Case studies

Take a look at some of our initiatives, projects and partnerships which brought new ideas, innovations and color to our customers, and benefits to society.

  • Setting new standards

    When we opened the world’s most advanced and sustainable paint plant in Ashington (UK) in September 2017, it was described as a vote of confidence in the Northern Powerhouse and a demonstration of the rock solid relationship between the Dutch and UK economies.

    For AkzoNobel, however, the state-of-the-art factory – the largest ever global investment in the company’s paints activities – was proof of our growth strategy in action.

    “Ashington secures AkzoNobel’s future as a manufacturer of cutting-edge products, including paints that improve air quality, increase energy efficiency and protect against bacteria,” said Ruud Joosten, Chief Operating Officer of Paints and Coatings. “We have taken the best technology available globally, improved on it and put it all under one roof, ensuring that this new facility represents a significant step forward for the whole industry.”

    The new center of production for Dulux – a global mega-brand and the UK’s leading decorative paint brand – the facility uses a variety of renewable energy sources, including photovoltaic cells and a biomass boiler which burns wood pellets from managed forests in the UK.

    It’s estimated that the per liter of paint produced at the site will be 50% lower when compared with facilities at the plants it is replacing. This makes it an excellent example of how we apply our sustainable business imperative of resource productivity in practice.

    The factory will be capable of producing enough paint each year to redecorate every living room, bathroom and kitchen in the UK. A highly agile production system means the plant can produce paint across the entire AkzoNobel range, which includes Dulux, Dulux Trade, Cuprinol, Polycell, Hammerite and Armstead.

    Ashington will also house the second Dulux Academy in the UK. The customized training center is designed to provide painters and decorators with the expertise and know-how they need for business success. The first academy, in Slough, has already trained 1,600 people.

  • Connecting people and places

    Ever since we launched our partnership with the MasterPeace organization in early 2017, people have started to fall in love with walls all over again.

    In cities in particular, we increasingly see invisible walls creating separation and detachment. Our initiative with global peace movement MasterPeace is helping to overcome that barrier.

    Known as Walls of Connection, it was a simple idea, but proved to be brilliantly effective. We got artists and local residents together to create designs which were then painted onto a wall in the local community. In total, 141 walls have been painted in 31 cities, helping to make people’s lives more liveable and inspiring.

    The beauty of the project is that it has enabled connections to be made between groups of people who otherwise wouldn’t have come together. Launched at the Albeda College in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the event made a lasting impact on many of those who were involved. The young people who took part embraced the opportunity to connect and overcome division and drew praise for how energized they were.

    Some commented that they literally saw the barriers between people collapse before their eyes. And it’s something which has the power to create lasting change. All the artworks that have been created around the world are a permanent visual reminder which people can see every day and be proud of.

    Another great thing about our MasterPeace partnership is that it provided an opportunity for our employees to get involved and contribute to the societies in which we operate. In fact, employee involvement is one of the main criteria we use in setting up most of our partnerships, driven by the fact that collaborating with others is a vital part of what we do.

    Working with MasterPeace was rewarding for all involved. Together, we’ve helped many people to break down barriers and become connected in a very special way. You could say that walls really did come tumbling down.

    “Let’s Colour” Walls of Connection has demonstrated the power of paint brands, such as Dulux, to uplift communities and make living spaces more liveable and enjoyable. In fun and surprising ways, these walls have brought communities together in celebrating unity, kindness and connection. Nearly 400 artists and more than 5,200 people (including 259 AkzoNobel volunteers) joined in during 2017.

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  • The ultimate test of performance

    There can’t be a global sporting event more suited to AkzoNobel than the Volvo Ocean Race. A perfect fit for the company’s strong maritime heritage and long association with the sea, it’s the perfect showcase for the company’s market-leading products and expertise.

    That’s why we became the official coatings supplier to the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard for the 2017-18 edition. It means the entire fleet of Volvo Ocean 65 racing boats is coated with the company’s International and Awlgrip range of products.

    The company developed unique, eye-catching custom colors for every team in the race, and the partnership will ensure that the boats continue to look their best and withstand the ultimate test of performance as they battle through the toughest oceans on the planet.

    Once a leg ends, technical staff from the company’s Yacht business is on hand to offer advice and support to the shore crew application teams. They have access to a purpose-built paint storage unit which is available at each stopover and includes all the International and Awlgrip coatings used on the entire fleet. It features the materials needed to carry out everything from a small repair through to a complete repaint of the boats.

