The chemical reaction of sustainability

Akzonobel's drive to become a sustainable business started 10 years ago, when the chemical industry, along with the power industry, was public enemy number one for the environment, explains Leigh Stringer.

While many chemical companies across the sector ignored the calls to tackle its environmental impact, Akzonobel added sustainability to its list of business priorities.

Over the past ten years, the company has looked to improve the energy and resource efficiency of every area of its business, from operating processes to compliance issues.

Having created this foundation, the company has developed a new sustainability strategy, which will focus on two key areas and ‘create more value from fewer resources’. It will aim to reduce carbon emissions by 25-30% per ton of product and produce 20% of its revenue from its eco-premium products, by 2020.

Speaking to edie, Akzonobel’s director of sustainability, Andre Veneman, said: “In our industry it’s all about getting more value from fewer resources because we are all energy and resource intensive across the entire value chain.

“The consumption comes from the raw material we buy, our own production processes and the end use of our products,” he adds.

Despite the energy and resource intensity of the industry, Veneman is optimistic about its future, citing sustainability as a ‘huge opportunity’.

“This is also about the big contribution we can make to our end markets. Akzonobel gets its revenue from four key end markets – construction, transport mobility, housing and consumer goods – and we understand that in these markets there will be big transformations.

“Housing will become energy and carbon neutral and what we ask ourselves is how can we work towards the needs of these end markets?”

Veneman stressed the important role the chemical industry plays in helping end markets achieve an energy and resource efficient future.

“What makes me positive about the opportunities in our industry is the focus on the end markets. If you want to make construction and housing energy and carbon neutral and full recyclability of raw materials then you need the chemical industry producing insulation materials, wood protection materials, heat reflective materials.

“And if the industry looks through the lens of innovation and works together with end markets the transformation to an energy efficient, low carbon economy is certainly possible,” added Veneman.

Earlier in the year, Akzonobel raised its sustainability awareness by joining the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI), a global coalition of companies and shipping leaders from around the world, which is the first time the shipping industry has joined forces on such a cooperative global scale to tackle big sustainability issues.

Veneman said the importance of sustainability sat firmly with how products and services can be delivered to end users in a way that reduces energy use and raw materials and a constant drive in innovation to help markets create a more sustainable future.

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