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AkzoNobel Aids Polar Pod Mission

Thursday, March 18, 2021

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Global coatings manufacturer AkzoNobel announced earlier this week that it would be partnering with French “explorateur” Jean-Louis Etienne in pioneering a scientific expedition around Antarctica.

The expedition involves sending a manned oceanographic platform, known as the Polar Pod, around the continent so that scientists may study the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which has a major influence on the Earth’s climate and contains an immense reserve of marine biodiversity.

AkzoNobel has been brought on board as an expedition sponsor but will also be serving as an exclusive paints and coatings partner.

“This is a really exciting partnership and a fantastic example of how we’re prepared to go to the ends of the Earth to help our customers and discover pioneering ways to become even more sustainable,” says AkzoNobel CEO, Thierry Vanlancker. “It represents an intriguing blend of visionary thinking and environmental ambition which fits perfectly with our own People. Planet. Paint. approach to sustainable business. We’re extremely proud to be involved.”


Global coatings manufacturer AkzoNobel announced earlier this week that it would be partnering with French “explorateur” Jean-Louis Etienne in pioneering a scientific expedition around Antarctica.

The 1,000-ton, 100-meter-high Polar Pod is zero emission and will be silently driven by the circumpolar current—like an ocean-going satellite—around Antarctica and will be supported by a dedicated offshore supply vessel. AkzoNobel will sponsor the platform for the next five years, from project construction through to the completion of its three-year mission, which is slated to kick off in December 2023.

According to the release, once launched, the platform will be towed horizontally to its first study area and tilted vertically by filling seawater ballast tanks, causing most of the structure to be submerged. The pod will be constructed using special steel capable of handling violent storms, and will allow for the acquisition of data and long-term observations that will be transmitted to researchers, oceanographers, climatologists and biologists at 43 scientific institutions in 12 countries.

While its studies will take place in what sailors refer to as the “Furious Fifties,” the pod will enable scientists to record air/ocean exchange measurements (particularly related to CO2), wave dynamics, plankton collection and evaluation of the impact of acidification, acoustic inventory of marine fauna, validation at sea of satellite measurements and aerial observation of marine life.

“As an industry leader in sustainability and a global market leader in marine and yacht coatings, lowering our environmental impact on the planet and contributing towards ocean preservation are key aspects of our strategy,” adds Jean Michel Gauthier, Director of the company’s Marine and Protective Coatings business.

“Sponsoring the Polar Pod expedition is a great way for us to help advance scientific knowledge of the pivotal role the Southern Ocean plays on the Earth’s climate and marine biodiversity. We’re looking forward to supporting the team and raising awareness of the program as the mission begins to gather momentum.”

The partnership it noted to have strong ties to AkzoNobel’s 2030 “Planet” ambitions, which were first announced in March of last year. The incitive involves reducing carbon emissions by 50% and moving towards zero waste as a company.

AkzoNobel already has a presence in and around Antarctica, having supplied products for the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI research base, Sir Edmund Hillary's historic hut and explorer Robert Swan’s e-Base at Bellingshausen.

AkzoNobel Sustainability Practices

As mentioned, AkzoNobel launched what it called, “the first in a series of ambitions” that look at the company’s fresh focus on achieving zero waste and cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030 back in March.

The two key ambitions and their related targets are the first in a wave of measures and focus on the “planet” element of the company’s new “People. Planet. Paint.” approach to sustainability, the company says.

Targets for 2030 include:

  • 30% reduction in energy use;
  • 100% renewable electricity;
  • Reduce carbon emissions by 50%;
  • 100% water reuse at the company’s most water intensive sites; and
  • Zero non-reusable waste.

The company is currently on track to have zero waste to landfill by the end of 2020, while renewable electricity is already in use at 33 locations and eight countries. Solar panels have also been installed at 14 locations, and the company has reduced its waste by 40% in the last eight years, while total VOC emissions fell by 24% in 2019.

As part of its mission, in December, AkzoNobel released an update on two of its solar projects, noting that more than 3,000 solar panels have been added.

The two projects have been taking place in Garcia, Mexico, and Barcelona, Spain. The Garcia installation (of 1,650 solar panels) at an industrial coatings site is already complete, while in Barcelona, work to install 1,600 roof panels is well underway, according to the company.

The installation in Barcelona is slated to generate 15% of the site’s overall energy consumption and joins two other AkzoNobel locations in Spain where solar panels have already been installed—Vilafranca, and Vallirana. That site is due to be completed by the end of January next year.

Covering more than 5,300 square meters of space, the Garcia installation is set to generate 82% of energy requirements—making the site almost self-dependent—and it will eventually produce more energy than it normally consumes, according to AkzoNobel.

The carbon-cutting goal is part of AkzoNobel’s “People. Planet. Paint.” sustainability ambitions. the company currently uses 100% renewable electricity in eight countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Estonia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Earlier this month, the company officially kicked off the Paint the Future startup challenge in China. The annual event invited startups to “put forward their pioneering solutions to accelerate innovation in the paints and coatings industry.”

The challenge focuses on three areas, including:

  • Digital Customer Experience - Looking for new technologies and digital solutions that can help AkzoNobel improve the way customers experience its products and services and ensure more consistent results with less time and effort during the entire paint process. This includes picking the right paint and application methods, connecting with the right painting professionals and successfully completing the paint job.
  • Zero Waste - Seeking sustainable and cost-effective solutions that are not only about the recycling of paints and coatings, but also about the consciousness to minimize waste and maximize the potential of materials across the whole value chain, minimizing the impact to our planet.
  • Smart Supply Chain - Interested in end-to-end supply chain solutions, spanning customer/consumers, delivery, planning, manufacturing and suppliers, that can help us accelerate the building of a strategic, integrated, customer-driven and smart supply chain to better service our customers in China and achieve operational excellence.

The deadline for submissions is May 15 and selected finalists will participate in an accelerator event in August.


Tagged categories: AkzoNobel; Asia Pacific; Business management; Business matters; Business operations; Coatings; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Industrial coatings; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Protective Coatings; Z-Continents

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