Teaming up to tackle climate change

A closer look at our Collaborative Sustainability Challenge with CTO, Klaas Kruithof

It’s become very clear that there’s no time to waste if the world is to limit global warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels. At AkzoNobel, we’ve set challenging ambitions for our own operations – and our entire value chain – in order to meet this goal. That’s why we’ve launched our Collaborative Sustainability Challenge.

The 24-hour event is being staged from May 17 to 18 and will involve a select group of partners, including suppliers and customers. It’s being co-hosted by SYSTEMIQ, a system change company working for a more inclusive, net zero and nature-positive economy.

Partners who will be attending include: Allnex, ALTANA, AW Repair Group, Arcadis, ArcelorMittal, CanPack, CBRE, Chemours, Clariant, Covestro, Damen shipyards, Iberdrola, ING, Kingfisher, Lucas Group, Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Olin, Perstorp, Renewi, Sasol, Schneider Electric, Signify, Sika, Eindhoven University of Technology, Velux, Wagner and the World Green Building Council.

Why is AkzoNobel launching a Collaborative Sustainability Challenge?

Our Collaborative Sustainability Challenge is all about inviting our partners to work with us in an effort to collectively reduce our carbon footprint and tackle climate change. Having set science-based sustainability targets to halve carbon emissions across our full value chain by 2030, we’re fully committed to getting there. However, we know the only way for us to achieve that ambition is to collaborate. Around 98% of our carbon footprint lies outside our own operations, so it’s clear that we won’t make it on our own. We need to work with others and we need to start thinking and taking action now if we want to be successful by 2030.


How does it differ from the company’s collaborative innovation initiative, Paint the Future?

Actually, it’s very similar to what we’re already doing with our collaborative innovation journey, albeit with a few important differences. Paint the Future was set up because we came to the conclusion that collaboration was the best way to create paradigm shifts in innovation – and we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved so far. We want to make the same leaps forward with sustainability. In fact, the Collaborative Sustainability Challenge will also sit under the Paint the Future umbrella. It’s very much a natural progression, because our science-based sustainability target is clearly a driver for innovation, so the two have inevitably come together. And it’s all aligned with our commitment to keep innovating to address key global issues.   


Can you explain how the Collaborative Sustainability Challenge works?

We’re calling on strategic industry partners and stakeholders – those who share our determination to significantly reduce carbon emissions – to sit down with us and together we’ll look at how we can identify roadblocks and come up with new approaches to overcome them. Some of the partners we’re inviting have also committed to SBTi targets, and we’re fairly certain they can’t achieve them on their own either. So we need to exchange ideas and best practices to ‘hack the system’ and move forward, because we’ll only get there if we collaborate.


Tell us more about that event, how is it organized?

It’s a 24-hour program, split over two days. We’ll engage with our partners – represented by a senior executive and a next generation leader – and the idea is to have open discussions in a non-confidential environment. We’ll divide into pre-defined, cross-functional (non-competitive) groups, and we’ll take an unconventional approach to exploring the possibilities of the energy transition with several renowned speakers. We’ll then deep-dive into specific areas – energy transition, process efficiency, solvent emissions and circular solutions. Ultimately, our ambition is to create a new ecosystem and define the roadblocks and possible ways of working to accelerate the collective reduction of carbon emissions and limit global warming. The main difference compared with our collaborative innovation approach is that there’s no competition element. The only true winner will be our planet.


Why invite next generation leaders to take part?

They absolutely need to be part of the conversation. It’s vital that we include the views of those who will live with the consequences of all our efforts to tackle climate change. They can bring a different outlook, new ways of thinking. It’s something we’ve already done in our own organization. We’ve established a NextGen Sustainability Council to bring a fresh perspective by identifying opportunities, building on our achievements and highlighting issues that could arise in the future.


How confident are you that the Collaborative Sustainability Challenge will be a success?

Paint the Future was an industry-first initiative which has changed our approach to innovation at AkzoNobel and we’re determined to do the same with sustainability. It’s an inherent part of Paint the Future already, in many ways, evidenced by some of the winners we’ve had so far. We’ve partnered with Qlayers, for example, following a series of commercial successes for their robotic paint application (which produces zero overspray). And we’ve successfully reached the pilot phase for a new pre-deco filler based on a circular raw material developed by Alucha. So we’re very confident that by connecting with partners from our entire value chain, we can make the necessary step changes to ensure that the world as we know it now lasts beyond generations.

Hear from some of our partners

Andrew Walsh

Founder & CEO – AW Repair Group

“Climate change is so important, ultimately if we don’t look after our planet, we aren’t going to have a planet in the future. All human activity has a carbon footprint, the changes made by one organisation will not impact the planet, but by working in collaboration, multiple changes will make the desired impact. We all need to do what we can to cut greenhouse gases and work towards slowing down climate change, which collaboratively through the cycle of our delivery solutions, our value chain and business partners can be achieved.”

Robert Spruijt

Head of Sustainable Finance EMEA (Europe, Middle East& Africa) at ING

"The most important things that should be addressed during this challenge are to jointly define the transition opportunities and risks coming from a linear to a networked ecosystem which involves the full value chain and leaves nobody behind, so we can help with shaping sustainable solutions to achieve our joint goal."

Philippe Diez

Partner Europe Sustainability Business at Schneider Electric

"Real impact and fast change don't happen in isolation, they rely on collaborative efforts across teams, geographies and amongst companies - collectively, we need to step up and engage on sustainability on all fronts. As an impact company, we are accelerating on that journey, engaging our supply chain, supporting clients and innovating across our ecosystem of strong partners and peers. We are ready to go beyond and appreciate the opportunity to join the Collaborative Sustainability Challenge"

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