Case studies

Take a look at some of our initiatives, projects and partnerships which brought new ideas, innovations and color to our customers, and benefits to society.

  • Business as unusual

    By any standards, 2020 was an extraordinary year. It therefore required an extraordinary response. As COVID-19 continued to tighten its grip on the world, our priority was to keep our employees, their families and our partners safe. At the same time, we did everything possible to continue supplying our customers, while giving whatever support we could to local communities.

    Here’s a brief round-up of some of the projects we were involved with, many of which resulted from the amazing efforts of our colleagues around the world. They also highlight the strong social aspect of our “People. Planet. Paint.” approach to sustainable business.

    Rapid response in China

    When Chinese authorities announced they were about to rapidly construct a hospital in Yinchuan – capital city of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region – the local AkzoNobel organization sprang into action.

    The facility was being built as an expansion project at the existing Fourth People’s Hospital of Ningxia. However, as the work was taking place during the Spring Festival in February, paint was in short supply.

    On hearing the news, we acted quickly to donate our Dulux Pro interior emulsion during the early days of the project. It helped to ensure that the new buildings could be completed on time (in just 15 days) as part of an urgent local response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

    The new buildings continued to be operational once the outbreak subsided.

    Keeping industry going

    As the pandemic raged, our customers continued to rely on us to supply products across a whole range of critical industries. So we had to prioritize our resources in certain areas to ensure production of essential items could continue.

    For example, our coatings are used on hospital beds and other metal equipment (including oxygen bottles and ventilators), which were in high demand during the first half of the year. We also supply coatings used in food and beverage cans, and the industry was working flat out at one point to keep up with increased demand.

    Many of our coatings products – including our decorative paints – are also a key part of the construction sector. So we were pulling out all the stops to ensure that crucial work could continue, such as building new hospitals. You can read about some of those projects elsewhere on these pages.

    Coping with challenges in India

    During a nationwide lockdown in India, the local AkzoNobel organization launched several initiatives to help communities cope with the food and healthcare challenges.

    Many of these were adaptations of existing projects launched as part of the company’s People. Planet. Paint. initiative. The focus was simply changed in response to the virus.

    For example, in several villages near Bangalore, an existing e-health program which we helped to set up was used to provide initial screening for COVID-19. Around 1,000 people had received symptomatic screening within the first month.

    We also provided essential food items to 6,000 people (mostly daily wage earners) in Gurgaon, Gwalior and Navi Mumbai, including underprivileged children studying at AkzoNobel supported education centers.

    Beating the isolation blues in Brazil

    One of the most heart-warming initiatives was organized in Brazil, where our colleagues made a big effort to help residents at a care home for elderly women, located in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

    Known as Grandma’s House, it looks after nearly 200 elderly residents. However, due to the pandemic, visitors weren’t allowed for many months. So our Brazilian colleagues decided to give the residents a boost and cheer them up by arranging video chat sessions to help them feel less isolated and alone.

    Dozens of employees volunteered to take part during the initiative, when they could choose from a series of 30-minute time slots. “The conversation I had was such an important moment for the lady I spoke to that she even dressed up specially for the occasion,” said AkzoNobel Administrative Coordinator, Roseli Franchi. “It was very touching and made me realize that we can make a difference to people’s lives by doing the simplest of things.”

    As well as talking to the residents, employees were also given the opportunity to have donations sent from one of several local supermarkets that make deliveries to the home. More than 1,000 items were sent, including cleaning and personal care products and food.

    Supporting communities in Indonesia

    Many of the communities around our Cikarang site in Indonesia experienced the economic challenges that came with the large-scale social restrictions that resulted from the pandemic.

    Having noticed the hardships many people were facing, colleagues from our local Marine and Protective Coatings and Decorative Paints sites responded quickly to help out.

    In order to support the livelihoods of people in seven communities around Cikarang, several activities were organized under our AkzoNobel Cares umbrella, which included distributing basic food essentials to around 500 families in need.

    Woman with child (photo)
    Chinese texts on banners on a gate (photo)
    Hospital equipment (photo)

    Caring with color in Switzerland

    With children often finding hospitals a bit scary, we worked with the Anouk Foundation in Switzerland to brighten things up and make one hospital in particular feel more comforting and colorful.

    The Anouk Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing color to the walls of all kinds of buildings. Our Sikkens paint business has been donating paint to them for many years, helping to create designs and murals that calm the fears and worries of residents and patients of all ages.

    One of their bigger projects in 2020 involved working on 22 treatment rooms and eight patient rooms at the Kinder Klinik Kantonsspital in the Swiss town of Aarau. Painting soft colors on the walls and introducing gentle humor helped create a comforting atmosphere, which proved especially important at a time of such global uncertainty.

    In fact, the therapeutic value of the murals has been so beneficial, there are plans to create more murals in other parts of the hospital, including the pediatric emergency unit.

