AS IN OTHER COUNTRIES, Canada’s coatings sector is a mix of large multinational and national companies. Within this mix are a range of Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), which are defined as companies of 500 employees or less.
Contrary to popular belief, about 92 per cent of all jobs in Canada are created by SMEs. The larger companies have the capacity for strong investment in R&D for technological innovation, as one would expect. Increasingly, in recent years, SMEs have also shown excellence in both R&D and innovation with a renewed focus on more sustainable finished products. For example, a number of SMEs have substantial labs where they conduct extensive testing on various product formulations, which includes the use of bio-based materials and nanoparticles for improved functionality. In fact, one CPCA member company, Montreal’s Nanoxplore, has become a leader in the nanoparticle space producing graphite and graphene with state-of-the-art technology for improved performance and more sustainable products. Below is a brief account of several of CPCA’s SME members who have stepped up to the challenge of sustainability.
The vast majority of architectural products now manufactured in Canada are water-based. In fact, more than 90 per cent of decorative paints are water-based as well as 30 per cent in the automotive sector, with that number grow- ing steadily. Some SMEs have become leaders in new approaches to recycling post-consumer leftover paint under extended product stewardship programs across Canada. In 2019, more than 28 million kilograms of post-consumer paint was recovered in Canada by CPCA manufacturer members representing enough paint for 500,000 average-sized homes.
Among the leaders in recycled paint is Laurentide Re/sources, an SME based in Quebec with substantial R&D facilities that includes its recently opened 30,000 square-meter facility. Here, chemists work on new product formulations and new uses for leftover paint. Founded in 1950 in the city of Shawinigan, Société Laurentide is a privately owned manufacturing company that includes Laurentide Paint, specializing in the design and manufacturing of architectural and industrial paints; and Laurentide Re/sources Inc., a leader in the recovery and reclamation of post-consumer residual paint. The company’s plants are located in Shawinigan, QC, Victoriaville, QC, and Springhill, NS, along with distribution centres in Richibuc- to, NB, and St. John’s, NL. Recycled paint is preserved and used to manufacture one of Laurentide’s signature products, Boomerang Recycled Paint. The manufacture of Boomerang Recycled Paint emits four times fewer greenhouse gases (GHG) in the air than traditional paints. A number of manufacturers operating in Canada now offer consumers a recycled paint product along with a wide range of low and no VOC products.
Stains now also include water-based products to meet growing customer demands. Based in Strathroy, ON, for more than 30 years, Sansin Corporation is one of the companies that pioneered the use of sustainable stains and sealants. Almost 20 years ago it began using resins and gums from trees, while still retaining strong performance characteristics. Sansin is a global leader in environmentally friendly wood protection. Since 1986, it has focused on creating one of the best-performing, most beautiful waterborne wood finishes in the world. It has an innovative research and development program making it a leader in developing sustainable alternatives to traditional wood coatings and preservatives. With a growing network of dealerships across Canada, the United States, western Europe and Russia, Sansin Enviro Stains are fast becoming one of the most popular brands for customers who demand the best in performance and beauty for their homes.
A number of Canadian companies collaborate with universities and research institutes to develop more functional and smart coatings. Another member company in Quebec, CANLAK, based just outside Quebec City in Daveluyville and in Markham, ON, has close to 200 employees. CANLAK is a key player in refining wood finishes for interior wood products to enhance both the appearance and performance attributes of wood. The National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada created the “NSERC/Canlak Industrial Research Chair in Finishes for Interior Wood Products” with ongoing research focused on wood stains. Research and development is the foundation CANLAK’s success with one of the largest application labs in North America and a team of chemists and lab technicians who are able to simulate conditions encountered on the production line for shop-applied finishing products. As with all SMEs, it continues investing in employees to ensure further product development and long-term growth to serve its customers in Canada and around the world.
For more than 50 years, Halton Chemical, based in Burlington, ON, has been driven to provide the best in custom formulation and toll manufacturing for global clients. Halton has built its name on a commitment to quality, innovation, safety and environmental protection through research and development. The company has a fully equipped formulation lab providing the tools needed to develop and continually improve high-quality products, including custom formulation and toll manufacturing. A team of chemists is led by Dr. Richard Johnston with 35 years of experience in formulating, problem-solving and troubleshooting, with staff capable of handling even the most specialized client requests for solvents, waterborne products, polyurethanes, lacquers and related wood coatings, epoxies and adhesives.
As a third-generation, family-run company, Halton Chemical maintains the values of its founders, two brothers and their co-worker dating back to 1965. The company continues to pursue the responsible use of chemicals in its products and to better understand and limit their impact on both human health and the environment. Evidence of Halton’s commitment to quality is its distribution company, Katilac Coatings, which was ranked 25th in the annual Profit 500 rankings of Canada’s fastest-growing companies by Profit Magazine several years ago.
The demands of the coatings sector is not unlike any other economic sector in that it must have a level playing field to conduct business. One of the main challenges for a level playing field is the regulations imposed on the production and sale of products. The greatest impact of those regulations is often most severely felt by SMEs who understand first-hand the impact of regulations on their bottom line and their employees. In Canada, we have a disadvantage as Canada will often look to Europe for approaches to the regulation of chemicals in commerce, while Canadian companies conduct 75 per cent of their business with the United States where regulations often vary with those in Europe. In addition, the United States offers very attractive incentives for Canadian SMEs to relocate south of the border.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report last year noting Canada is already over-regulated, with more than 130,000 regulations at the federal and provincial levels of government. As a result, there is now a federal regulatory modernization effort underway to reign in outdated regulations. The goal is to ensure new regulations factor in the burden on industry, especially the foundation of Canada’s economy – small and medium-sized enterprises.