NOT CURRENT YEAR

Grade C
ChemScore report card 2021

AkzoNobel

Akzo Nobel is a Dutch multinational company that offers paints and coatings. In 2018, the specialty chemicals sector was carved out from Akzo as an independent company operating under the name of Nouryon. Amsterdam-based Akzo Nobel has activities in more than 80 countries.
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Total score
17 / 48

Grade Summary

Akzo Nobel has taken one of the biggest plunges in the ChemScore ranking compared to last year, second only to Linde and on par with LG Chem. The company scores seven points less this year, pushing its grade down from a C+ to a C. The reason for the drop is the increased number of hazardous chemicals in Akzo Nobel’s product portfolio – 18 highly hazardous and two persistent chemicals this year, compared to the corresponding numbers of ten and zero in last year’s ranking – as well as poorer performance in the Management & Transparency category. The company continues to perform decently in the other two categories, saving it from slipping further in the ranking.

Opportunities for improvement

  1. Akzo Nobel currently has two substances in its product portfolio belonging to the group of chemicals dubbed “forever chemicals”, due to their extreme persistence. For investors, these chemicals pose a nightmare when the persistence and level of exposure is revealed, as demonstrated by the companies involved in the PFAS disaster, suffering massive financial implications. Investors risk stranded assets, as the environmental and human health impacts of exposure to “forever chemicals” can’t be stopped or easily reversed. For this reason – not to mention for the sake of human health and the environment – we strongly recommend that Akzo Nobel prioritises phasing out persistent chemicals from its product portfolio.
  2. The company should also reduce its hazardous portfolio overall, which currently consists of 18 banned, severely restricted or SIN-listed substances. Chemical pollution has a harmful impact on human health and the environment, and poses a growing threat. Two million people died due to exposure to hazardous chemicals in 2019, compared to 1.56 million in 2016, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Hazardous chemicals are also key drivers of biodiversity loss, putting entire ecosystems in jeopardy. A good place to start the reduction would be the PIC substance that Akzo Nobel still offers. PIC, short for Prior Informed Consent, is one of the key provisions of the Rotterdam Convention, allowing the export of – often domestically restricted – hazardous chemicals to poorer countries with weaker chemical legislation, as long as the receiving country signs a consent that it understands what it is accepting and has a plan for how to handle it.
  3. On its website, Akzo Nobel writes that the company’s proactive approach has “reduced the use of specific harmful substances in our products in advance of legislation, and prevented new harmful substances from being introduced into our business”. However, a clear cut-off hazard criteria for new products, timed phase-out plans, and the marketing of safer, less toxic alternatives is lacking, preventing them from receiving points here.

Category breakdown

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Product Portfolio
1 / 18

Akzo Nobel produces/uses 18 highly hazardous substances – 17 SIN List chemicals, 1 PIC, and 2 HHPs – 5 of which are included on the EU’s REACH Candidate List. 1 of these highly hazardous substances is either banned or severely restricted, with a set date when production must cease (1 Authorisation List substances, and no POPs). The company produces 2 persistent chemicals. Persistent chemicals are particularly problematic, since they do not break down, but instead accumulate in humans and the environment. Because of this, persistent chemicals should be of extra concern for investors; substances that are not considered a problem today could become huge liabilities in the future.

Please note that there is no available data for the 42 % of the company’s production that takes place outside of the EU and US. Lower EU/US production means higher uncertainty with regard to the total production of hazardous chemicals, which will have a negative impact on the company’s score in this category.

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Development of Safer Chemicals
6 / 12

Akzo Nobel has a method in place to screen and assess the sustainability of its products and includes the intrinsic hazards of ingredients in the screening process. It does not, however, exclude substances with toxic properties from its new products. Akzo Nobel actively markets safer alternatives on its own website, but not on ChemSec Marketplace. The company has no true circular product, process or innovation. Akzo Nobel uses bio-based resources, but at the expense of occupying extra land or in competition with food production. It sources and treats recycled materials in a sustainable way, which is one of the key elements of a circular economy. Akzo Nobel is actively reducing the hazardous waste it generates.

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Management & Transparency
4 / 12

The Dutch company does not produce only sustainable products and it does not have a timed phase-out strategy for hazardous substances that go beyond regulatory compliance. It shares chemical safety information on its website and is following a credible code of conduct standard. Akzo Nobel responded to ChemSec’s attempts to communicate around its ChemScore ranking. However, the company does not share any information about what kind of chemicals it produces in regions with low regulatory demands for transparency (e.g. Asia). Akzo Nobel does have a circular economy program in place, but it is lacking objective and measurable circular economy targets.

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Lack of Controversies
6 / 6

Between 2011 and 2020, Akzo Nobel and its subsidiaries have paid 793,972 USD in penalties for 17 environmental violation according to the violation tracker project of Good Jobs First. In 2020 a fire of a subsidiary of Akzo Nobel caused serious burn injuries to an employee. In 2019, a spill of ethyl acrylate was reported from an Akzo Nobel plant in Tennessee. In 2015, a former Akzo Nobel site in New York was put under review to clean up cancer-causing pollution.

Download Controversies Akzo Nobel (PDF, 111 KB)
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Overall rank
11 / 50
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Total score
17 / 48
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Product Portfolio
1 / 18
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Development of Safer Chemicals
6 / 12
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Management & Transparency
4 / 12
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Lack of Controversies
6 / 6
Download report
Other years
Year Rank Total score
2023 8 / 50 20 / 48
2022 11 / 54 18 / 48
2021 11 / 50 17 / 48
2020 3 / 35 24 / 48