  • Collaboration fuels our robotic revolution

    When it comes to paint application, we’re waking up to the dawn of the robots. There’s been a surge in startups and scale-ups interested in deploying robotics to improve how coatings are currently applied.

    Paint the Future (graphic)

    In 2020, we strengthened our strategic partnerships with Les Companions, Apellix and Qlayers. These startup collaborations are not only cool, but also represent leaps in efficiency, data-driven quality, worker safety and sustainability.

    We first established a connection with Qlayers when they submitted a winning solution to our Paint the Future 2019 global startup challenge in the “Smart application” category – a focus area which reflects our belief in syncing our innovative products with innovative ways to apply them.

    Qlayers’ fully automated coating processes will help our customers coat large industrial surfaces in any weather, without overspray. We’re now supporting the development of robust solutions for storage tanks and wind turbine blades. The customers we’ve already introduced to Qlayers are really excited for what’s ahead.

    Machinery with tubes (photo)
    Machinery (photo)
    Sky and bright yellow part of a building (photo)

    These collaborations are just a few examples of what we call “going beyond imagination and generations”. We see working together on new solutions as a way to push the boundaries of our industry faster and further towards a more sustainable future.

    SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production (icon)SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals (icon)

    Aligned with SDG 12 and 17 (see the Our approach to sustainable business section).

  • PRISM program shines light on single ERP platform

    When we introduced our new paints and coatings organizational structure back in 2017, it set the requirement for a new IT architecture within AkzoNobel.

    This heralded the start of a multi-year program (called PRISM) to redesign and implement standard processes and a single platform to support them.

    PRISM is regarded as an important enabler of the company’s vision and strategy, because it’s helping to eradicate unnecessary complexity while introducing consistent and precise processes across the company. It aims to reduce costs, enhance efficiency and transform the way of working across the organization.

    Phase 1 was completed in 2020 and, following its success, Phase 2 started in 2021 and will continue through to 2023.

    PRISM is an important enabler for precise processes and unlocking value in the company.

    Pabus VosPRISM Program Director
    Pabus Vos, PRISM Program Director (photo)

    Effective roll-out

    During the program’s initiation, all the processes across our business units (BUs) and functions were reviewed and harmonized, while a level of standardization and centralization was also defined. To help ensure an effective roll-out, we appointed Global Process Owners (GPOs) for the specific process areas to oversee standardization and optimization.

    The PRISM program formally started being introduced in 2018. It replaced the fragmented and BU-oriented application landscape with a single business platform. It’s set up on a multi-region basis, which involves projects being rolled out and implemented in parallel. The virtual program operates in several regions with a 200-strong team.

    The methodology from previous ERP implementations and acquisitions is further enhanced and industrialized and is a key asset in rolling out the process standardization. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the roll-outs have continued in a remote way.

    Following the completion of Phase 1, more than 85% of total revenue runs on SAP driven platforms, and 65% of revenue is covered by one single SAP platform, powered by HANA technology. The further consolidation of platforms into one single SAP platform enables us to standardize, integrate and harmonize processes and deliver additional digital initiatives, consistent customer interactions and a truly integrated supply chain.

    Phase 2 started in China, with further roll-outs planned in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. This will add another 12% of total revenue on one single SAP platform with integrated solutions for formula management and product data sheets.

  • Making our sites more sustainable

    After announcing the first wave of our People. Planet. Paint. ambitions in early 2020, we continued to sharpen our focus on sustainability throughout the year. Particular progress was made in greener manufacturing, with notable developments taking place at locations across the world.

    In China, we upgraded our Guangzhou site to switch over completely to water-based products. Once fully operational, the decorative paints facility will increase water reuse by 70% and reduce wastewater by 50% – helping us to achieve our ambition of water reuse at all our most water intensive sites by 2030. It also means that all four of our decorative paints plants in China now exclusively produce water-based paints.

    Over in Vietnam, a major plant expansion at our Amata Industrial Park facility has boosted capacity for marine and protective coatings and wood coatings. A wide range of sustainability features have been introduced, including solar power generation, rainwater harvesting and solvent recovery systems.

    Meanwhile, a combined total of more than 3,250 solar panels have been installed at our sites in Barcelona, Spain, and Garcia, Mexico. In Barcelona, 1,600 roof panels are now generating 15% of the site’s overall energy consumption. The Garcia installation of 1,650 panels is producing 82% of its energy requirements – making the plant almost self-sufficient.

    Factory with solar panels over the parking area (photo)
    Factory with solar panels on the roof (photo)

    Elsewhere, a total of 7,818 solar panels were also installed at three industrial coatings sites in Malaysia and Thailand.

    These installations are the latest in a series of solar projects around the globe designed to help us move to 100% renewable electricity and cut our carbon emissions in half by 2030.

    SDG 03 – Good health and well-being (icon)SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production (icon)SDG 13 – Climate action (icon)

    Aligned with SDG 3, 12 and 13 (see the Our approach to sustainable business section).

