Business as unusual

By any standards, 2020 was an extraordinary year. It therefore required an extraordinary response. As COVID-19 continued to tighten its grip on the world, our priority was to keep our employees, their families and our partners safe. At the same time, we did everything possible to continue supplying our customers, while giving whatever support we could to local communities.

Here’s a brief round-up of some of the projects we were involved with, many of which resulted from the amazing efforts of our colleagues around the world. They also highlight the strong social aspect of our “People. Planet. Paint.” approach to sustainable business.

Rapid response in China

When Chinese authorities announced they were about to rapidly construct a hospital in Yinchuan – capital city of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region – the local AkzoNobel organization sprang into action.

The facility was being built as an expansion project at the existing Fourth People’s Hospital of Ningxia. However, as the work was taking place during the Spring Festival in February, paint was in short supply.

On hearing the news, we acted quickly to donate our Dulux Pro interior emulsion during the early days of the project. It helped to ensure that the new buildings could be completed on time (in just 15 days) as part of an urgent local response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The new buildings continued to be operational once the outbreak subsided.

Keeping industry going

As the pandemic raged, our customers continued to rely on us to supply products across a whole range of critical industries. So we had to prioritize our resources in certain areas to ensure production of essential items could continue.

For example, our coatings are used on hospital beds and other metal equipment (including oxygen bottles and ventilators), which were in high demand during the first half of the year. We also supply coatings used in food and beverage cans, and the industry was working flat out at one point to keep up with increased demand.

Many of our coatings products – including our decorative paints – are also a key part of the construction sector. So we were pulling out all the stops to ensure that crucial work could continue, such as building new hospitals. You can read about some of those projects elsewhere on these pages.

Coping with challenges in India

During a nationwide lockdown in India, the local AkzoNobel organization launched several initiatives to help communities cope with the food and healthcare challenges.

Many of these were adaptations of existing projects launched as part of the company’s People. Planet. Paint. initiative. The focus was simply changed in response to the virus.

For example, in several villages near Bangalore, an existing e-health program which we helped to set up was used to provide initial screening for COVID-19. Around 1,000 people had received symptomatic screening within the first month.

We also provided essential food items to 6,000 people (mostly daily wage earners) in Gurgaon, Gwalior and Navi Mumbai, including underprivileged children studying at AkzoNobel supported education centers.

Beating the isolation blues in Brazil

One of the most heart-warming initiatives was organized in Brazil, where our colleagues made a big effort to help residents at a care home for elderly women, located in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Known as Grandma’s House, it looks after nearly 200 elderly residents. However, due to the pandemic, visitors weren’t allowed for many months. So our Brazilian colleagues decided to give the residents a boost and cheer them up by arranging video chat sessions to help them feel less isolated and alone.

Dozens of employees volunteered to take part during the initiative, when they could choose from a series of 30-minute time slots. “The conversation I had was such an important moment for the lady I spoke to that she even dressed up specially for the occasion,” said AkzoNobel Administrative Coordinator, Roseli Franchi. “It was very touching and made me realize that we can make a difference to people’s lives by doing the simplest of things.”

As well as talking to the residents, employees were also given the opportunity to have donations sent from one of several local supermarkets that make deliveries to the home. More than 1,000 items were sent, including cleaning and personal care products and food.

Supporting communities in Indonesia

Many of the communities around our Cikarang site in Indonesia experienced the economic challenges that came with the large-scale social restrictions that resulted from the pandemic.

Having noticed the hardships many people were facing, colleagues from our local Marine and Protective Coatings and Decorative Paints sites responded quickly to help out.

In order to support the livelihoods of people in seven communities around Cikarang, several activities were organized under our AkzoNobel Cares umbrella, which included distributing basic food essentials to around 500 families in need.

Woman with child (photo)
Chinese texts on banners on a gate (photo)
Hospital equipment (photo)

Caring with color in Switzerland

With children often finding hospitals a bit scary, we worked with the Anouk Foundation in Switzerland to brighten things up and make one hospital in particular feel more comforting and colorful.

The Anouk Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing color to the walls of all kinds of buildings. Our Sikkens paint business has been donating paint to them for many years, helping to create designs and murals that calm the fears and worries of residents and patients of all ages.

One of their bigger projects in 2020 involved working on 22 treatment rooms and eight patient rooms at the Kinder Klinik Kantonsspital in the Swiss town of Aarau. Painting soft colors on the walls and introducing gentle humor helped create a comforting atmosphere, which proved especially important at a time of such global uncertainty.

In fact, the therapeutic value of the murals has been so beneficial, there are plans to create more murals in other parts of the hospital, including the pediatric emergency unit.