    “We’re there to give technical support to the Boatyard application teams, offer advice on workable solutions and answer any questions we may face at the time,” explains Gareth Thomas, Technical Support Team Manager at AkzoNobel’s Specialty Coatings business. “It really is a matter of having the answers there and then, minimizing any delay as the turnaround for the boats is very tight.”

    And while the products used on each boat need to be able to withstand whatever Mother Nature chooses to throw at them, it’s the glossy, colored finish that everyone can see all the time – so this requires continual maintenance to ensure the boats always look good.

    “Each boat is a giant marketing tool and as such corporate colors and designs are incredibly important,” continues Gareth. “This required very specific color matching and we often had to match challenging print references. Fortunately, color matching is something AkzoNobel is very good at, and the on-site container and mixing rack we have available in the Boatyard enables us to mix all the colors we’ve developed for the teams right there on the spot.”

  • Inspiring our world with color

    For hundreds of years, we’ve been helping to put color on just about anything you can imagine – in a way that’s designed to make everyday life better.

    Working with industry specialists, our color experts identify global trends and translate them into inspirational palettes to ensure that the walls in our homes, our electronics, furniture, vehicles and buildings get the splash of color and the caring touch they deserve.

    Every year, our much-anticipated trend reports – such as ColourFutures, Trend Editions and our Color of the Year – provide consumers and designers with exciting ideas to help coat products and transform living spaces. Meanwhile, every four years, we update our Futura collection for powder coatings – a collaboration with leading trend consultants – which offers a new source of inspiration to architects and designers.

    The comprehensive research which underlies these activities serves as the foundation for color innovation and inspiration across all our businesses. They work together with our Global Aesthetic Center in the Netherlands and a group of international specialists to identify societal trends and consumer behaviors. The aim is to better understand our global society and what we need from our environment. These trends are then translated into the colors that help shape our lives.

    Our color design teams take this research a step further when determining what’s needed for the next generation of phones, cars, buildings and consumer appliances. We know that when our customers paint or coat something, they care about it – and so should we. That’s why our advice depends on truly understanding customers and their technical requirements. This insight helps us create the colors and textures that ultimately drive design choices.

    We’re also using digital innovation to make it easier for customers to take advantage of our color knowledge and expertise. Our popular Visualizer decorating app, for example, allows people to play with color ideas and see what rooms will look like, before any paint has been applied to the wall. It has been downloaded nearly 20 million times to date. Meanwhile, our highly successful Automatchic Vision tool is a revolutionary digital system which allows bodyshops to precisely measure and match the existing color on any area of a vehicle. We deployed our 10,000th device during 2017.

    This collaborative process of working with in-house and global experts – and most importantly with our customers – ensures that we keep our finger on the pulse of global design and societal trends. It helps us stay one step ahead so we can lead the way in defining the colors that surround us every day.

  • The largest clean-up in history

    Our oceans are under attack – from a small but powerful enemy – and the statistics are staggering. More than five trillion pieces of plastic currently litter the seas around the world, with eight million tons being added every year. Some even claim that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea – unless something is done about it.

    Fortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening. Back in 2013, young Dutchman Boyan Slat had become so concerned about the state of the world’s oceans that he decided to set up The Ocean Cleanup with the express aim of ridding the seas of plastic.

    Fast forward to today and his vision is edging ever closer to reality. A floating system is being developed which could clean 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (located half-way between Hawaii and California) in five years. The technology is now at the prototype stage, with the first operational clean-up system scheduled to be deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by mid-2018.

    To help protect the equipment from the harsh marine environment, AkzoNobel has partnered with The Ocean Cleanup and will provide biocide-free coatings technology for all its devices for the next five years. As the world’s largest producer of marine coatings – with a maritime heritage stretching back more than a century – the partnership offers a natural showcase for the company’s expertise.

    The most high profile use of AkzoNobel’s International range of products will be on the specially designed floating clean-up system which will collect the waste plastic. The system employs U-shaped screens to channel floating plastic to a central point. The concentrated plastic can then be extracted and shipped to shore for recycling into durable products. It’s designed to capture plastic pieces of all sizes, from one centimeter right up to massive discarded fishing nets, which can measure tens of meters. By removing the plastic while most of it is still large, it can be prevented from breaking down into dangerous micro-plastics.

    “The ocean plastic pollution problem is a very big one, and big problems require big solutions,” explains Boyan. “This has been my mission since I started The Ocean Cleanup and, with the help of many partners, we have come a long way. After all, don’t we all want a future that is better than the present?”

