The Decorative Paints Leadership team pictured (in a safe and controlled environment) at one of the company’s Sikkens Center paint stores in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Our passion for bringing color to people’s lives saw us continue to offer our customers new ideas and innovations during 2016.
This commitment to making life more liveable and inspiring is a source of pride, as it enables us to use our experience and expertise in ways that can make a real difference to individuals, entire communities and society as a whole.
We try to develop products that do a lot more than brighten up a wall or ceiling. We never stop looking for new and exciting ways of delivering essential color to our customers. One example was the Dulux Forest Breath range we introduced in China this year. It’s a sustainable indoor paint with an anti-formaldehyde formulation, which addresses the country’s focus on improving air quality. Put simply, it’s paint that helps to clean the air in your home.
On a more global scale, our Visualizer app (which was upgraded in 2016 with improved features) has now been downloaded more than 13 million times. It makes choosing colors easier and has been a big success. We like to think of it as a fresh, modern and interactive way for us to share our love of color and allow people to share theirs.
We also launched a new digital initiative in the UK when we opened a virtual reality customer center at our Slough site. It’s an industry first facility which enables retailers to immerse themselves in the customer experience and view product innovations before they go to market. It’s situated next to the award-winning Dulux Academy, an initiative which has received a lot of positive feedback. This is a dedicated center which will give more than 4,000 decorators and apprentices the chance to upskill every year by gaining an advanced understanding of the essential principles of color, design and sustainability. In addition, it aims to address current skill gaps in the industry and help us to become a life-long learning partner.
Another project which has been very well received was launched in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The event took place at the Santa Marta favela, where our ongoing “Let’s Colour” program has already transformed more than 300 buildings. This time we were there to launch a Human Cities project called Unexpected Courts. It enables children to test their sporting skills in surprising spaces through the creative use of paint. It’s a simple concept which we plan to repeat in communities around the world so many more people can be inspired through color. Rio is also home to a new Cruyff Court for the blind and visually impaired, which was opened in 2016 as part of our ongoing partnership with the Johan Cruyff Foundation. It was one of eight courts built during the year using our products.
The success of these projects shows innovation isn’t restricted to products. Innovation can be applied in many different ways as we look to capture growth, which was another key theme during 2016. A highlight was the start of production at our fourth Decorative Paints plant in China. Located in Chengdu, the new facility represents a milestone in the company’s growth plans for the west of the country. Chengdu will be at the forefront of our production of water-based products, which are becoming increasingly important in the Chinese market. The country’s gradual switch to more sustainable paint supports our continuing drive to convert the decorative paints industry to water-based products. Some markets are mature in this respect, but there is a lot of work to be done in certain parts of the world and we intend to continue playing an active role in helping to lead this change.
The Chengdu site has adopted the safety standards compulsory at all our facilities – both new and existing. We made good progress during 2016 with our safety performance as we move towards our aim of zero injuries.
By focusing on what we do best, we were able to grow and improve the business during the year in line with our strategic goals. Our attention to growth and innovation, coupled with our resilience and the success of our continuous improvement programs, ensured we were able to manage the challenging environment we faced in 2016 and achieve profitable growth in key markets. We continued to make progress and drive volume growth during the year. We saw positive demand trends in many Asian markets and volumes were up in the region, including China, despite challenging conditions in the Chinese construction market. In EMEA, volumes were positive overall, but varied across the region. We saw good development in the Netherlands, Russia and the UK. In Latin America, challenging market conditions caused by economic instability and currency devaluations continued throughout the year. We therefore concentrated on improvement actions and cost control in the region, as well as focusing on customers and further strengthening our strong relationships with professional painters. Overall, despite uncertainty in some of our markets, we retain strong positions and intend to build on this further by investing in our brands and through our strategy to win locally and leverage our scale.
As we head into 2017, although markets are likely to remain unpredictable, we have the right strategy in place and are positioned to further drive innovation and stimulate organic growth while continuing to bring new ideas and essential color to our customers.
“We were able to grow and improve the business”
Member of the Executive Committee responsible for Decorative Paints
Everything we do for and with society is channeled through our Human Cities initiative. This incorporates AkzoNobel’s Community Program, which encourages and gives financial support for employees to get involved, hands-on, in their local communities; and our “Let’s Colour” program, which uses the power of color to improve people’s lives.
Europe, Middle East and Africa.