Determining our salient issues

In 2016, we accelerated our human rights program, starting with the appointment of an AkzoNobel Human Rights Committee. The committee was first trained on the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights (UNGPs) by the human rights experts from the accountancy and advisory firm Mazars. Mazars then identified potential human rights impacts across our value chain based on a value chain desk analysis and interviews with the members of the committee.

How do we do it?

Overall the paints and coatings industry is at an early stage, but as a leading company we are at the forefront and working with partners and big suppliers. For our human rights framework to be effective, our attention and resources need to be focused on the most severe risks to people. This means prioritizing our potential impacts on human rights that we can be involved with. The UNGPs refer to this as the company’s salient human rights issues, of which their severities are defined by their scale, scope and irremediability. 

Consequently, an internal human rights risk prioritization workshop was held with the members of the committee, based on the aforementioned collected information and analysis, led by Mazars. This led to the identification of our four initial salient human rights issues: (i) health and safety, (ii) working conditions, (iii) discrimination and harassment and (iv) under-aged labor.

The rationale behind first identifying initial salient human rights issues is that the committee strongly felt that on certain potential impacts that were identified, mitigating actions or extra study should immediately be taken, while we continue the process to conduct more in-depth analysis on our potential impacts on human rights including engaging external stakeholders.

What are salient human rights issues?

A company’s salient human rights issues are those human rights that stand out, because they are at risk of the most severe negative impact through the company’s activities or business relationships.   

In 2017, we further studied possible impacts on people’s human rights across our value chain. We focused our efforts on seeking stakeholder input and performing due diligence in relation to our initial salient issues.

To obtain stakeholder input, the following actions have been taken:        

- External stakeholders: Numerous individual meetings with NGOs, human rights experts, sustainable investors, peer companies, government bodies and other organizations to learn from their perspectives, knowledge and experiences

- External stakeholders: In June 2017, a human rights expert meeting was held in Amsterdam, which was attended by close to 20 experts representing the academic world, trade unions, government, industry associations, investors, NGOs and peer companies. During this meeting, we tested our initial salient issues with the participants and asked for their input. We received valuable feedback to strengthen our human rights program, while also having received positive feedback on our openness and work done so far

- Internal stakeholders: Numerous randomly selected employees in different roles, seniority levels, regions, businesses and departments were asked to share their views on what they view as potential impacts on human rights by AkzoNobel or by others across our value chain

- Internal stakeholders: Two human rights workshops were held with colleagues in China and India to identify potential impacts on human rights on a regional level


Based on the information and insights gathered in 2017, the Human Rights Committee re-evaluated the initial salient issues. Starting with a long list of potential impacts on human rights across our value chain, the potential impacts were prioritized by their severity and likelihood.

Risk Rating Scale: Severity 

Severity Score

Severity level




Scope: Large population (size unknown/unmanageable)
Scale: Very serious impact, potential vulnerable groups
Irremediability: Impact is irremediable



Scope: Group of individuals (size is manageable)
Scale: Serious impact
Irremediability: Impact is difficult to remediate



Scope: Few individuals
Scale: Low impact
Irremediability: Impact is remediable


Risk Rating Scale: Likelihood

Likelihood of occurrence



Almost certain

>90% chance of occurrence of the impact scenario within the next one to three years





>60%-<90% chance of occurrence of the impact scenario within the next one to three years

>30%-<60% chance of occurrence of the impact scenario within the next one to three years

>10%-<30% chance of occurrence of the impact scenario within the next one to three years



<10% chance of occurrence of the impact scenario within the next one to three years


The committee concluded that the earlier defined initial salient issues still apply, with a further focus excluding areas of less risk. Our salient issues are adjusted as reflected below. Click on the pictures for more information.

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