, DSGC and the CEO Alliance. Other examples are:
· In collaboration with Dutch company Black Bear, we found a circular alternative to carbon black – a material that can be used in the manufacture of powder coatings – which is harvested from used car tires
· We launched our Collaborative Sustainability Challenge. It involves bringing together 30 partners from across our value chain to develop a shared approach to limiting climate change. The participants will deep-dive into the following areas: energy transition, process efficiency, solvent emissions and circular solutions
·Together with the Dutch Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC), we developed a technology to make sustainable resins using bio-based monomers, rather than the traditional oil-based ones. It only requires UV light, oxygen and renewable raw materials.
Looking into the future
We’ll continue to play our part in the transition to a circular economy, while living up to both financial and societal expectations. We support the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). Risks and opportunities related to climate change and the transition towards a circular economy are assessed via our risk management process. We manage those risks and opportunities by working with suppliers and customers. Governance is integrated into our management cycle.
Learn more about our Climate change position