Note 10: Product stewardship

Our Product safety process is a key building block of the AkzoNobel safety strategy and protects people and the environment from unsafe exposure to hazardous materials. It also promotes the use of sustainable products, going beyond the traditional approach of reactive regulatory compliance, enabling us to take a leading position in product stewardship by providing our customers with safer products that meet or exceed their expectations. During 2014, our focus has been on Safety Common Platform programs.

Priority substance management

Our company-wide priority substance process takes a systematic approach to the identification, review and management of hazardous substances that we use in our products and chemical processes. Taking this proactive approach promotes the use of safer and sustainable products and means we often take action to manage harmful substances in advance of legislation, future-proofing our products against changes in regulations.

The process requires that all hazardous substances used by the company are identified and scored on the basis of their long-term human and environmental hazards, and where public concern exists over their use. Those with higher scores are designated as priority substances and are reviewed by experts in the company. Where a safer alternative exists and there is a favorable business case, the priority substance is substituted with a less hazardous and more sustainable material. If substitution is not currently possible, a full risk assessment is performed by our experts following state-of-the-art procedures from the EU REACH regulations. After review, we manage their use by limiting uses of priority substances to those uses that have been shown to be safe. If safe use cannot be shown, they are prohibited from further use or production within AkzoNobel.

We are on target to review and manage all our priority substances by the end of 2015. In 2014, the total number reviewed and managed in the program was 145 (82 percent of 176), meeting our objective of 80 percent for 2014. Of the priority substances reviewed in the program so far, 54 have been phased out and uses of 91 restricted.

Priority substances
% reviewed and managed

Priority substances, % reviewed and managed (bar chart)Priority substances, % reviewed and managed (bar chart)

A priority substance is reviewed and managed when it has been reviewed under the AkzoNobel priority substance process and is listed as prohibited or restricted in the AkzoNobel company-wide Priority substance standard (STD 6).

Examples of priority substances that were reviewed and restricted in 2014 are boric acid and isopropylated triphenyl phosphate (ITP). These substances must not exceed maximum levels in AkzoNobel products and strict risk management measures must be followed when they are used.

The priority substance methodology is now embedded into our company raw material databases and our procurement and innovation processes, so less harmful raw materials can be sourced in AkzoNobel. In 2015, we will complete the current phase of the priority substance program and develop the second phase of the process, ready for launch in 2016.

During 2014, we presented our priority substances program to our stakeholders, including customers, non-governmental organizations and investor associations and received positive feedback to our approach. Adopting this proactive approach to substance management enables us to take a leading position in sustainable product stewardship and supports the development and introduction of eco-premium solutions to the market.

Product distribution

In order to ensure our products are transported and distributed safely by our contractors, we insist that all risks involved in the distribution process are assessed and that they take the right safety measures. We also audit their performance.

Regulatory affairs

We carefully monitor changes and prepare ourselves for new regulations that will affect our products and processes. In 2014, we successfully launched a new company-wide regulatory information system which ensures up-to-the-minute information about product safety legislation is available to all regulatory affairs professionals within AkzoNobel.

During 2014, our primary activities included:

Substance management regulations

Our REACH team is now busy preparing information to submit for registration of our substances that are in scope of the third phase of the EU REACH regulation. All applications for registration must be submitted by May 31, 2018, and we have set targets to monitor our progress.

EU REACH third phase












In %











Progress towards EU REACH third phase











We are also preparing carefully to ensure that we comply with new substance management regulations in South Korea (K-REACH) that will come into force in 2015.

Classification and labeling of AkzoNobel products

We are on schedule with the implementation of a global harmonized system for labeling of chemical substances and products. An e-learning awareness module is available for employees through the AkzoNobel Academy to ensure changes in labels and safety datasheets are understood.


We continue to be active in industry bodies, in public forums and with stakeholders discussing product safety issues at the local, regional and global level. Participation in this way gives us an opportunity to engage regulators and other stakeholders before new rules are finalized. Our aim is to support legislation, standards and initiatives that promote and support the use of safer and more sustainable products in our industry.

For example, we continue to maintain links with, and fully support, the objectives of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paint (GAELP), a program coordinated by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to encourage industry and governments to take action to remove lead compounds from paint. In September, we made a statement to the biennial meeting of GAELP that as safer lead-free substitutes are widely available, there is no need or justification for lead compounds to be intentionally added to any paint.

After a successful presentation to the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) in the US, we were invited by a participating NGO, the Environmental Defence Fund (EDF), to participate in a project on safer chemical replacements. Working with our Chelates business and EDF, we completed a case study on our biodegradable and bio-based chelate, Dissolvine GL. EDF has now selected the study for publication on the business portion of its website and it will be used as a case study to illustrate how to develop and introduce safer chemical replacements.

In China, through our participation in the advocacy committee of the Association of International Chemical Manufacturers (AICM), we participated in discussions leading to a change in status of five organic solvents under environmental management laws.

Continuous improvement

Our product stewardship and product safety processes are underpinned with a requirement for continuous improvement. In 2014, we piloted our product stewardship self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ) as a tool for ensuring continuous improvement. Using these tools, businesses will assess their level of maturity and plan their next steps to achieving a leading level in product stewardship.