Growing Product Stewardship in AkzoNobel

Developing consistent product stewardship programs across business units is an elusive goal for large corporations. The key to success, at least for AkzoNobel, has been to approach product stewardship from a proactive business perspective. The company, which has 46,000 employees, has developed a set of tools designed to harmonize its product safety and sustainability initiatives. Julian Hunter, senior manager of product safety and regulatory affairs at AkzoNobel, will talk about those tools during Growing Product Stewardship in AkzoNobel, a presentation at Stewardship 2017.

“I’m going to talk about product stewardship in a business context, not just regulatory compliance,” he says. “Our aim is to make regulators have less impact on the company because our actions should be ahead of regulations.”

The first step is to recognize that individual businesses are different, but that product stewardship objectives can be brought under the same umbrella. “You can say product stewardship in a coatings business is different from a chemicals business, but you can still treat it in a holistic way from a corporate perspective, to drive product stewardship initiatives through the whole organization,” says Hunter.

At the heart of AkzoNobel’s program is a robust substance management policy. “Rather than reacting to what legislator impose and struggling to comply, we prioritize and review problematic substances before the regulations come, substituting them with safer alternatives where we can. Where this is not possible we ensure their use is restricted and risk management measures are in place to ensure safe use. In doing so we often raise standards in countries where there is no or less stringent legislation,” says Hunter. For example, the company withdraw lead compounds from all of its paint products in 2011, even though some countries still permit them.

Hunter points out that a business approach to product stewardship is in keeping with customers’ needs. “Our customers have their own product safety aspirations,” he says. “Many ask us to provide them with safer products. Because we have a clear position on hazardous substance management, we’re meeting our customers’ needs. It’s good business, and it doesn’t always cost you.”


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