  • Bright future for solar capture

    Capturing solar heat from all parts of a building – not just the roof – is a highly effective way of making buildings more sustainable. But it’s not as easy as it might sound.

    During 2020, we worked together with TNO and Emergo in the Netherlands to develop an innovative facade system for a sports hall in the city of Almere.

    The venue is covered in colorful solar collectors that capture the thermal energy buildings would normally absorb. It’s then used to heat and cool the structure.

    Green building birds eye perspective (photo)
    Green building as seen from the ground (photo)
    Green building up close (photo)

    One of the big challenges was how to avoid having to use black panels – not always aesthetically pleasing for a building exterior, even if darker colors do absorb heat better.

    That’s where our expertise came in. We’ve developed technology which can capture heat using the sort of lighter and brighter colors that traditionally reflect near-infrared light (NIR makes up 50% of the total solar energy).

    “It’s a practical and sustainable solution for making buildings energy positive,” explains senior AkzoNobel scientist Anthonie Stuiver. “It means we can harness sustainable energy via a system that looks good, as well as doing good.”

    The collaboration came about as a result of AkzoNobel’s involvement in the European ENVISION research project, which is made up of 13 partners.

    SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities (icon)SDG 13 – Climate action (icon)SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals (icon)

    Aligned with SDG 11, 13 and 17 (see the Our approach to sustainable business section).

  • Biomass breakthrough unlocks world of possibilities

    More futuristic functionality could soon start to appear in our products thanks to a breakthrough innovation which involves a more sustainable method for making resins.

    It’s all down to research we’ve been conducting in collaboration with the Dutch Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC). The new process uses bio-based monomers to make resins, which are traditionally oil-based.

    Requiring just UV light, oxygen and renewable raw materials, patent applications have already been filed for resins and coatings made with monomers derived from sugar derivatives isolated from biomass.

    “There’s no doubt we’re on the verge of progressing to the next level of coatings technology, thanks to this fantastic example of collaborative innovation in action,” explains Klaas Kruithof, AkzoNobel’s Chief Technology Officer. “We’re opening up a new future for paints and coatings by using sustainable building blocks that will enable us to explore and develop some really exciting functionalities for our customers.”

    Person with chemistry model of molecules (photo)
    A coating from nature (graphic)

    Most of the research has been taking place at the University of Groningen – where the team is led by professor in organic chemistry and Nobel Prize winner, Ben Feringa, and PhD student, George Hermens. “I’m extremely pleased with these game-changing results,” says Feringa (pictured above). “They show that a material for coatings can be produced from biomass using a sustainable chemical process.”

    Having started in 2018, the research project will now focus on optimizing the monomers so they can be made in a more efficient way and on a larger scale. “We’ve still got a long way to go in terms of exploring the scope of the technology, but it will almost certainly define the future of our products,” continues Kruithof. “By 2040 or 2050, there’s also a good chance we might only be using bio-based monomers in our resin production, which will help us to reduce the overall of our products.”

    SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production (icon)SDG 13 – Climate action (icon)SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals (icon)

    Aligned with SDG 12, 13 and 17 (see the Our approach to sustainable business section).

  • Art Foundation marks silver jubilee

    When we established the AkzoNobel Art Foundation in 1995, the plan was to create an exciting corporate collection that would preserve the heritage of our future.

    Thanks to these pioneering efforts and the company’s continued dedication to supporting culture and the arts, the Art Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020.

    True to its earliest motto to go beyond the surface, the Art Foundation had planned a year full of celebrations, but global events dictated otherwise. However, there were still several highlights, including the launch of the new AkzoNobel Art Foundation catalog – We Are the Collection.

    The magazine-style publication sheds light on the identity of the titular “We” and features contributions by artists, curators, photographers, art critics, writers and AkzoNobel colleagues.

    Speaking at the launch of the catalog, AkzoNobel’s Executive Committee member Isabelle Deschamps (pictured below) commented: “A corporate art collection is an act of commitment towards the societies and communities in which we live and operate. A commitment AkzoNobel has kept for the past 25 years. Now that is something to be proud of. Art is about being inclusive and being ready to be inspired, but also challenged. Art is pioneering, it’s about pushing boundaries.”

    Woman holding a book (photo)
    Woman holding a small case (photo)
    Books (photo)

    A jubilee exhibition which was due to open in 2020 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been rescheduled to open in September 2021 at the AkzoNobel Art Space in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

    It was also a great honor and privilege to see the Art Foundation’s unceasing support for the international art world over the last 25 years recognized by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who appointed Hester Alberdingk Thijm (pictured above) – Director of the AkzoNobel Art Foundation – as a Knight in the Order of Oranje-Nassau.

Carbon footprint

The total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused during a defined period of a product’s lifecycle. It is expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide equivalents CO2(e) emitted.