Carrying on AkzoNobel’s crusade for sustainability in Vietnam

February 22, 2022 | 16:53
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With Vietnam experiencing a seismic shift towards sustainable spaces to live and work, the market’s leading paints and coatings company has a great deal to contribute. My Lan Nguyen, the newly appointed general director of AkzoNobel Decorative Paints Vietnam, shared with VIR’s Tom Nguyen how the company will continue supporting green and sustainable living across the country.
Carrying on AkzoNobel’s crusade for sustainability in Vietnam
Carrying on AkzoNobel’s crusade for sustainability in Vietnam

Taking over as general director for AkzoNobel Decorative Paints Vietnam, what are your impressions of the Vietnamese paints and coatings market?

It is an incredible pleasure for me to join AkzoNobel, the world’s most sustainable paints and coatings company. I am looking forward to working with the team to make Vietnam more vibrant and colourful and especially better protected through our industry-leading solutions.

We are looking at a very complex landscape in Vietnam, with multiple shifts taking place in the construction and the paints and coatings industries. Robust economic and population growth, accelerating industrialisation, and rapid urbanisation all create a strong demand for new buildings – and with it paints and coatings. At the same time, however, we are seeing rising standards for efficiency and sustainability helping to reduce our impact on the natural environment and create healthier and greener spaces to live and work.

Vietnam is now well down the road towards developing ecological urban areas, as part of its aim to conduct a sustainable economic transition. While there is a clear willingness among all stakeholders to follow the government’s strategy and plan to build smart and green urban areas, they often lack the resources to adopt new solutions.

However, the market is heading in a clear direction, and the transition will only be faster as sustainable solutions grow more affordable and accessible.

Carrying on AkzoNobel’s crusade for sustainability in Vietnam
My Lan Nguyen, general director of AkzoNobel Decorative Paints Vietnam

What major ambitions and targets do you have for AkzoNobel in Vietnam?

Throughout more than 200 years, AkzoNobel has become the most prominent paints and coatings company in the world, with brands like Dulux, Interpon, and Sikkens. Wherever you stand, you are never far from a surface coated by one of our products. The company has achieved this tremendous position through the quality, durability, and reliability of our products. Maintaining this legacy will be my No.1 priority as CEO in Vietnam.

At the same time, Vietnam is making steady steps towards sustainability, and I feel AkzoNobel is in a special position to take the country further down this path by making green paint and coatings the better choice for contractors and building operators everywhere. We have launched a comprehensive strategy called "People. Planet. Paint." to promote greener, future-proof operations for ourselves, our customers, the industry, and the communities where we operate.

We use eco-premium solutions to track our performance in creating shared value for our business, our customers, and society. We aim to maintain at least 20 per cent of revenue from eco-premium solutions by constantly innovating, based on insights into evolving environmental concerns and societal needs. Our products can offer far more than aesthetics or even protection from weather and harm. The global AkzoNobel group has invested tremendous amounts into enhancing the functionality of our products.

In Vietnam, AkzoNobel has been honoured in the top 100 sustainable enterprises for three years consecutively. AkzoNobel paint products turn houses into homes, bringing vibrant colours and long-lasting surfaces. Our new technologies to purify the air and prevent the development of harmful factors are the next step in our ambition to offer essential protection to everyone. We have also been active in building sustainable communities through our involvement in CSR projects to renovate public spaces and learning environments for vulnerable groups.

Wherever you stand, you are never far from a surface coated by one of our products. AkzoNobel has achieved this through the quality, durability, and reliability of our products. Maintaining this legacy will be my No.1 priority as CEO in Vietnam.

Sustainability is indeed coming to the fore in the Vietnamese construction sector, with many developers incorporating eco-friendly solutions in their designs and operations. How can AkzoNobel products support them in this?

Whether it is coatings that protect against bacteria, save energy, or transform spaces through colour, AkzoNobel and our extensive lineup of brands and products can meet any performance criteria while bringing surfaces to life. Through careful research, we can respond to the needs of our customers and help them with added functionality to support their sustainability aims – often in ways they never even anticipated.

For instance, large Vietnamese cities are often subject to the urban heat island effect, which drive up energy consumption for cooling. It was previously little known but increasing the solar reflectivity of the coatings and materials used on the exterior facades can reduce inside temperature, generating energy and financial savings throughout the lifetime of the building. Our KeepCoolTM products can provide as much as 5 degrees Celsius of difference, resulting in 10-15 per cent energy cost savings, depending on the type of building.

I believe that AkzoNobel’s products are the best choice to support Vietnam’s tremendous growth, with long-term durability and efficiency, as well as market-leading features to ensure your health and wellbeing.
Dulux Professional
Carrying on AkzoNobel’s crusade for sustainability in Vietnam

The Dulux Professional range in Vietnam; which comprises more than 70 products, utilises the most advanced technology by AkzoNobel to bring customers’ projects to life. Dulux Professional empowers contractors as well as home renovators to do more with less, creating professional-quality projects for all their projects small and large.

At the same time, customers care for the environment by using Dulux Professional’s Green Label certified and eco-premium solutions. Providing the same or better functionality while having a clear eco-efficiency benefit over the most common alternative, Dulux Professional is the smart choice for any project, from small DIY projects to industrial-grade enterprises.

Dulux Professional solutions include the following AkzoNobel innovative solutions:

• Reduced energy consumption: 15 per cent savings on annual cooling costs with KeepCool technology and up to 20 per cent savings on light energy consumption through Lumitec technology.

