Greening the supply chain

Greening the supply chain (photo)

We’ve been making our manufacturing processes more sustainable for some time now, but there are certain limitations in terms of how far we can improve. Especially when you consider that over 90 percent of the carbon footprint linked to the paint and coatings that we sell doesn’t relate to our own operations. It comes from the raw materials that we buy and how the coatings are applied.

This makes our target of achieving a 25-30 percent reduction in the carbon footprint of our products by 2020 a particularly challenging one. Because we can’t get there by simply improving our own operations. Which is why we’re looking to work with partners such as Solvay.

One of the main raw materials used to produce epoxy resins (used in our epoxy coatings) is epichlorohydrin. It is conventionally produced out of oil via a relatively energy intensive process. But Solvay has developed an alternative method which uses glycerin (a biodiesel production by-product) as a feedstock, and in turn consumes significantly less energy and water.

The fact that we normally buy epoxy resins – and not epichlorohydrin – could have been a stumbling block. But we overcame that by striking an innovative deal whereby AkzoNobel guarantees to buy volumes of glycerine-based epichlorohydrin (or Epicerol®) indirectly via the epoxy resins we purchase from Solvay’s customers. Via a “book and claim” approach, an independent third party verifies how much bio-based product is in our supply.

The benefit for AkzoNobel and our customers is a bio-based and lower footprint raw material in our coatings, with exactly the same performance, without incurring extra costs. For Solvay, it’s a major commitment to their product and confirms their commercial intuition.