- Head of Human Rights; Supplier Development & Sustainability Director
- At Business Area AkzoNobel
- Works in Amsterdam
- At AkzoNobel since 2006
"International companies like AkzoNobel can have an even bigger impact on people’s human rights than NGOs and governments."
"Helping our suppliers better understand our motivation builds their confidence in us. Then we can begin collaborating, which is very rewarding." Alain Mimeault, Global Supplier Development and Sustainability Director
It might be a surprise to learn that AkzoNobel, a paints and coatings company, has people devoted to working on human rights. As part of our core principles sustainability and integrity, human rights is actually right at the heart of everything we do. Ahead of Human Rights Day on December 10, Siham Lotfi, Global Head of Human Rights, Legal Counsel and Alain Mimeault, Global Supplier Development and Sustainability Director share why.
Respect for human rights
Our focus on human rights helps us lead and be a good corporate citizen. Siham says: “We want to lead our industry in all areas, including sustainability and integrity – that means we must respect human rights when doing business. My work also helps the company meet increasing customer expectations on human rights, and perform well on human rights benchmarks.”
With our global footprint, it’s vitally important we look beyond our own operations to those we partner with. Alain says: “We can drive the improved sustainability performance of our suppliers. Our Supplier Sustainability Framework defines how AkzoNobel does this, and recent improvements have only reinforced our leading position in this area.”
Working together is essential
With AkzoNobel since 2013, Siham’s current role involves a diverse set of responsibilities: gathering and analyzing data on our human rights performance; preparing and presenting reports; and importantly, building strong connections. She enjoys the rapport she builds with colleagues, business partners and others around the world.
She elaborates: “A typical week includes answering customer and investor questions, calling suppliers, meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs and NGOs, answering journalist questions, providing input for a UN treaty – and staying closely connected internally including with Public Affairs and local HR.”
Alain, who joined AkzoNobel in 2006, leads the Supplier Development and Sustainability organization. That means measuring, monitoring, reporting, coordinating and driving supplier improvements in Quality, Delivery, Cost, Innovation and Sustainability.
As someone who enjoys looking for solutions, Alain’s role provides many opportunities to improve how we work. “I make sure we have the right processes well embedded in our day-to-day activities, as well as identify gaps in supplier performance and engage with our suppliers to close them,” says Alain. “For all these activities, the support and contribution of our colleagues across the business is essential.”
Companies have the power to make a difference
Described by some as a corporate idealist, Siham believes international companies like AkzoNobel can have an even bigger impact on people’s human rights than NGOs and governments. She explains: “Our power is not limited to borders and we have decision power. A company can implement a high standard on human rights across the business and its regions. We can also influence business partners to follow our example.”
Alain points out being able to influence our business partners requires trust. “The information we request from our suppliers is quite sensitive, and sometimes we face resistance. Helping them better understand our motivation builds their confidence in us. Then we can begin collaborating, which is very rewarding,” he says.
Our shared values connect us
Siham is proud that AkzoNobel’s commitment to respect human rights across the value chain is led from the top. She says: “In 2016, the Executive Committee installed a directly-reporting Human Rights Committee. I, like many others, find it important to work for a company with these values. When I explain what I do, I’m often asked about vacancies!”
Alain says AkzoNobel’s engagement on sustainability reflects a desire to make life better on this planet. “One example is our due diligence initiative, focused on identifying potential child labor and modern slavery along our global supply chain, and implementing corrective actions. The commitment to this effort makes me proud to work for AkzoNobel.”
Pioneer your way to your perfect role
People looking for career advice, might want to pay particular attention to the values they find most important. Alain says: “Career development is a mixture of being at the right place, taking risk and building up your competency. Have a vision. Be a pioneer. My activities on sustainability when I was leading procurement of solvents and latex paved the way to my current role.”
Siham also believes it’s important to challenge yourself and reach outside your comfort zone. She says: “I think learning from others and have the right people around you is key. Mentors have helped me gain new insights and grow throughout my career.”