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In April of this year, Arkema brought together leaders from across the coatings value chain to discuss how consumer demand for a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as how decarbonization and circularity trends transform the industry at every step – including retailers, brand owners, formulators, distributors and suppliers.

Jenny Klevås, Marketing Director at Perstorp. Perstorp provides specialty chemicals for a wide variety of industries and applications.

Dorothee Arns, Managing Director of the European Association of Chemical Distributors (FECC). The FECC is not only the voice of chemical distributors in Europe but also represents more than 1,600 companies from all parts of the chemical value chain: producers, distributors, logistics' partners, etc.

Nadine Nicolai, Global Business Development Director Construction at Omya. Omya is a leading global producer of industrial minerals – mainly derived from calcium carbonate, dolomite and perlite – and is a worldwide distributor of specialty chemicals.
 
Mats Hägerström, EMEA sustainability leader at PPG. PPG is one of the world’s leading suppliers of paints, coatings, and specialty materials for a series of industries including automotive, transportation and construction.

Richard Jenkins, SVP Coating Solutions, Arkema

Helene Pernot, Head of Sustainable Offer at Arkema Coating Solutions

Anne Hallonet, Global Sustainability Manager at Bostik Durable Goods, part of the adhesive solutions segment of Arkema

Our Partners 

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Perstorp
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FECC
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Omya
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PPG
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Bostik

The importance of sustainability

87% of consumers want brands to act now to encourage future sustainability"

R.Jenkins (Arkema Coating Solutions): We are in the middle of a deep industry transformation driven by new expectations from customers, citizens, investors, governmental bodies and our own employees. That expectation impacts the entire value chain.
We are all concerned by climate change and preserving natural resources. Studies show that approximately 87 percent of consumers want brands to act now to encourage future sustainability. We are all looking for more transparency to make more informed choices.

How has the meaning of sustainability evolved in the coatings, adhesives and construction industry?

R.Jenkins (Arkema Coating Solutions): Sustainability has evolved from a concept to a sense of purpose and is becoming increasingly important to companies worldwide. Today, it includes a wide range of social, environmental & economic dimensions. We need new ways of thinking and acting to meet these new expectations and to focus on connecting the downstream consumer and market needs to upstream innovation capabilities.
 
That’s why we need to build an open value chain ecosystem.
We have a shared responsibility in this transformation and are excited to work together on this important topic alongside partners from across the value chain.

Commitment of brand owners to new consumers expectations

The integration of sustainability parameters by brand owners has become a reality, deeply impacting the value chain."

A.Hallonet (Bostik-Arkema adhesive solutions): The integration of sustainability parameters by brand owners has become a reality, deeply impacting the value chain. In a wide variety of industries from DIY/home sector to sport and apparel, environmental scorecards help consumers align their purchasing decisions with sustainability values.
Consequently, it creates market-driven motivation for manufacturers to enhance the sustainability of their products, fostering innovation and accelerating the adoption of eco-friendly solutions like integrating recycled and renewable materials to combat resource scarcity.
 

How coatings and adhesives manufacturers enhance sustainability over entire product life cycle

-55% of CO2 emissions while materials production increased by 43% in 30 years"

D.Arns (FECC): The chemical industry is taking its environmental responsibility very seriously and also in the past years has already taken significant steps towards reducing its ecological footprint. For example, according to the 2023 edition of the "Cefic Facts & Figures" booklet, the industry has already achieved a remarkable 55% reduction in scope 1 GHG emissions between 1990 and 2020, while also increasing the European production by 43%. It is important to note that these figures only represent direct emissions. What they do not cover is the environmental improvements, enabled by these materials, which help downstream users to reduce their own ecological footprint.
 
Nevertheless, we as chemical value chain partners need to accelerate and enable more decarbonization & circular economy. The issues are so big that they cannot be solved by one sector alone. Instead, collaboration across the value chain is essential to progress further and create a sustainable ecosystem. We as FECC see it as part of our mission to promote sustainability in all aspects. For example, some of our members have successfully piloted and meanwhile fully implemented the concept of "chemical waste as a resource," highlighting the potential of waste materials to become valuable inputs for new products in other value chains.
M.Hägerström (PPG): Our commitment to sustainability is guided by our purpose “We protect and beautify the world”, but in today's context, we want to emphasize the importance of our protective role. As industry leaders, we are committed to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and aim to achieve 40% of sales from sustainably advantaged products by the end of 2025. We have developed a methodology that assesses the greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of our coatings, along with several other sustainability variables.
 
