The new report stresses that adopting a CSR approach is not new to Akzo Nobel. The company has always focused on achieving a good balance between caring for the environment, developing its employees and contributing to society while generating sound profits. But today’s launch represents a firm commitment to increasing the effectiveness of all our CSR efforts.
“Although CSR values are very important to Akzo Nobel, we have been too unstructured in the way they have been addressed,” explained CEO Hans Wijers. “This is something we at Akzo Nobel are no longer willing to accept. To really understand how successful we are as a company in meeting our social and environmental objectives and to identify where we need to improve, we must be able to benchmark and verify our CSR activities. We also need to ensure that the targeting and measurement of CSR elements are fully integrated into our management processes. This is why we have taken the initial steps towards best practice by launching our first CSR Report.”
The 56-page document—which was prepared using the framework of the guidelines laid down by the Global Reporting Initiative—includes nine new occupational health and environmental indicators, as well as identifying a number of areas where Akzo Nobel has been successful in pursuing its CSR objectives, such as product stewardship, occupational health and energy efficiency. The importance of entrepreneurship and community involvement is also highlighted.
But Wijers added that although the first CSR Report includes much that Akzo Nobel can be proud of, it only represents the first major step towards creating a company with a best in class reputation in all aspects of CSR. “Although this report identifies some real CSR achievements, it has also revealed areas where significant improvement needs to be made,” he said. “So our first CSR Report must be viewed as a work in progress, which will be used to bring about improved CSR performance in all areas. Given our heritage, we expect to be among the best, which is why we have given ourselves the target of achieving a ranking on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.”
Community involvement is an important element of the CSR Report and today also sees the launch of a Community Program for Akzo Nobel employees worldwide. The company has always encouraged its employees to support community activities, but until now, community-focused projects have been initiated by management or on an ad hoc basis.
The Community Program will actually encourage Akzo Nobel employees to take an active role in relation to local initiatives by empowering them to initiate and participate in projects in the communities where they live and work.
“What excites us about the Community Program is that it goes beyond traditional resource focused approaches to CSR,” said Wijers. “Although finance is still vital, we feel that the initiative, involvement, skills and knowledge of our employees are just as important in ensuring the success of Akzo Nobel community projects. By drawing on the energy and talent of our employees, we believe that the Community Program can make a big difference to the communities within which we all live and work.”
He added: “To get the Community Program off to a flying start, we’ve decided to allocate this year's budget for the program not only to employees’ initiatives, but also in part to a reliable, global organization – the Red Cross/Red Crescent. This organization will use their EUR 1.5 million allocation to support projects in those areas of the developing world where Akzo Nobel is active, while also giving Akzo Nobel employees the opportunity to participate in these projects.”