Note 9: Operational eco-efficiency

AkzoNobel is committed to embedding continuous improvement in supply chain management and manufacturing. A company-wide approach has been defined, known as (AkzoNobel Leading Performance System), which includes standardized processes, metrics and training programs. Deployment in all three Business Areas, to all the company’s manufacturing sites, will continue over the next few years.

The program is supported by the AkzoNobel Academy, which offers a continuous improvement curriculum, as well as functional training programs. Safety, customer service, and cost productivity continue to improve as a result of the program.

Operational eco-efficiency program

The focus of the agenda is to increase raw material efficiency, reduce energy consumption and decrease both emissions and the production of waste. Going forward we will focus on driving improvements specifically on these parameters. Improvements include many small site contributions, such as upgrading existing processes, rationalization of the manufacturing footprint and application of best available technology for new investments.

We measure progress on a quarterly basis using the footprint measure, a company indicator which combines energy, water, waste and air emissions, as well as cost elements. Weighting factors for each parameter are used to calculate the absolute footprint. This number is used in combination with production volume to calculate the relative footprint improvement.

  • Between 2009 and 2016, we achieved a relative footprint improvement of 28 percent. In total, 64 percent of the sites which were reported in 2009 have improved their performance
  • Many of our businesses showed an eco-efficiency footprint improvement. Major positive contributions came from our new plant in Frankfurt, Germany; the closure of Deventer production in the Netherlands; our wastewater treatment plant in Maua, Brazil; and the acquisition in Columbus, US. Major negative impacts came from our sulfur derivatives plants, which emitted more SO2. Additional programs are being put in place to accelerate progress

Our operational eco-efficiency performance and trends (the footprint and its related parameters) are transparent for the whole of AkzoNobel via the EcoXchange platform. This platform also provides access to know-how, best practices and showcases eco-efficiency related topics relevant for all locations.

In order to focus even more attention on our improvement program, projects are integrated into the main supply chain improvement monitoring tool, the AkzoNobel tracker. This will integrate/quantify all site improvement activities. A total of 209 projects with an operational eco-efficiency impact are already being tracked and all new projects with a footprint effect will have to report not only the financial aspects, but also the environmental impact.

OEE footprint improvement
(% reduction from 2009)

Environmental value creation – OEE footprint improvement (bar chart)

The OEE footprint is calculated from the weighted average of nine footprint parameters and production volume.

Energy and greenhouse gas emissions

See Note 8 for reporting on energy and greenhouse gas emissions in our operations.

Local air quality

Air monitoring around our operations is focused on volatile organic compounds () and NOx and SOx emissions. We monitor particulates at site level as required.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC)

All our businesses will continue to manage VOC emissions from operations, in line with national or supranational (European Commission) legal requirements. The reduction focus for our paints and coatings businesses concentrates on low/zero VOC product design, going beyond controlling VOC emissions from our operations. Reducing VOC emissions from our sites remains part of the scope of our OEE program, while our Research, Development and Innovation groups are working on projects to reduce the solvent content of our products – VOC in product. See Note 4.

VOC emissions per ton of production reduced to 0.16 kg/ton. Total VOC emissions decreased 6 percent to 2.9 kilotons (2015: 3.0 kilotons).

  • In Performance Coatings, new thermal oxidizers have been installed in Tianjin and Changzhou, China, resulting in a reduction of 82 tons
  • In Stockvik, Sweden, a new thermal oxidizer was installed in December which will reduce VOC emissions by 80 percent

Volatile organic compounds in kilotons

Environmental value creation – Volatile organic compounds (bar chart)

We measure halogenated and non-halogenated organic compounds discharged to air.

NOx and SOx

NOx and SOx emissions may have a significant impact on local air quality because of their potential contribution to acidification.

  • NOx emissions improved to 0.09 kg/ton of production (2015: 0.10 kg/ton). Total emissions reduced to 1.6 kilotons (2015: 1.7 kilotons)
  • Optimization of the new incinerator in Mons, Belgium, with a low NOx furnace resulted in a total reduction of more than 100 tons a year
  • SOx emissions (from process emissions and energy) increased to 0.30 kg/ton of production. Absolute emissions were up 36 percent to 5.2 kilotons
  • Our three sulfur derivatives plants in Germany, the US and Argentina contributed 98 percent of the SOx emissions. Due to a product mix effect, we were not able to convert SO2 to a product, resulting in the increase. A further increase was caused by a change in measurements. In 2016, we developed plans to reduce to a level well below 0.2 kg per ton of production
NOx and SOx emissions

in kilotons





Emissions may form acid rain that can lead to acidification. The gases are emissions from manufacturing and combustion of fuel that we burn. The total quantity of NOx/SOx emissions from manufacturing processes discharged directly to air (e.g. after any abatement process) and the quantity of NOx/SOx emissions calculated from the use of fuels.






NOx kg/ton










SOx kg/ton





Ozone depleting substances

Emissions of ozone depleting substances are at a very low level, 1.8 tons (2015: 0.6 tons). They are mainly due to Freon22 from maintenance in older air conditioning and cooling units, which are replaced when appropriate.

Material efficiency

We are maximizing our conversion of raw materials into final product by solving the root cause of the losses. This will not only reduce the waste, but will also, for example, decrease chemical oxygen demand (COD) and the carbon related to our raw materials upstream.