Our main focus today is on the key environmental sustainability task of coating, which is to protect the underlying substrate and preserve our customers' greatest assets, ensuring their longer use. This is crucial because the life cycle environmental impacts of a coated substrate are directly linked to the substrate that the coating protects. For example, a car or wind turbine typically has a service life of 10 years, with a 10–20-year lifespan for durable goods. Therefore, our value chain faces the challenge of collaborating to identify ways to improve the life cycle sustainability performance of our coating products while enhancing their quality and aesthetic variables.

… collaborating to identify ways to improve the life cycle sustainability performance of our coating products while enhancing their quality and aesthetic variables."

N.Nicolai (OMYA): When entering a collaboration, it's best to start with the mindset of "together we can do more with less", being focused on lowering the carbon footprint in end applications like paints, coatings, adhesives, and sealants. This is what we strive to do at Omya.

But, before going to impact downstream performances, it’s very important that each company of the value chain starts by doing its homework well, by adressing Scope I and II. Then, you can contribute at the next level and bring positive environmental performances down the value chain and leverage other industry experience.

An example is through lightweighting. One of our products allows to reduce the weight of paint by up to 40% while or increase the coverage rate by 60%. Meaning, 40% less weight to carry by trucks and by painters every day. At the same time, it addresses one of the key mega trends providing energy savings through thermal insulation. Would we have been able to develop this sustainable solution, without collaborating with the value chain? Maybe yes, but probably not as fast as we do it today.
A.Hallonet (Bostik-Arkema adhesive solutions): To ensure the sustainability and the safety of products it is crucial to consider their entire life cycle including their formulation, processes, and downstream applications, in order to minimize their overall impact. We need to have a pro-active approach to assess the health, safety and environmental impacts of our products going beyond compliance. The target being to promote more specifically products that have positive impacts following the UN SDGs and that are aligned with regulatory trends and market expectations.

To reduce impacts, we develop adhesives with lower environmental footprints and that support our customers eco-design the product they are used in. For instance, we collaborate with Omya on sealants with lower carbon footprint that are also lighter, reducing energy consumption of transport and making them easier to handle, benefiting both the operators and the environment.

… Together we can do more with less."

The importance of thinking and acting as a value chain ecosystem and how strengthen synergies

… collaboration enabled to significantly extend the life span of solvents X5, through recycled loops"

D. Arns (FECC): An excellent example of circular economy in practice can be found in Denmark, where different industries collaborated to deliver several additional loops of use for solvents. These solvents are frequently used as process aids in the pharmaceutical industry, where a high level of purity is required, such as 99% or even higher. And after a production run, the solvent was usually disposed of, because the purity was too low then to reuse it.

Now the distributors entered the scene and brought these solvents to a completely different value chain, where companies could work well and safely with somewhat lower, but still properly documented purity levels. Several repetitions of this exercise resulted in a much longer lifespan for the same product, significantly less waste, and substantially lower CO2 emissions. At the same time a variety of different value chains, which had never worked so closely together beforehand, were connected now.
This successful project has opened the door to a new ecosystem, offering new business opportunities for everyone, and a pan-European roll-out is currently underway.
 
A.Hallonet (Bostik-Arkema adhesive solutions):  Adhesives are critical to the success of a sustainable value chain. Though often a small part of the final products they are used in, they can become real sustainability enabler by extending their life (repair) or improving their performances such as better home insulation or lightweighting of vehicles.
When it comes to end-of-life management, adhesives also contribute to more efficient recycling processes. Thus, and by anticipating this phase, multi-layer packaging films or wind blades turbine can be fully recyclable.
To implement those new recycling loops, we need to work hand in hand with the different actors of the value chain in order for each to communicate quantitative benefits, like the LCA data, and allow all to make the right decisions.

… Collaborating with our stakeholders upstream and downstream is crucial to our sustainability efforts”

M.Hägerström (PPG): Collaborating with our stakeholders upstream and downstream is crucial to our sustainability efforts. Upstream, we engage in dialogues with our suppliers to understand the full sustainability value proposition and the reasoning behind it. Downstream, we continuously develop our understanding of the sustainability drivers that affect our customers, including legislative sustainability drivers.
 
One of the key roles our position in the value chain provides us with is incorporating the identified drivers and sustainability needs of our downstream stakeholders into our dialogues with our raw material suppliers. We are not prescriptive when it comes to what the sustainability value proposition for our raw materials should contain. We have an appetite for different means of achieving reduction of GHG intensity, including substance substitution, shifting to biobased materials, introducing recycled components, and other propositions that deliver significant sustainability improvements downstream.
 
