Note 9: Product stewardship

We aim to be a leading company among our peers by providing customers with safe products that meet their needs. Based on the product stewardship objectives included on our HSE Agenda 2011–2015, our focus during 2013 was on common HSE platform programs.

Priority substance management

We are committed to reducing the use of substances in our products and processes that may pose a significant risk to long-term health or the environment. We do this by minimizing exposure to hazardous substances and, where possible, by substituting them with more sustainable materials.

Our priority substance management program takes a systematic approach to the identification and review of hazardous substances. We score each one on the basis of their human and environmental hazards and where public concern exists over their use. Substances with higher scores are designated as priority substances and subject to review by our experts. Where a more sustainable and effective alternative exists, priority substances are removed from our products and processes and substituted with less hazardous and more sustainable materials. If this is not currently possible, a full risk assessment on the substance is carried out using state-of-the-art techniques from the EU REACH regulation. Only when safe use of a priority substance can be demonstrated is it allowed to be used in our products and processes.

We are on target to review and risk manage all our priority substances by 2015. We have now reviewed and risk managed 90 (62 percent) priority substances, meeting our objective for 2013. Of the priority substances reviewed in the program so far, 48 will be phased out, 35 restricted to uses that are proven to be safe and seven have been delisted as priority substances.

One example of a group of compounds to be replaced with more sustainable alternatives is short-chained chlorinated paraffins, as there are concerns over their impact on the environment. These will be phased out from the end of 2013. A restricted substance example is respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Its use in paints and chemical products should not exceed maximum levels.

Taking this proactive approach to substance management means that we are prepared in advance of new and changing regulations. It also enables us to take a leading position in sustainable product stewardship and supports the development and introduction of eco-premium solutions to the market.

In 2014 we intend to extend the same substance scoring methodology into our procurement process in order to source fewer raw materials that may be harmful to long-term human health and the environment.

Product distribution

To ensure our products are transported and distributed safely by our contractors, we insist that all risks involved in the distribution process are assessed, and that they take the right safety measures. We also audit their performance. In 2013, we issued a comprehensive guidance note to all company personnel involved with selection of road transport companies to make sure that appropriate procedures are in place.

Regulatory affairs

We carefully monitor changes and prepare ourselves for new regulations that will affect our products and processes. In 2013, we developed a new company-wide regulatory information system (RIS) which will ensure that the latest information relating to product safety legislation is available to all AkzoNobel regulatory affairs professionals. This new system will go live in 2014.

During 2013, our primary activities included:

REACH compliance

We met our target to complete the submission of 181 substances for registration under scope of the second phase of the EU REACH regulation by June 2013. Our REACH team is now busy with tasks to support these registrations and is working towards successful submission of dossiers for registration under the third REACH deadline in June 2018 for substances manufactured or imported in quantities of between 1 and 100 metric tons per year.

Classification and labeling of AkzoNobel products

We are on schedule with implementation of the Global Harmonized System (GHS) for labeling of chemical substances and products. To ensure changes in labels and datasheets resulting from the GHS rules are understood across the company, we have issued an electronic awareness training module (e-learning) for employees through the HSE training academy.

Advocacy

We are active in industry associations at a local, regional and global level. Our aim is to support legislation, standards and agreements that promote the use of safer and more sustainable products in our industry.

For example, during 2013, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) staged an International Lead Poisoning Awareness Week. Through our involvement in industry associations, we took the opportunity to call on the coatings industry to follow action we took in 2011 to remove lead compounds from all products and substitute them with safer alternatives.

In the US, working closely with a major customer and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), using an innovative approach to testing, we obtained full approval for our biodegradable and bio-based chelate (Dissolvine GL) for use in household products under the EPA Design for the Environment scheme.

Through our membership of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), we actively participated in the working group on the release of harmful substances, which is part of their Action 2020 program, and will continue to support their initiatives in this area to increase the market share of safer and more sustainable products throughout the world.