  • Turning great ideas into reality

    It began with more than 200 hopeful start-ups pitching their bright ideas for sustainable chemistry solutions – and ended with ten worthy winners securing a variety of collaboration agreements with AkzoNobel’s Specialty Chemicals business and various partners.

    In many ways, the company’s inaugural – and hugely success-ful – Imagine Chemistry start-up challenge has proved to be just the beginning of an exciting journey for all involved.

    Launched in early 2017, start-ups and researchers from around the world were invited to help solve real-life challenges faced by our Specialty Chemicals businesses. Twenty of those who entered were selected to attend the finals in Deventer, the Netherlands, where over the course of three days they worked with experts in research, business and finance to further improve their ideas.

    After much deliberation, three start-ups walked away with joint development agreements to help bring their ideas to market. Their projects focused on: a sustainable alternative to polyacrylates, used – among others – to make thickeners for personal care products; a new process to turn CO2 and natural gas into key chemicals such as ethylene oxide; and a solution to create cellulosic products from plant biomass with the help of pressurized water.

    One team also secured a long-term agreement which will see Specialty Chemicals provide expertise and support to further develop their idea of scalable, low-cost, post-bioreactor dewatering.

    Noah Helman of Industrial Microbes – one of the three joint development agreement winners – summed up the enthusiasm of all the finalists: “Like all the teams, we are excited and honored to have been selected,” he said.

    Added Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Global Research, Development and Innovation Director for Specialty Chemicals: “We launched Imagine Chemistry because we wanted to share in the same infectious enthusiasm for innovation which is so prevalent in start-ups. And we want our partners to share in our track record and route to market. We just think there is so much to be gained by being creative and customer-driven together.

    “The challenge is also designed to help us embed open, collaborative innovation in our ways of working and forge partnerships with start-ups and others whose ideas present new opportunities for sustainable growth. We got off to a great start and are looking forward to working with the winners to make our industry – and the world – more sustainable.”

    The global challenge proved to be so successful that a second edition is underway for 2018, when the finals will be held in Gothenburg, Sweden.

  • Acquisitions show new strategy in action

    Our focus on building a stronger AkzoNobel has resulted in solid progress in recent years as we continue to leverage our size, scale and global presence to pursue selected acquisitions. This remains a firm part of our strategy.

    Having acquired BASF’s Industrial Coatings business in 2016 – a sizeable deal which added around 2% inorganic revenue growth (AkzoNobel including Specialty Chemicals) – we made three further bolt-on acquisitions in 2017. Key to the success of these deals has been the streamlining of our M&A processes, while we have also standardized our integration approach to ensure we effectively deliver the targeted synergies.

    Our acquisition criteria are compelling and simple. The targets must deliver a number one or two position in the market, and/or offer new customer value propositions or new technologies. In addition to strategic fit, the economics need to be supportive of the increased financial guidance we shared in April 2017. All recent acquisitions exceed these criteria comfortably, delivering sustainable, long-term value for all our stakeholders. Details about our 2017 deals can be found below.

    Disa Technology (France)

    Specializes in the manufacture and sale of self-adhesive vinyl, polyester and polycarbonate films used on aircraft, vehicles, agricultural machinery and other equipment. Acquiring the business means we can offer our customers a broader product portfolio while complementing our own position in liquid coatings and films for those markets.

    Flexcrete Technologies (UK)

    Manufactures industry-leading technical mortars and high performance coatings for the protection and repair of concrete substrates. The deal will allow us to expand our customer offering in several key industrial markets, including downstream oil and gas and chemical processing, commercial infrastructure, power, water and waste water, and mining and mineral processing. By leveraging our global presence and existing distribution channels, we can also sell these products more efficiently to our customers.

    V.Powdertech (Thailand)

    Supplies a range of powder coatings products for domestic appliances, furniture and general industrial applications. The acquisition will bring new technologies and services to complement our global technology portfolio and business in market segments such as architectural and automotive coatings. The transaction includes all relevant technologies, patents and trademarks, as well as a high quality manufacturing plant close to Bangkok. The deal means we are strongly positioned to capitalize on the growth in demand for powder coatings in South East Asia.

    These acquisitions show that we are taking part in the con-solidation of the paints and coatings market in a “string of pearls” strategy. We’ve also shown that we don’t shy away from looking at value-adding, transformative opportunities.

Carbon footprint

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