Note 14: Community

As a global company, we fully understand our role and responsibilities when it comes to society and contributing to the communities in which we operate. It forms an integral part of our sustainability agenda. Whenever possible, we try to make a positive difference to the world around us. We engage with people and partner with various organizations to help bring the AkzoNobel brand to life, while also supporting deserving and sustainable projects and causes, using our products when appropriate.

When partnering with organizations and entering into sponsorship agreements, we are guided by the six pillars of our Human Cities initiative. The pillars also provide direction for our community involvement. A big success story is our global “Let’s Colour” program, which inspires people to revitalize their local communities with our paint products. Run by our Decorative Paints business, the initiative also encourages the active participation of our employees.

Another vital part of our partnership approach is the development of young people, highlighted by our work with the Plan organization, which includes the AkzoNobel Education Fund. Meanwhile, our global sponsorship program is currently focused on key partnerships with the Cruyff Foundation, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands, and the Extreme Sailing Series.

Our products

When possible, we endeavor to assist society through our products. Ferrazone, for example, is helping to improve well-being in many communities, particularly in developing countries. Used to fortify food, it is widely regarded as being the most effective way to treat iron deficiency anemia.

Another example is our partnership with the Forest Stewardship Counsil (FSC) in relation to our wood care products. See Note 3 in this section for more details.

“Let’s Colour” program

We believe in the transformative power of color and the positive effect it can have on people’s lives. Color can inject soul and inspiration into a city. It can breathe life into communities and revitalize areas that were once considered dull and lifeless. We express this belief through our global “Let’s Colour” program, which includes both charitable donations of paint and community investment. Not only does it embrace the physical improvement of deprived neighborhoods, but it also facilitates educational development and job training.

Working together with local communities – including customers, employees and other influencers – we have already created better living environments for millions of people. Each initiative is designed to renew community spaces and improve people’s well-being. Education is also an important part of the process, both in terms of training people to become painters and teaching children about the value of cooperation and the science of color. By demonstrating our belief through this program, we are also inspiring people to get involved in making their world a better place.

During 2014, we donated around 120,000 liters of paint, worth an estimated €0.4 million. Approximately 1,600 AkzoNobel employees were involved, volunteering roughly 10,000 hours of their time to various “Let’s Colour” projects across the globe. We also trained nearly 5,000 people as painters. In 2014, we estimate that we positively impacted the lives of around seven million people.

Community Program

Our Community Program encourages sites and individuals to take part in projects where our products/resources and the skills and knowledge of employees can benefit the wider community on a sustainable basis. In the past nine years, the program has become firmly embedded in our worldwide organization. Projects have included educating underprivileged youngsters, creating more awareness about the importance of a clean environment and supporting deprived, socially disadvantaged groups, helping them reintegrate into society where possible. For example, involvement in the set-up and running of soup kitchens, shelters and daycare centers for the homeless, as well as vocational training for unemployed youngsters and women, are taking place on a continuous basis in various parts of the world.

Cumulative Community Program involvement

Cumulative Community Program involvement (bar chart)Cumulative Community Program involvement (bar chart)

The fund is also available to support post-relief aid in case of major disasters in countries where we operate, as long as there is hands-on involvement by our employees. In 2014, our employees in Greiz, Germany, immediately came into action after massive floods hit the city. They helped make a local elementary school accessible again and reconstructed the facilities at a local tennis club.

Since the start of the program in 2005, approximately 13,500 volunteers from around 55 countries have worked on 2,260 projects, representing €15 million of investment. Taking into account that many businesses and locations have been working together on major projects and the number of participating volunteers has increased substantially, 2014 can again be regarded as a successful year, benefiting even more deprived groups. A further increase in team-building activities was noticed, enhancing employee engagement, as well as underlining our company value of Winning together.

The Community Program also provides opportunities for employees to develop team-building and leadership skills. In training programs, as well as international conferences, community activities are increasingly incorporated to increase the participants’ awareness of local social circumstances. These experiences are recognized to improve their leadership skills and team spirit, as well as employee engagement.

During 2014, 152 new projects were initiated. A closer cooperation took place between various businesses as well as locations. For example, in Brazil, employees from Pulp and Performance Chemicals in Jundiaí united with their colleagues in Itupeva, as well as those from Powder Coatings in São Roque and Decorative Paints in Mauá. They helped construct a major aviary at a wildlife conservation center where up to 200 injured wild birds can be looked after and released freely inside, once they are well enough, or can even be returned to the wild. Many similar joint initiatives took place all over the world.

2014 projects by region

2014 projects, by region (pie chart)2014 projects, by region (pie chart)

More than 2,500 employees voted for their favorite entries in our annual Community Program Best Practices contest. First prize went to employees in a cross-business and cross-site initiative from Decorative Paints, Functional Chemicals and Powder Coatings in Langfang and Tianjin, China, for their “Offering disabled children the chance to earn a living” project. Our volunteers helped The Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village, where 80 to 100 children are housed, from newborns to teenagers. Most suffer from some form of disability. Employees have visited and helped the center for a number of years, but this year saw a special project undertaken. A major refurbishment of the Rehabilitation and Skills Center has provided a bright, clean and safe environment where the children can learn vital skills that will help them earn a living when they are adults.

Education Fund

What would a city be without the people who live there? AkzoNobel is proud to be associated with a variety of organizations and initiatives in ways that truly make a positive difference. These partnerships allow us to bring the AkzoNobel brand to life and create value for our stakeholders. One of our flagship partnerships is with the Plan organization in the Netherlands – a member of the Plan International network – a collaboration which marked its 20th anniversary in 2014. The cooperation was established to help children in developing countries fulfil their potential by improving the quality of their education. It has since evolved to also support the employability of young people via vocational training programs designed to set them on a proper career path. Over the years, tens of thousands of young people have benefited from dozens of projects in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, China, Ecuador, India, the Philippines and Vietnam. During the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil, we worked together with Plan Nederland and several other partners to support a project which involved training deprived young people to become stewards at a stadium in Natal.

Other partnerships

Our work with the Cruyff Foundation is designed to support projects that make sport more accessible to children around the world. As one of their top partners and preferred paint supplier, we help the Foundation to create and maintain facilities in neighborhoods where children lack the possibility to play sports in a safe environment. During 2014, seven new Cruyff Courts were built, including one in Spain, one in Brazil and two in the Netherlands.

Having played a key role in the refurbishment of Amsterdam’s famous Rijksmuseum (which fully reopened in 2013), our ongoing partnership saw AkzoNobel continue to supply Sikkens paint during 2014, in addition to the 20,000 liters used for the complete renovation. Meanwhile, our sponsorship of the Van Gogh Museum, also in Amsterdam, developed further during 2014 when we worked together to create a new color palette, inspired by ten of Van Gogh’s works. Known as the AkzoNobel Van Gogh Collection, the special range of wall paint is available for purchase via our local decorative paint brands and is just one of the ways in which we are helping to preserve the cultural heritage of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries.

One of our more recent partnerships is with the Extreme Sailing Series – a global racing circuit which attracts larger audiences as the action takes place closer to shore. The Extreme 40 catamarans that participate use our Awlgrip yacht coatings, which offer a number of important benefits, including superior performance and aesthetics. In total, eight events were staged around the world during 2014 at host cities including Istanbul, Nice, Sydney and Muscat.