Looking after our people is an integral part of being sustainable. Focusing on organizational health and fostering an inclusive environment are key when it comes to growing our employees as fast as we grow our business.

Among our ambitions is for 30% of our company’s executives to be female. We also want to be top quartile in our organizational health score (OHI).

Our organizational health

Change management is key to a healthy organization, which is why we launched an updated version of the High Performing Teams (HPT) program. This will support our Grow & Deliver strategy, underpinning its success and allowing us to be a high-performing organization.

We’ve continued to build our Culture and Change network. A group of 369 volunteers around the world has been trained and equipped to support local change programs and implement global changes at a local level.

People painting a wall inside a house (photo)

A family of 16 in Poland moved into a new dream home after we helped make it a reality. Having been approached by builder Budimex, we supplied more than 300 liters of Dulux Professional and Dulux EasyCare paint, some of which was used to create artistic murals.

We’ll continue to develop and engage them, as they’ve had a major impact on managing local changes and transformations. In 2021, we achieved an increase in our OHI score compared with 2020, ending the year with a score of 72 (2020: 69), just three points from top quartile.

A diverse and inclusive workplace

We’re developing an increasingly engaged, diverse and capable workforce with a focus on leadership reflecting the diversity of the communities where we operate. Our three priorities are:

  • Fostering an inclusive culture
  • Building and expanding our internal diversity and inclusion networks
  • Strengthening our leadership diversity and focus on gender balance

We’ve continued to make progress on our commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I). We rolled out our inclusive and respectful workplace training and continued to promote “I Belong”, a guide to help managers lead in an inclusive way. We’ve also introduced our inclusive language guidelines.

D&I has become a growing topic of interest across our organization. There’s a growing number of True Colors chapters (focused on leading inclusion for our LGBTI+ colleagues) and our Women Inspired Network operates in many different countries. Our Equal Access Board has established strategic points of contact at senior executive level, who will help ensure equality in the workplace for all employees with disabilities.

Culture and change network

Palette - Culture and change network (illustration)

In 2021, we set gender targets for all our businesses and functions to increase female representation as part of leadership accountability. This will contribute to our goal of having 30% female executives by 2025. In 2021, we had 22% female executives, with 33% in the Supervisory Board and 43% in the Executive Committee.

This year, we joined the UN Global Compact program Target Gender Equality to support our efforts in increasing female representation. Our CEO, Thierry Vanlancker, signed the program’s Women Empowerment Principles to show our commitment and engagement. We also took part in the Workplace Pride benchmark to review our current LGBTI+ inclusion efforts and are pleased to be above average compared with other manufacturing companies.

Managing and developing talent

In 2021, we continued to be recognized as a leading employer in many of our key countries, including Brazil, China, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US.

As part of our ongoing journey towards a sustainable and diverse leadership pipeline, we focused on planning how to develop our top talent. We launched Grow2Lead, a nine-month program to inspire and engage. It’s a blended learning experience with a broad range of development activities – including virtual events, webcasts, individual and group learning assignments – which is delivered via a custom virtual learning platform. We also continue to deploy our top talent across our businesses.

Organizational health score (OHI)


Employess – Organizational health score (bar chart)
AkzoNobel score on the organizational health index of McKinsey. Ambition is be top quartile, which is determined by McKinsey every year across 1,700 companies worldwide.

Female executives

in %

Employess – Female executives (bar chart)
Percentage of women at executive level, a pay grade level at AkzoNobel, which excludes the Executive Committee.

Overall, employee turnover in 2021 was 14% (13% in 2020); voluntary turnover was 8% (5% in 2020). The recovery of the labor market had an impact, especially on voluntary turnover.

Last year saw a renewed focus on capability development to support our Grow & Deliver strategy, with particular regard to product management and end-to-end supply chain. We defined the skills our employees needed in these areas and then began to design learning solutions to address potential gaps.

We also continued to offer learning solutions for needs that emerged as a result of COVID-19, particularly around resilience, digital, social and emotional skills. We transitioned how most of these learnings were delivered to a digital/virtual environment to combat travel limitations caused by the pandemic.

To further increase awareness of our approach to sustainable business, we’ve updated our sustainability e-learning. It focuses on our People. Planet. Paint. ambitions and how we’re planning to achieve them. We also hosted several webinars and workshops to build capability and awareness around our increasing commitment to sustainability. More training modules and workshops on specific sustainability topics will be launched in 2022.

Jitte Flapper with a can of paint in his hand (photo)

During the first few months of 2021, we announced Jitte Flapper as our Scientist of the Year for 2020. The annual award recognizes colleagues who have made a tremendous contribution to research and development over the course of their career. His vast knowledge is helping us to make better coatings that are more sustainable.

Dawn of a new generation

Tessa Slagter Portrait (photo)

We launched an exciting new initiative in 2021 with the introduction of our NextGen Sustainability Council (NGSC).

It’s been established to bring a fresh perspective to our sustainability agenda by encouraging an appointed team to proactively identify opportunities to build on our achievements and highlight issues that could arise in the future.

Applications to join were received from across the company and 13 members were selected, with the Chair of the inaugural NGSC, Tessa Slagter (pictured), also taking a seat on our Sustainability Council.

“By giving future leaders the opportunity to contribute to building our sustainable future and listening to the challenges they put forward, the company is demonstrating the sort of pioneering spirit and industry leadership we can all be proud of,” explains Wijnand Bruinsma, AkzoNobel’s Director of Sustainability.

Adds Tessa: “We aim to drive positive change, challenge the current thinking and increase the sustainability skills and knowledge of the NextGen Council members. It has already been a very rewarding process and we’re looking forward to making an even bigger contribution.”

Setting up the NGSC also demonstrates a tangible commitment to pioneering a sustainable future by considering diverse views and including as many perspectives as possible.