Raw material flow in kilotons

Environmental value creation – Raw material flow (graphic)
  • At Decorative Paints the material efficiency program was continued, focusing on a better conversion of raw materials into final products
  • Performance Coatings continued their global material efficiency program for all businesses, focusing on yield improvement in production. A wide variety of smaller projects (over 75) has resulted in savings of €7 million and this will continue in 2017
  • Specialty Chemicals converted some of its waste streams into valuable by-products, in line with the concept of the


Effective waste management helps to increase raw material efficiency in our manufacturing operations, while reducing both our environmental footprint and costs. We have moved our focus from managing/reducing total waste to eliminating waste by increasing material efficiency. Our ambition is to drive towards “Zero waste to landfill” in the coming years, and a program is being developed to support this ambition with concrete projects.

Total waste in kilotons

Environmental value creation – Total waste (bar chart)

Waste means any substance or object arising from our routine operations which we discard or intend to discard, or we are required to discard.

  • Total waste per ton of production generated and leaving our sites was down by 10 percent to 8.1 kg/ton. The total waste volume decreased to 143 kilotons, a reduction of 8 percent
  • Hazardous waste per ton of production decreased by 6 percent to 3.2 kg/ton
  • The significant reduction in waste in 2016 was achieved by many specific material efficiency activities in a large number of sites around the globe. This is an ongoing improvement area. In Frankfurt, one of the waste streams is now sold for the production of sulphuric acid, a good example of our contribution to the circular economy
  • At our Specialty Chemicals site in Columbus, US, a sustainable outlet was identified for an aluminum oxide stream, as well as a chlorate waste stream. These conversions resulted in a reduction of more than 400 tons of waste compared with 2015
  • In Recife, Brazil, a water reduction program introduced by our Decorative Paints business will result in more recycling of wash water, and has already reduced waste by 60 tons
  • In Como, Italy, compactors are being installed at our Performance Coatings plant to allow recycling of powder fines, which will result in a saving around €500,000. The concept will also be rolled out to other Powder Coatings sites
Total waste per Business Area

in kilotons





Decorative Paints





Performance Coatings





Specialty Chemicals





Hazardous waste in kilotons

Environmental value creation – Hazardous waste (bar chart)

Hazardous waste is waste that is classified and regulated as such according to the national, state or local legislation in place.

Fresh water availability

Sustainable water supply is essential to life – and the sustainability of our business. We rely on water for raw materials production, product formulation and manufacturing, power generation, cooling, cleaning, transportation and the effective use of certain products. Around 87 percent of our fresh water intake is from surface water, while 86 percent is used for cooling, which is only slightly heated before being returned to the original source. We continue to reduce the chemical oxygen demand (COD) of our effluent to surface water.

We monitor progress using a fresh water risk assessment tool, completed by each manufacturing site from 2009 to 2015. The tool assigns risk levels to water sources, supply reliability, efficiency, quality of discharges, compliance and social competitive factors. 93 percent of our sites (2015: 93 percent) have sustainable fresh water management in place, as measured by the risk assessment tool.

  • Fresh water use per ton of production fell to 12.8 m3/ton (2015: 16.0 m3/ton). Total fresh water use was 224 million m3, down 18 percent (2015: 274 million m3)
  • An increase of over 10 million m3 in 2015 was due to the start-up of a caustic evaporator at our new chlorine plant in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2016, the plant was connected to a closed loop cooling system, instead of using direct cooling by surface water, resulting in a total reduction of over 48 million m3
  • In Reading, US, Performance Coatings replaced a cooling tower and old chiller with a new and more efficient chiller. As a result, less surface water was evaporated in the cooling tower, saving more than 4,000 m3 a year

Sustainable fresh water management in % of manufacturing sites

Environmental value creation – Sustainable fresh water management (bar chart)

Sustainable water management is defined as a low risk score in all categories in the AkzoNobel sustainable fresh water assessment tool: water sources, supply reliability, efficiency, quality of discharges, compliance and social competitive factors.

Fresh water use in million m3

Environmental value creation – Fresh water use (bar chart)

Fresh water use is the sum of the intake of groundwater, surface water and potable water.

Water emissions

In total, 93 percent of the chemical oxygen demand (COD) is generated at ten production locations, with the remainder being generated by numerous sites. These ten locations are the primary focus for improvement actions.

  • The COD load to surface water per ton of production reduced to 0.06 kg/ton
  • The total COD load to surface water reduced to 1.1 kilotons
  • A new treatment plant was built in Maua, Brazil, resulting in a reduction of more than 150 tons per year
  • In Stockvick, Sweden, an optimization in operations resulted in a COD reduction of 20 tons

Chemical oxygen demand (COD) in kilotons

Environmental value creation – Chemical oxygen demand (COD) (bar chart)

COD is the amount of oxygen required for the chemical oxidation of substances in the waste water effluent that is discharged into surface waters.

Water flow in million m3

Environmental value creation – Water flow (graphic)

AkzoNobel Leading Performance System.


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

Operational eco-efficiency

Refers to the eco-efficiency of our manufacturing operations. Our aim is to improve operational eco-efficiency by reducing the resources used and emissions/waste from our sites during the manufacture of our products.


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

Operational eco-efficiency

Refers to the eco-efficiency of our manufacturing operations. Our aim is to improve operational eco-efficiency by reducing the resources used and emissions/waste from our sites during the manufacture of our products.


Volatile organic compounds.


Volatile organic compounds.

Circular economy

An economic system which 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.