Note 13: Community
As a global company, we fully understand our role and responsibilities when it comes to society and contributing to the communities in which we operate. It forms an integral part of our sustainability agenda. Whenever possible, we try to make a positive difference to the world around us, engaging with people and organizations to help bring the AkzoNobel brand to life while supporting deserving and sustainable projects and causes, using our products when appropriate.
Key to our success in this area has been our global “Let’s Colour” program, which is inspiring people, through our products, to revitalize their local communities. The initiative – run by our Decorative Paints business – also includes the participation of many of our employees. In fact, hands-on involvement in local initiatives is something we encourage, which is why we launched the AkzoNobel Community Program in 2005. The development of young people is another area we are passionate about. Since 1994, with the help of the Plan International organization, we have been supporting children around the world through our Education Fund. We also run a global sponsorship program, which focuses on two main areas – developing talent in communities through education initiatives, and supporting heritage, culture and the arts and sciences by sharing our expertise.
When possible, we endeavor to assist society through our products. Ferrazone, for example, is helping to improve well-being in many communities, particularly in developing countries. Used to fortify food, it is widely regarded as being the most effective way to treat iron deficiency anemia.
Another example is our partnership with the Forest Stewardship Counsil (FSC) in relation to our wood care products. See Note 3 Stakeholder engagement for more details.
“Let’s Colour” program
We believe in the regenerative power of color and the positive effect it can have on people’s lives. We express this through our global “Let’s Colour” program (letscolourproject.com), which includes both charitable donations of paint and community investment. Not only does it embrace the physical improvement of deprived neighborhoods, but it also facilitates educational development and job training.
Working together with local communities, including customers, employees and other influencers, we have already created better living environments for millions of people. Each initiative is designed to renew community spaces and improve people’s well-being. Education is also an important part of the process, both in terms of training people to become painters and teaching children about the value and science of color. By demonstrating our belief through this program, we are also inspiring people to get involved in making their world a better place.
During 2013, we donated around 160,000 liters of paint, worth an estimated €420,000. Approximately 750 AkzoNobel employees were involved, volunteering roughly 4,000 hours of their time to various “Let’s Colour” programs across the globe. We also trained nearly 9,000 people as painters. In 2013, we estimate that we positively impacted the lives of around six million people.
Our Community Program encourages sites and individuals to take part in projects where our products/resources and the skills and knowledge of employees can benefit the wider community. In the past eight years, this has led to a variety of projects, from educating underprivileged youngsters to creating more awareness about the importance of a clean environment. It also provides opportunities for employees to develop team-building and leadership skills.
Since the start of the program in 2005, more than 11,000 volunteers from around 55 countries have worked on more than 2,200 projects, representing approximately €14 million of investment. Our sites and offices initiate between 200-250 projects each year. The majority of projects have supported educational/employability and healthcare/well-being activities, with environmental and housing projects also well represented.
Cumulative Community Program involvement
The economic slowdown has prompted more focus on projects benefiting deprived, socially disadvantaged groups. For example, involvement in the set up and running of soup kitchens, shelters and day care centers for the homeless, and vocational training for unemployed youngsters and women, are taking place on a continuous basis in various parts of the world.
The fund is also available to support post-relief efforts for major disasters in countries where we operate, as long as there is hands-on involvement by our employees. In 2013, our employees in Bitterfeld, Germany, teamed up to help reconstruct a community center which was severely damaged after massive floods. In Morris in the US, disaster supplies were prepared after flooding hit the area. These emergency kits, including buckets, coveralls, gloves, safety glasses and dust masks, were then distributed to families affected by the tornados that hit the state of Illinois later in the year.
During 2013, 207 new projects were initiated. For example, a cooperation was established with the “Let’s Colour” program from Decorative Paints, as these painting activities often touch on groups within the scope of the Community Program. The employees involved were encouraged to interact with these groups. Around 15 projects serving local communities resulted from this initiative.
Focused on young people in developing countries, the Education Fund has supported a wide range of projects since its creation in 1994, from investing in school infrastructure to teacher training and promoting health and hygiene. Tens of thousands of young people have benefited from the projects in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, China, Ecuador, India, the Philippines and Vietnam. More attention is now being paid to supporting vocational training of deprived youngsters.
Over the years, several thousand children aged three to 16 have directly benefited from the quality pre-school and primary education that it helps to provide.
In addition, a special fundraising campaign staged in 2011 raised around €140,000, providing approximately 500 young people, mainly girls, in Vietnam, India and Brazil with vocational training opportunities. In 2012, our support continued to focus on vocational training to help deprived young people find decent and safe employment which offers them long-term prospects.
During 2013, the Education Fund supported a project in Brazil which involved training deprived young people in Natal to become stewards for the 2014 football World Cup at the Arena das Dunas stadium. A total of 147 underprivileged youngsters graduated from the program in December 2013. Around 70 percent of the group was female.
Global sponsorship program
Our global sponsorship program focuses on two main areas – developing talent in communities through education initiatives, and supporting heritage, culture and the arts and sciences by sharing our expertise. Among our most recent agreements are partnerships with the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands. Several sponsorships are also ongoing with various other partners, including the Courtauld Institute and the McLaren Group in the UK.
2013 projects by region