The focus on sustainability within the coatings industry has evolved since the idea was first introduced years ago. Today, sustainability matters are routinely considered when performing many, if not all, business operations, while continuing to ensure strong product performance. The focus has expanded beyond reducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which has been one of the signature successes of the coatings industry in Canada with more than 94 percent of all architectural coatings now water-based, achieving huge emissions reductions of more than 44 kilotonnes. The focus now includes energy and resource conservation, waste minimization, process efficiency enhancement, use of renewable materials, and the list goes on. Companies are also looking to impact the entire value chain and considering the societal impacts of their activities. This is happening throughout the coatings industry in Canada, and around the world, from SMEs to large national and multinational companies. This is already evident in the regular annual sustainability reports issued by paint and coatings companies and those have been improving significantly over the past several years.
It is because of this commitment to sustainability that the World Coatings Council (WCC), comprised of associations like CPCA from around the world, moved forward with a plan to develop the first WCC Global Sustainability Reporting approach. An RFP was awarded to a company based in Germany, :response, who has since conducted extensive member surveys and developed key performance indicators (KPI) for more than a year in concert with WCC member associations. This effort is progressing through 5 steps: 1) review of sustainability resources; 2) material issues; 3) best practices and advocacy; 4) goals and key performance indicators; 5) copywriting the report. Key input was obtained from WCC members and their respective association members around the world for each of the five steps identified covering both national and regional activities in those countries. Ultimately, the report will become a resource for coatings companies around the world to help facilitate their individual sustainability reporting.
The goal of this initiative is to build on the many sustainability successes of the coatings industry, and there are many! In fact, coatings help many other industry sectors reduce their environmental footprint in so many ways in terms of extending the lifecycle of their products from high-performance coatings, reduced fuel consumption from antifouling coatings, extended product stewardship from recycling leftover paint, etc. The pinnacle of sustainability reporting is the set of Global Goals for Sustainable Development created a number of years ago to provide guidance on sustainability reporting for all industry sectors and organizations in general. Nine of the 21 goals have been used to develop sustainability reporting guidance for the coatings industry. In recent surveys conducted by :response the order of ranking for those goals in the case of coatings are as follows, from first to last: (12) responsible production and consumption; (11) sustainable cities and communities; (3) good health and well-being; (9) industry innovation and infrastructure; (13) climate action; (6) clear water and sanitation; (8) decent work and economic growth; (4) quality education; and (14) life below water. The remaining sustainable development goals are also important but will not be an integral part of guidance for sustainable reporting in the coatings industry.
Industry perspectives gleaned from member surveys focused on achievements and challenges that included: a) business model and innovation; b) environment; c) human capital; d) leadership and governance; and e) social capital. Within these perspectives, there were 30 topics of importance. Industry surveys were conducted in multiple countries revealing a number of areas where companies most frequently mentioned achievements as follows: employee health and safety; customer satisfaction; product safety and stewardship; compliance and anti-corruption; renewable energies and energy management; biodiversity; diversity and inclusion; and digitalization and data security.
With respect to the perceived challenges the topics that were noted for urgent action or concern for major risks included: product design and lifecycle management, waste and hazardous material management; responsible supply chains; community relations and contribution to industrial development; labour rights; customer satisfaction; and economic performance. Many will understand and appreciate how those could be key issues for the coatings sector and some would resonate more than others depending on the country in question and their product lines. The consultant has taken a deeper dive into these variables and KPIs were defined for all, accepted, and incorporated into the business metrics for coatings companies. These will help member companies determine how each metric could be reflected in a company’s sustainability reporting in the future.
Comprehensive work on the important KPI examples has been completed and the next step is developing the KPI toolkit for our respective member companies. All those who are members of the associations that make up the World Coatings Council will be able to continue sharing best practices for future sustainability reporting in a $164 billion US (2019) coatings industry. This will help the coatings industry to more accurately reflect its substantial global contribution to making the world a more sustainable place.