Note 7: Operational eco-efficiency

AkzoNobel drives resource productivity by increasing raw material efficiency, reducing energy consumption and achieving decreases in the generation of waste streams, emissions to water and emissions to air. Our efforts benefit the planet, as well as our business performance, as they simultaneously ensure our license to operate, reduce our environmental footprint and reduce operational costs.

We use our company-wide continuous improvement program (AkzoNobel Leading Performance System) to drive the agenda. We continuously measure progress on a range of operational indicators and, on a quarterly basis, we report internally on our performance and continuous improvement, and define actions for further improvement. Specific projects (currently 639 in total) are included in the AkzoNobel Tracker, which monitors financial benefits and environmental impact.

Great results have been achieved on since the start of this ongoing program in 2009. The eco-efficiency footprint was reduced by 31%, while improvements on the individual parameters were also significant.

Improvement of each of the eco-efficiency parameters

per ton of production (% vs 2009)

Operational eco-efficiency – Improvement of each of the EE-parameters (bar chart)

Material efficiency

AkzoNobel has increased its focus on material efficiency and is maximizing the conversion of raw materials into final product by solving the root cause of the losses. This will not only reduce the amount of waste and waste water – as well as the carbon related to our raw materials upstream – but will also help our bottom line.

At Decorative Paints, the material efficiency program was continued, focusing on a better conversion of raw materials into final products, for example by recycling wash water, including recycling the paint captured in the washing process.

Performance Coatings continued its global material efficiency program for all businesses, focusing on yield improvement in production. A wide variety of smaller projects (more than 200) has resulted in savings of €10 million.

Specialty Chemicals converted some of its waste streams into valuable by-products, in line with the concept of the .

Raw material flow

in kilotons

Operational eco-efficiency – Raw material flow (graphic)


Effective waste management helps to increase raw material efficiency in our manufacturing operations, while reducing both our environmental footprint and costs. AkzoNobel has moved the focus from managing and reducing total “end of pipe” waste to also eliminating waste by increasing material efficiency throughout the manufacturing process, among other initiatives.

Our ambition is to drive towards zero waste to landfill in the coming years. A program with concrete projects is being implemented to support this ambition. The first priority is to reduce the hazardous waste to landfill, and both this and the total waste to landfill reduced by 8% and 13% respectively in 2017.

Total waste

in kilotons

Operational eco-efficiency – 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 volume and waste per ton of production generated were down by 4% and 5% respectively in 2017. Hazardous waste per ton of production decreased by 5%. The significant reduction in waste in 2017 was achieved by many specific material efficiency activities in a large number of sites around the globe.

Hazardous waste

in kilotons

Operational eco-efficiency – 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.

Energy and greenhouse gas emissions

Energy use per ton of production flattened, while absolute energy consumption in 2017 was up 1% compared with 2016, in line with a change in product mix and volume changes. In 2017, 57% (122 out of 214) of our sites improved their relative footprint with regard to energy use compared with 2016, while 78 sites are using 100% renewable electricity (14 new in 2017).

Energy use

in 1000 TJ

Operational eco-efficiency – Energy use (bar chart)

Greenhouse gas () emissions from our facilities are primarily related to the fuel and power we use. This section reflects the performance of our own operations covering the gate-to-gate scope.

Total GHG emissions per ton of production decreased by 9% in line with the absolute GHG emissions decrease of 9%.

Greenhouse gas emissions

in million tons

Operational eco-efficiency – Greenhouse gas emissions (bar chart)

Total greenhouse gas emissions made up of direct emissions from processes and combustion at our facilities and indirect emissions from purchased energy.

Local air quality

Air monitoring from AkzoNobel operations is focused on volatile organic compounds () and NOx and SOx emissions, with emissions being monitored and controlled as required.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC)

All our businesses manage VOC emissions from operations, in line with national (e.g. in China) 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 operational eco-efficiency program, while our Research, Development and Innovation groups are working on projects to reduce the solvent content of our products (see Note 1).

VOC emissions per ton of production and total VOC emissions decreased by 11% and 10% respectively in 2017.

Volatile organic compounds

in kilotons

Operational eco-efficiency – 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 and smog formation. The emissions of these gases are very limited for Paints and Coatings (less than 1% for both NOx and SOx).

Both NOx emissions per ton of production and total emissions decreased 10%. Optimization of our Delesto unit in Delfzijl, the Netherlands, resulted in a reduction of more than 20%, reducing the impact by over 100 tons.

SOx emissions (from process emissions and energy) were down by 22%, with a significant decrease achieved in LeMoyne, US, due to the start-up of an SO2 recovery unit.

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, 0.8 tons (2016: 1.8 tons). They are mainly due to Freon22 from maintenance in older air conditioning and cooling units, which are replaced when appropriate.

Fresh water availability

Sustainable water supply is essential to life and the sustainability of our business. AkzoNobel relies on water for raw material production, product formulation and manufacturing, power generation, cooling, cleaning, transportation and the effective use of certain products. Currently, 87% of our fresh water intake is from surface water, while 84% is used for cooling, which is only slightly heated before being returned to the original source.

We manage water consumption and its related risks using a fresh water risk assessment tool, completed by each manufacturing site. The tool assigns risk levels to water sources, supply reliability, efficiency, quality of discharges, compliance and social competitive factors. In total, 94% of our sites have sustainable fresh water management in place, as measured by the risk assessment tool. In 2017, all new sites and sites in at-risk areas identified by the previous tool were reassessed.

Total fresh water use and fresh water use per ton of production were down by 2% and 3% respectively. By subtracting the water used for cooling purposes from the total fresh water use, our net water use is calculated and this decreased by 5%.

Fresh water use

in million m3

Operational eco-efficiency – Fresh water use (bar chart)

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

Water flow

in million m3

Operational eco-efficiency – Water flow (graphic)

Waste water

In total, 95% of the chemical oxygen demand (COD) is caused by only 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 increased to 0.07 kg/ton, whereas the total COD load increased to 1.3 kilotons. Although some sites reduced their emissions per ton in 2017 (such as Stockvik in Sweden), increased volumes, change in product mix and process changes in our polysulfides plant in Greiz (Germany) led to a net increase.

Chemical oxygen demand (COD)

in kilotons

Operational eco-efficiency – 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.

Soil and groundwater remediation

We periodically review historic contamination at our sites, taking remedial action when required, and have procedures to prevent new contamination.

A dedicated group of legal and environmental experts assesses, manages and resolves environmental liabilities. In line with IFRS accounting rules, we make provisions for environmental remediation costs when it is probable that a liability will materialize and the cost can be reasonably estimated. We have set aside an additional €18 million, which we believe is sufficient for the sites where we have ownership or responsibility. See Note 17 of the Consolidated financial statements.

Mandatory annual environmental liability reviews are conducted to review risks, monitor progress in resolving our liabilities and assess changes in company exposure.


AkzoNobel Leading Performance System, a company-wide continuous improvement program.


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.

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.


Greenhouse gases, including CO2, CO, CH4, N2O and HFCs, which have a global warming impact. We also include the impact of VOCs in our targets.


Volatile organic compounds.


Volatile organic compounds.