• Durability: 15 years of protection for exterior walls with TimeResistTM technology and full stain resistance through StainResistTM.

• Resources efficiency: apply one less coat (30 per cent increase in productivity) with Dual-Tech technology.

• Health & wellbeing: Odour neutralisation to improve air quality as well as outstanding anti-bacteria ability.

• Lower environmental impact: all Dulux Professional products have no added lead and are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) content, as well as a result of a minimum emission, waste, and energy production processes.

While supporting partners and the industry to attain more sustainable operations, AkzoNobel is pursuing ambitious targets for its operations too. Can you share how you are greening your operations?

Our sustainability agenda at AkzoNobel encompasses all stakeholders to pioneer a world of possibilities by empowering people and minimising our – and all of our partners’ – impact on the planet. This strategy is called "People. Planet. Paint." and aims to help reduce environmental footprint across our entire network – from our operations to suppliers, building developers, and everyone setting foot in a building using our products.

Over the years, we have invested in a broad range of sustainability initiatives and practices to reduce our impact on the planet. We were the very first company to remove lead compounds from our products, and the first in our industry to commit to reducing our carbon emissions under the Science-based Targets Initiative.

We are working to reduce our – and others’ – environmental footprint by actively developing better, longer-lasting products, in ways that are more energy and resource-efficient. By improving manufacturing efficiency and developing powder coatings that can cure at much lower temperatures, we are continuously reducing energy consumption at our factories. Meanwhile, by enhancing the functionality of our products and increasing their durability, we allow our users to use fewer layers of coatings to get better protection for a longer time and even added benefits like antiviral or odour neutralisation features.

We aim to reduce carbon emissions in our operations by 50 per cent by 2030 and by 42 per cent across the whole value chain (against a 2020 baseline) while reducing energy consumption by 30 per cent and switching entirely to renewable energy. We will also cease the production of any non-reusable waste and have initiatives underway to recycle water at our sites.

We have reached the point where 98 per cent of our carbon emissions now come from upstream (supplier) and downstream (customer) activities. To drive positive change, we have been cooperating with upstream suppliers to drive down their emissions by switching to bio-based materials, recycled content, or raw materials produced with renewable energy.

Meanwhile, to support downstream partners, we are part of several international initiatives such as the World Green Building Council, through which we advocate net-zero and green buildings and provide them with the materials to comply with these standards.

We are fully aware that we cannot drive the sustainability agenda for the entire industry on our own – and that is why we continuously engage partners to unlock opportunities and create shared values for our customers, suppliers, and the industry at large, as well as our people, suppliers, and society.

At the end of the day, the success of our partners in creating the perfect environments for living or work is our success, too. With each house becoming a home through the warm colours of our paints, each workplace turned into a shrine of efficiency, and each boat protected against sleet and storm with our coatings, we thrive.

At the same time, AkzoNobel has always been a steadfast supporter of the communities where we operate, supporting them with international know-how to thrive while safeguarding their culture. Our Dulux Professional was the co-organiser of various events on eco-friendly urban areas, contributing local and international expertise to creating sustainable buildings and raising smart cities, including the webinar “Architectural solutions for ecological urban cities” at the beginning of this year where we discussed with experts in the field about ecological approaches in developing ecological cities.

We have also been keen to support – through our expertise as well as materials – the preservation of some of Vietnam’s most distinctive heritage sites, such as Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts and Dai Lanh Lighthouse in Phu Yen province.

People. Planet. Paint.

People – AkzoNobel ensures integrity and respect for human rights across its operations and value chains, embracing diversity and inclusion and transforming communities across the globe.

The company’s commitment to safety and diversity expressed through the AkzoNobel Cares and Let’s Color programmes has earned it multiple top employer recognition around the world.

By 2025, AkzoNobel aims to have over 30 per cent of its executives be female and provide training to 35,000 community members globally.

Planet – AkzoNobel is facing the world’s sustainability challenges head-on, cutting its carbon emissions and supplying the construction industry with the means of achieving green building standards.

The company is on a mission to radically reduce waste and carbon emissions throughout its operations and switch to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

To provide customers with the tools to achieve their own sustainability goals, AkzoNobel constantly pursues innovation to enhance functionality and sustainability benefits across its entire value chain.

Paint – AkzoNobel is committed to creating impactful sustainable solutions that bring interior and exterior surfaces to life while facilitating customers’ sustainability objectives.

Around 40 per cent of the company’s revenue comes from sustainable solutions. While already an industry-leading figure, the company aims to boost this to over 50 per cent through innovation.

The company is pursuing productivity, asset protection, surface enhancement, and environmental protection while ensuring low VOCs, energy efficiency, and minimal emissions.

Last August, My Lan Nguyen was appointed as general director for Vietnam and Decorative Paints South Asia at AkzoNobel.

My Lan had worked a total of 16 years at General Electric (GE). In the first period at GE, she took the position of general director of GE Vietnam then CEO of GE Vietnam and Cambodia. Then she worked in a more specialised position as commercial director for GE Power Vietnam and Laos.

My Lan is a popular name among local media and the business community as the first CEO of GE Vietnam. Under her leadership, Vietnam was one of GE’s fastest-growing markets in ASEAN.

GE has been leaving a bold footprint and strong presence in the local market with not only successful investments but also long-term partnerships with ministries and domestic enterprises, local workforce building, and corporate culture driving.

By Tom Nguyen

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