Waste and water management

How we’re abandoning the throw-away mindset

We’re on a journey to becoming a zero waste company by 2030, which involves focusing on both 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 obsolete materials.

For waste, this means we’re well on our way to zero waste to landfill (defined as <1% of total waste). In 2021, our waste to landfill reduced by 77% (absolute) versus 2020 (1,500 tons) to 2% of total waste in 2021. In total, there’s been an 87% (absolute) reduction in waste to landfill versus the 2018 baseline.

In 2021, we achieved circular use for around 59% of our obsolete materials. We’ve identified new outlets for materials that would otherwise be disposed of as waste. Overall, this has resulted in waste avoidance of 9,460 tons, otherwise our total waste would be 14% (absolute) higher.

How materials flow in our processes

* Landfill represents 1.5 kilotons of the 31.4 kilotons of non-reusable waste.

Our relative waste (kg/ton of material produced) didn’t improve (0%), and as a result, we didn’t meet our 2021 internal goal of 5% overall. The reasons for this include new acquisitions – which may sometimes need to align with corporate standards – raw materials shortages (which can lead to manufacturing inefficiencies), and operational and supply chain challenges. We’re driving various global programs, such as wash water recycling and solvent recovery units, to further reduce our waste.

Our ambition is to reuse water at all our most water intensive sites. We mainly use water for cooling (77%, chemically unchanged) 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. A site is considered water intensive if it uses more than 15,000m3 per year, excluding cooling water. Currently, we have 47 sites that are considered water intensive per the definition, representing 75% of our total freshwater consumption. If relative freshwater consumption is less than 250 liters per ton of product, we consider water reuse is in place (best-in-class water intensity level within AkzoNobel, only reached through water management and reuse). In 2021, this was achieved by 14 out of those 47 sites.

We’re improving by focusing on recycling and reusing process water by treating our wastewater on-site, or via third parties. We also adapt formulations, enabling us to reuse water and reduce our freshwater consumption, and we’re moving towards waterless cleaning to help reduce our freshwater consumption.

Water flow in our processes

* Primarily cooling water

Total waste in kilotons

Total waste metrics

Waste means any substance or object arising from our routine operations which we discard or intend to discard, or we are required to discard.

Fresh water use in million m3

Fresh water use metrics

Fresh water use is the sum of the intake of groundwater, surface water and potable water.

Decorative paint industrial plant

Two major projects to install around 8,000 solar panels were completed at sites in China – helping to accelerate our ambition of cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030. The panels were installed at two of our Decorative Paints plants – more than 5,000 in Shanghai and almost 3,000 in Guangzhou – representing further progress for our greener manufacturing plans.


Climate change adaptation and water risk

As recommended by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), we continue to monitor our risks and opportunities related to climate change. As a company, we’re exposed to physical risks – such as those associated with water scarcity, flooding and weather events. We also consider transitional risks that can lead to changes in technology, market dynamics and regulations.

For the last six years, we’ve implemented an internal carbon price for investment decisions, anticipating the impact of any future carbon pricing. We have sustainability assessments in place for investment projects, including water risk assessment for new locations. Annually, we also quantify the potential transitional risk impact of any global carbon taxation by multiplying our carbon footprint with the internal carbon price. The financial impact is well below 1% of revenues.

We continue to assess risks related to water. We use the Aqueduct water risk atlas developed by the World Resources Institute to assess the level of risk related to water at our production locations. Around 10% of our sites are in areas rated “extremely high” for overall water risk (with standard weighting factors). Aqueduct is also used to assess current climate related risks (coastal flooding, river flooding and drought). Around 14% of our locations are in areas rated “extremely high”. These account for 3% of our fresh water use.

Future risks for 2030 were also evaluated using Aqueduct (water stress, business as usual). Around 25% of our locations are in areas rated “extremely high”, accounting for 7% of our fresh water use. All locations confirmed as “extremely high” in any of these assessments will develop a risk mitigation plan.

We continued to assess our suppliers in 2021 and challenged them on their water risk, particularly in regions affected by river or coastal flooding. We’re working with them to look for solutions to these challenges.