Note 3: Operational excellence


Total waste volume and waste per ton of production generated were down by 12% and 8% respectively in 2018, which meets the reduction target of 5% per ton of production from 2017. Waste reduction is one of our main environmental indicators. Zero waste to landfill is one of our company ambitions. Our first priority is to eliminate hazardous waste to landfill.

Hazardous waste per ton of production decreased by 6%. A large number of sites around the world contributed to the significant reduction in waste generation during the year. Examples of our waste reduction projects include solvent recovery, reducing packaging waste by moving from smaller paper bags or metal drums to bulk deliveries of raw materials and reworking obsolete finished goods.

Raw material flow

in kilotons

Operational excellence – Raw material flow (graphic)

Total waste

in kilotons

Operational excellence – 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.

Hazardous waste

in kilotons

Operational excellence – 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 is another key environmental indicator included in our Resource Productivity program.

Energy use per ton of production flattened, while absolute energy consumption in 2018 was down 3% compared with 2017, in line with a change in product mix and volume changes. Our reduction target was 3% (per ton, from 2017). In 2018, 51% (62 out of 122) of our sites improved their relative footprint with regard to energy use compared with 2017. In total, 17 sites use 100% renewable electricity. Our total share of renewable energy use is 31%.

Greenhouse gas () emissions from our facilities are primarily related to electricity consumption and fuel used for heating. The total GHG emissions per ton of product increased by 1%, with absolute GHG emissions decreasing 4%.

Energy use

in 1000 TJ

Operational excellence – Energy use (bar chart)

Greenhouse gas emissions

in million tons

Operational excellence – 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.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC)

generated from our operations are primarily volatile organic compounds (). The reduction target for VOC emissions was 10% per ton of production in 2018 (compared with 2017). The reduction was delivered via product design, driven by (see Note 1), good management practices and environmental controls at our manufacturing sites. In 2018, VOC emissions per ton of product and our total VOC emissions decreased by 4% and 8% respectively.

Volatile organic compounds

in kilotons

Operational excellence – Volatile organic compounds (bar chart)

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

Water and waste water

Sustainable water supply is essential to life and the sustainability of our business. We rely on water for, among others, raw material production, product formulation and manufacturing, power generation, cooling, cleaning and transportation. Currently, 68% of our fresh water intake is from surface water, from which 76% is used for cooling purposes. Our net water use decreased by 4% in 2018.

Volvo Ocean Race – Employees cleaning up beaches around the world (photo)

Some of our employees joined in a series of beach clean-ups around the world as part of the company’s involvement in the Volvo Ocean Race. AkzoNobel was one of the main partners of the race’s sustainability program.

Our locations process their waste water in an on-site waste water treatment plant, or via third party waste water treatment. The total amount of chemical oxygen demand (COD) emissions in 2018 was 27 tons (2017: 27 tons).

Water flow

in million m3

Operational excellence – Water flow (graphic)

Fresh water use

in million m3

Operational excellence – Fresh water use (bar chart)

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

Soil and groundwater remediation

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

Mandatory annual environmental liability reviews are conducted to evaluate risks associated with historical soil and groundwater contamination. We monitor progress in resolving liabilities and assess changes in company exposure.

A group of legal and environmental experts assess, manage and resolve environmental liabilities. In line with IFRS accounting rules, we make provisions for environmental remediation costs when it’s probable that a liability will materialize and the cost can be reasonably estimated. We have set aside €91 million, which we believe is sufficient for the sites where we have ownership or responsibility. (See Note 18 of the Consolidated financial statements).


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

Emissions and waste

We report emissions to air, land and water for those substances which may have an impact on people or the environment: CO2, NOx and SOx, VOCs, chemical oxygen demand, COD, hazardous and non-hazardous waste.


Volatile organic compounds.


Research & Development.