 
We focus on life cycle net improvements rather than merely shifting the impacts between life cycle phases or environmental impact categories. For example, we may look for improvements in applications. We believe that the power to make a difference lies in our appetite and capability to collaborate with our customers and consumers downstream, as well as our raw material suppliers upstream.
 

… it is critical to think and act as a value chain ecosystem to accelerate decarbonization ahead of regulations"

N.Nicolai (OMYA): Collaborating and exchanging ideas with thought leaders can help us find solutions together. While many things are already well regulated, they often take a long time to be implemented. The Green Deal will help, but it is critical to think and act as a value chain ecosystem to accelerate decarbonization ahead of regulations. Exchanging pain points and needs at different levels is necessary to achieve this.
For example, an exchange led to a breakthrough sustainable innovation that addresses the elimination of moisture in the process of producing certain types of sealants. Moisture is the enemy of sealants, not only in the bathroom but also during the production process.
There are currently two options: heating for hours at a temperature above 100 degrees or adding another chemical to eliminate moisture. Through open collaboration, pain points surfaced and, after five years of R&D, trials, and market validation, a functional calcium carbonate with extremely low moisture was developed. This breakthrough innovation allows for producing more with less energy or reducing the use of chemicals that might potentially be banned by the Green Deal.
Breakthrough innovations take time, but the earlier we connect and exchange about needs, the better.

How the issue of sustainability is raised at the very top of the value chain?

No company is greener than its suppliers"

J.Klevås (Perstorp): It’s important to stay connected not only to direct customers but all the way to the end-customers in the value chain when it comes to sustainability. As the saying goes, "No company is greener than its suppliers." Being a company very early in the value chain gives us the opportunity to make a huge difference for many industries and companies. However, to achieve our sustainability goals, we need to ensure that we communicate effectively with all stakeholders along the value chain. But we also need to use robust methods and strategies in our sustainability work.  
One strategy we have adopted in our transition towards sustainable materials, is a traceable mass-balance approach. To ensure credibility, we have chosen ISCC PLUS as our certifying body, that ensures we can shift away from finite materials in a transparent and understandable way for our downstream customers and partners.
 
ISCC PLUS is a cradle-to-gate certification that implies that all our suppliers carry the same type of certification. The number of ISCC PLUS certified sites has been doubling every year in recent years, and there are nearly 3000 valid ISCC PLUS certificates today.
H.Pernot (Arkema Coating Solutions): We are convinced that, to change the world we live, we need to change the materials we use. To succeed, staying connected is crucial for our sustainability efforts, as the risk of losing connection with downstream and consumers is real. It highlights the importance of value chain communication. Innovation is no longer an individual endeavor but rather a collective one, particularly in a world where circularity is becoming the norm. To make significant progress, we must adapt collectively and explore new ways of collaboration beyond the traditional customer-supplier relationship. Our role, as previously discussed, is to connect the dots between consumer expectations, market demands, and upstream innovation capabilities. This ensures that, as an ecosystem, we invest in technologies that address both sustainability and performance challenges. As highlighted by Mats, performance and sustainability are intertwined, working together hand in hand.

We are convinced that, to change the world we live, we need to change the materials we use."

Overcoming obstacles to accelerate the transformation of the industry

J.Klevås (Perstorp): There are many ongoing initiatives, but the industry needs to be aware of what is possible already today. Trainings, education, and sharing knowledge beyond traditional supplier/customer interactions can help us learn from each other and collaborate to find new opportunities and solutions to the sustainability challenge.
To accelerate the transformation, we need to listen to and talk to the market, including our closest customers and downstream players. Often, we need to educate downstream players on sustainability so that their decisions align with what's possible from a raw material perspective. Internally, we also need to educate ourselves to enable informed and constructive conversations.
H.Pernot (Arkema Coating Solutions): As a full solution provider, we need to think outside the box and develop new ways of working, as we are discussing today. It may require an investment of time and resources initially, as it requires moving out of our comfort zone of doing business as usual and spending time developing connections upstream and downstream, understanding each other's challenges, and bringing performance forward. However, this is also an opportunity to create new fields of opportunities that the first movers will be able to capture.

In Summary

The sustainability challenges are triggering a rapid and profound societal transformation, generating disruptive expectations from stakeholders such as consumers, investors, and government bodies. It is the collective responsibility of all actors along the coating value chain to drive this societal and economic transformation and contribute to addressing these challenges. Embracing open collaboration within an ecosystem is a catalyst for innovation and essential for the coating industry to act as a solution provider. Today, we witness industry leaders already committed to this change through remarkable initiatives. However, this journey has only just begun, and we extend an invitation to join us in fostering an open ecosystem mindset. Together, we can collectively steer positive change towards a more sustainable future.

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