CEO statement

Thierry Vanlancker, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Management and Executive Committee (photo)

As 2020 began, we were all set for accelerating towards our Winning together: 15 by 20 ambition. However, like everybody else, it wasn’t long before we encountered unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The massive economic and social impacts were felt by everyone as the world came to a virtual standstill. Despite the odds being stacked against us, I’m proud to say we reacted fast and reached a significant milestone as a company.

Our people and customers came first. That was always our priority. At the same time, as the global pandemic raged on, we mobilized the whole organization in response. We became more agile, changed our ways of working and focused on a handful of priorities to ensure we kept the company intact and continued to serve our customers – eventually deciding to pause key parts of our transformation and suspend our 2020 financial ambition.

We saved costs, closely managed cash and leveraged the solid processes and systems we’ve been putting in place to set the company up for success. The fact that we weathered the storm so well demonstrates our new-found resilience and I’m extremely proud of how we continued to look after our customers and performed together as an organization.

As the year came to an end, we almost overlooked the fact that all our hard work during the last three years paid off – we reached our Winning together: 15 by 20 ambition, despite the unparalleled headwinds. After this extraordinary phase of our ongoing journey, we’re now a significantly leaner paints and coatings company, with clear and short communication lines, and systems and processes in place that enable us to continue delivering value for all our stakeholders. We also continue to streamline our manufacturing and warehouse footprint.

Despite the odds being stacked against us, I’m proud to say we reached a significant milestone as a company and achieved our Winning together: 15 by 20 ambition.

Achieving this significant 15 by 20 milestone is very much the culmination of a determined push to get back to the forefront of our industry and we continue to see encouraging momentum in our business performance.

Over the last three years, we’ve made a series of targeted acquisitions. In 2020, we added Stahl’s powder coatings activities and New Nautical Coatings’ yacht business in North America, while a deal was also agreed for Titan decorative paints in Spain (to be completed in 2021) and we finalized the acquisition of Mauvilac Industries Limited in Mauritius. At the same time, we’ve clearly claimed the innovation space with our industry-first Paint the Future ecosystem.

We’re now moving forward with our new Grow & Deliver strategy – the next stage of our transformation – building on what we’ve achieved to truly become the reference in our industry. It’s about outperforming our markets on growth and continuing to deliver to the bottom line – which we were already doing during the second half of 2020. By remaining customer focused and keeping our discipline on margins and costs, during the next three years, we aim to deliver an average 50 basis points improvement in each year.

As we enter the newest phase of our journey in 2021, we continue to evolve, led by a new company purpose which demonstrates our passion for pioneering a world of possibilities to bring surfaces to life. And we continue to build on our leading track record when it comes to sustainability, through our “People. Planet. Paint.” approach and related ambitions.

Of course, by far the real driving force is our people, who deserve all the credit. It’s been a tough journey at times, but everyone persevered and I’m really proud of what we’ve shown the world this year. Our improved organizational health score suggests that engagement is strong and there’s a good feeling within the company.

So a huge thank you to the whole organization. For myself and the whole Executive Committee, it continues to be a privilege to be on this journey to become the frontrunner in our industry.

Thierry Vanlancker, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Management and Executive Committee – signature (handwriting)

Thierry Vanlancker, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Management and Executive Committee

ROS (return on sales)

ROS is adjusted operating income as a percentage of revenue. ROS excluding unallocated cost is adjusted operating income as a percentage of revenue for Decorative Paints and Performance Coatings. It excludes unallocated corporate center cost.

ROS (return on sales)

January 2020 - December 2020


in €millions



Total revenue



Less: revenue unallocated



Revenue excluding unallocated revenue






Adjusted operating income excluding unallocated cost






ROS% excluding unallocated cost