Project Description

Bleaching chemicals business

This case is based on the 2016 Handbook and uses the Qualitative approach


The pilot was conducted by AkzoNobel Pulp and Paper Chemicals (PPC) and addressed the bleaching chemicals business in Brazil. The goal of the pilot was to investigate the total effect of the business, taking into account social, financial and environmental aspects, profit and loss (P&L) and the full value chain. The handbook was used to estimate the social capital.

Application of the methodology

The approach chosen was the ‘scales-based’ assessment because of data availability and speed of the process. AkzoNobel also considers that the quantitative method is too immature to offer reliable results. The upstream value chain was considered but only for the main streams of materials: salt, power, chemical production and pulp production. The downstream part of pulp was excluded as it is too diverse. All the social topics in the handbook were considered. No weighting/aggregation was used, in order to avoid misunderstanding and maintain transparency. The Hotspots Database and AkzoNobel data were used in the assessment.

Operationalisation and Feasibility

During this pilot, AkzoNobel Sustainability, AkzoNobel PPC, and a consultant participated in the assessment.  No suppliers were contacted.  The complete assessment took one week.

There were positive reactions from PPC, corporate management, and the media. Internally the results were communicated in regular management meetings and were also used in a number of interviews with the press and in press releases.

Based on the test and discussions, AkzoNobel recommends that the questions and indicators should be more in line with the data and processes which  already exist in companies.  Working conditions, for example, can be linked to health and safety processes, and community issues are normally covered by CSR or engagement processes.  Close connection and harmonisation of definitions between data providers could also be useful (e.g., RobecoSam, SEDEX, Social Hotspots Database, Ecovadis).

Value added

The added value of the handbook is to provide a useful screening tool to identify hotspots in a structured and consistent way. A risk assessment approach was used:  compliance-thinking plus benchmark per category. Nothing was discovered about the product itself but it was useful to highlight our own operations.