AkzoNobel has featured in the ChemScore ranking since the start four years ago but has only managed slight sideward changes in that time. The notable shift from the previous year is two additional points for circular products, recycled feedstock, and hazardous waste reduction. The company’s hazardous product portfolio has increased from one to ten SIN substances, while persistent chemicals remain at one. However, only 59 per cent of its sold production is documented in EU/US markets, limiting transparency.
The company’s ambition to increase revenue from sustainable solutions to more than 50 per cent by 2030 and its internal ban on hazardous substances are noted. However, specific and timed phase-out plans and a commitment to design out all Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) from new products remain missing. AkzoNobel’s circularity policy focuses on waste reduction, sourcing alternative raw materials, and repurposing materials. The company aims to achieve zero waste and 100 percent material circularity by 2030.
Opportunities for improvement
- Map and phase out persistent chemicals
AkzoNobel produces or uses at least one persistent chemical. These substances are known as “forever chemicals” due to the fact that they do not break down in nature. These chemicals — which are linked to many negative health effects — instead build up over time, creating consequences that are becoming increasingly detrimental. Not only for human health and the environment but also for investors. Companies reliant on such chemicals risk stranded assets now that the regulatory speed is accelerating. They are also exposed to significant liability risks since more chemical companies are being sued for contamination and bodily injury. AkzoNobel should therefore identify all uses, as well as publish the share of revenue and production volume of persistent chemicals (or products that contain them). The company should publish a time-bound phase-out plan for each persistent chemical and a realistic road map with clear KPIs to track progress.
- Reduce hazardous portfolio
Scientists agree that chemical pollution has crossed a planetary boundary and become an urgent global crisis, threatening both ecosystems and human health. Since AkzoNobel has ten hazardous chemicals in its product portfolio, a key improvement point for the company is to reduce this number. AkzoNobel should therefore identify all uses, as well as publish the share of revenue and production volume of hazardous chemicals (or products that contain them). It should also publish a reduction road map of each hazardous chemical together with an annual progression report. Ideally, the company should commit to having a toxic-free product portfolio within the next decade. If the company decides to continue producing a hazardous substance, it needs to present a rationale for its essential use and prove that no feasible alternatives are available at present. In such a case, the company should also state the share of the R&D budget spent on finding a safer alternative for that particular substance.
- Increase transparency
Much is still unknown about AkzoNobel’s production of hazardous chemicals. At least when it comes to public information. In order to allow a comprehensive global evaluation, AkzoNobel should disclose the share of revenue and production volume of hazardous chemicals (or products that contain them). This information should cover all operations globally. This is particularly important since only 59 per cent of the company’s sales are in the EU/US, where some degree of chemical transparency exists.