The circular economy

The Circular economy (photo)

The circular economy is increasingly being talked about as a possible alternative to today’s unsustainable and linear (take-make-dispose) consumption patterns.

Its potential is such that AkzoNobel has embraced the concepts of the circular economy in its Planet Possible agenda.

Business leaders around the globe are also paying more attention to the circular economy and consider it to be an important way of increasing growth and pro tability in line with sustainable development.

Many of these leaders gathered in Paris in December 2015 at the sustainable innovation forum (SIF15), which took place alongside the historic COP21 climate summit. The event provided an opportunity for them to discuss how companies can best make the transition to more sustainable business and production practices.

AkzoNobel takes great interest in the circular economy and strongly endorses the concept as the necessary route towards a sustainable society. The philosophy behind it is perhaps best described by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, who have clearly set out its three key principles:

  1. Preserve natural capital by controlling nite stocks and balancing renewable resource ows – for example replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.
  2. Optimize resource yields by circulating products, components and materials in use at the highest utility, at all times, in both technical and biological cycles – for example sharing or looping products and extending product lifetimes.
  3. Increase system effectiveness by revealing and designing out negative externalities, such as water, air, soil and noise pollution; climate change; congestion and negative health effects.
Linear economy and circular economyLinear economy and circular economy

We are moving away from unsustainable and linear (take, make, dispose) consumption patterns to a circular economy.

Our own Planet Possible agenda is focused on creating more value from fewer resources, very much in line with thinking. There are many examples of where circular thinking is already in practice in our activities. Our bio-based raw material strategy, targets and performance, our renewable energy purchasing objectives and performance and elements of our priority substance management program are included in the Notes to the Sustainability statements.

Renewable resources

The increased use of renewable energy and bio-based raw materials is actually circular thinking at a planetary level. The carbon atoms (as CO2) are absorbed when trees, plants etc. are growing. The same amount of CO2 is released when fibers are incinerated or biodegraded.

Our Chemical Island concept is an example of circular thinking. We set up chemical facilities at our customers’ pulp mills. These factories make use of excess renewable energy from the pulp mill and we provide the mill with the chemicals it needs. Our Pulp and Performance Chemicals business is part of a potentially fully renewable value chain based on abundant salt, renewable energy and renewable fibers.

Circulating products, components and materials

We also make use of other people’s waste. In Delfzijl, the Netherlands, for example, we purchase heat created by the incineration of waste. Since it is household waste, most of it has a renewable origin.

On the flip side, other people make use of our waste. In the UK, ReColour was launched last year as a viable alternative to throwing away unwanted household paint, building on our long-standing partnership with Community RePaint. We are enabling social enterprises to remanufacture this unwanted paint for social and community use, helping community groups and charities to create colorful living spaces using recycled products.

In order to find more opportunities for waste reuse we are participating in the United States Materials Marketplace, set up by the US Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD) and the WBCSD.

AkzoNobel also strives for more durable coatings. All our outdoor paints and coatings are continuously being developed to increase the lifetime of the paints, as well as the lifetime of the materials they are protecting. By lasting longer, the overall amount of resources required over the lifetime of a building can be reduced.

Designing out negative externalities

Many of our products and solutions lead to less energy use for our customers. For example, Rediset is a surfactant and additive for asphalt which results in less energy use during asphalt paving. Another example is the Weathershield products developed by our Decorative Paints business, which keep buildings cooler by reflecting sunlight. This means less electricity is needed for air conditioning.

There’s also Intersleek, an antifouling paint which makes ships’ hulls smoother, resulting in less drag, which means less fuel is needed and there are fewer emissions. We also have various examples of new industrial coatings that can be cured with UV light instead of thermal heat, saving energy for our customers.

In addition, we have a number of products that can help improve air quality, both inside and outside of buildings. Products like Dulux Guardian in China help absorb air pollutants such as formaldehyde inside buildings, while Sikkens Alpha Aeroxane can neutralize nitrous oxides that can cause smog in cities. We are also actively promoting low (particularly water-based) coatings across our business to help reduce the amount of solvents emitted from our products. In addition, the AkzoNobel operational program aims at less energy use and emissions from our plants.

Embedding circular thinking in AkzoNobel

AkzoNobel not only pursues business activities of a circular nature, but also quantifies its efficiency in generating value across the full value chain. This is done by means of cradle-to-grave carbon targets and the Resource Efficiency Index, a unique indicator expressed as gross margin divided by cradle-to-grave , expressed as an index.

The implementation of circular thinking is embedded in AkzoNobel’s business activities and is a key principle of our Planet Possible sustainability agenda – doing more with less.

Circular economy

An economic system that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles.


Volatile organic compounds.


Eco-efficiency means doing more with less; creating goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste and pollution.

Carbon footprint

The carbon footprint of a product or organization is the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused during a defined period, or across the total or part of a product lifecycle. It is expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide equivalents CO2(e) emitted.