Note 20: Other provisions and contingent liabilities


Provisions are recognized when an outflow of economic benefits for settlement is probable and the amount can be reliably estimated. It should be understood that, in light of possible future developments, such as: (a) potential additional lawsuits; (b) possible future settlements; and (c) rulings or judgments in pending lawsuits, certain cases may result in additional liabilities and related costs. At this point in time, we cannot estimate any additional amount of loss or range of loss in excess of the recorded amounts with sufficient certainty to allow such amount or range of amounts to be meaningful. While the outcome of said cases, claims and disputes cannot be predicted with certainty, we believe, based upon legal advice and information received, that the final outcome will not materially affect our consolidated financial position but could be material to our results of operations or cash flows in any one accounting period.

Provisions for restructuring of activities

Provisions for restructuring of activities comprise of accruals for certain employee benefits and for costs which are directly associated with plans to exit or cease specific activities and closing down of facilities. For all restructuring provisions, a detailed formal plan exists and the implementation of the plan has started or the plan has been announced before the balance sheet date. Most restructuring plans are expected to be completed within one year from the balance sheet date.

Movements in other provisions

In € millions

Restructuring of activities

Environ­mental costs

Liabilities to (former) employees



Balance at January 1, 2020






Additions made during the year












Amounts reversed during the year






Unwind of discount







Changes in exchange rates






Balance at December 31, 2020












Non-current portion of provisions






Current portion of provisions






Balance at December 31, 2020






Environmental liabilities

We are confronted with costs arising out of environmental laws and regulations, which include obligations to eliminate or limit the effects on the environment of the disposal or release of certain wastes or substances at various sites. Proceedings involving environmental matters, such as the alleged discharge of chemicals or into the air, water, or soil, are pending against us in various countries. In some cases, this concerns sites divested in prior years or derelict sites belonging to companies acquired in the past.

The provision has been discounted using an average pre-tax discount rate of 0.3% (2019: 1.4%).

Liabilities to (former) employees

Liabilities to (former) employees consist of employer liability plans, jubilee plans and other long-term compensation plans, and exclude payables related to restructurings. The majority of the cash outflows related to liabilities to (former) employees is expected to occur after five years. In calculating the liabilities to (former) employees, a pre-tax discount rate of on average 0.6% (2019: 1.0%) has been used.

Sundry provisions

Sundry provisions relate to a variety of provisions, including provisions for (customer) claims, sales returns, guarantees and other operational provisions. The majority of the cash outflows related to sundry provisions is expected to occur within one to five years. In calculating the sundry provisions, a pre-tax discount rate of on average negative 0.2% (2019: 1.2%) has been used.

Contingent liabilities

Environmental liabilities can change substantially due to the emergence of additional information on the nature or extent of the contamination, the geological circumstances, the necessity of employing particular methods of remediation, actions by governmental agencies or private parties, or other factors. While it is not feasible to predict the outcome of all pending environmental exposures, it is reasonably possible that there will be a need for future provisions for environmental costs which, in management’s opinion, based on information currently available, would not have a material effect on the company’s financial position but could be material to the company’s results of operations in any one accounting period.

A number of claims against AkzoNobel are pending, all of which are contested. This includes a lawsuit filed in April 2019, by PT DWI Satrya Utama (PTDSU) against Akzo Nobel N.V., certain subsidiaries as well as certain subsidiary directors at the Tangerang District Court, Indonesia. PTDSU owns a 45% interest in PT ICI Paints Indonesia (PTICIPI), an indirect subsidiary of Akzo Nobel N.V., PTDSU alleges that it suffered damages as a result of defendants’ improper management of PTICIPI. In March 2020, the District Court dismissed the case on the grounds that they do not have jurisdiction, against which the claimant appealed. In January 2021, the High Court of Indonesia rejected this appeal.

We are also involved in legal disputes and disputes with tax authorities in several jurisdictions. AkzoNobel has provided various indemnities and guarantees in respect of past divestments to the relevant purchasers and their permitted assigns (if applicable), which in general are capped in time and/or amount (in proportion to the value received). The provided guarantees and indemnities have varying maturity periods. AkzoNobel has received various claims under such indemnities and guarantees. In some instances, AkzoNobel has been named as a direct defendant despite the divestments.

Akzo Nobel N.V. has withdrawn its declarations of joint and several liability under Article 403 of Book 2 of the Dutch Civil Code for certain Dutch former Specialty Chemicals subsidiaries divested as per October 1, 2018, and is following the procedures to terminate its residual liability under those declarations under Article 404 of Book 2 of the Dutch Civil Code. One objection against the termination of residual liability is still pending and Akzo Nobel N.V. and Nouryon continue to cooperate to get this resolved.

Current portion of provisions

The current portion of post-retirement benefit provisions (€52 million) and the current portion of other provisions (€180 million) add up to €232 million (2019: €231 million), as reflected in the balance sheet.

Discount rates

The discount rates used in calculating the provisions recognized at December 31, 2020, are mentioned in the paragraphs on provisions for environmental costs, liabilities to (former) employees and sundry provisions. Changes in the discount rate will affect our consolidated financial position. A sensitivity test showed that a one percentage point increase or decrease of discount rates will have an impact down or up, respectively, of €9 million on the provisions recognized at December 31, 2020.

Emissions and waste

We report emissions to air, land and water for those substances which may have an impact on people or the environment: CO2, NOx and SOx, VOCs, chemical oxygen demand, hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Definitions are in the Sustainability statements.