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Driving inn novatio on AkzoNobel has become a full technology partner with the McLaren Group after expanding the company’s current relationship with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. The announcement of the new four-year deal coincided with the launch of the new MP4-26 Formula 1 car in Berlin – being driven by Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton – which now features a sophisticated, high gloss Sikkens system and the AkzoNobel logo on the rear wing endplate. Through Sikkens, AkzoNobel has been the official supplier of paint solutions to McLaren’s team since 2008. Under the new agreement, the companies will work closely together to further develop the extreme environment technology for Formula 1 and

wider industrial applications. “Our innovative capabilities are well suited to McLaren’s high performance requirements,” said AkzoNobel CEO, Hans Wijers. “The shared knowledge we have gained from the existing partnership has already enabled us to translate 80 percent of the tailor-made solution supplied to McLaren Racing into a commercial value proposition for AkzoNobel customers.”

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WELCOME CHRIS WESTON Just before Christmas I was in Zimbabwe, a country which, in the past few years, has suffered enormous political turmoil and massive economic strife – supermarkets with no food, petrol stations with no fuel, banks with no cash. I was in the north of the country visiting a village school, where I met Ngame. As well as his main teaching role, Ngame doubled up as the school’s PE teacher. He was especially proud to show me the school’s “football field” – a bumpy patch of dried mud with sticks for goals. The legacy of South Africa’s hosting of the soccer World Cup has reached far across the continent and, in this corner of Zimbabwe, it had struck a chord. “We have formed a school team,” Ngame told me. “We are setting up a local league with other schools and my boys are very excited and desperate to be champions,” he continued. “We practice every day until the sky goes dark.” This, he went on to tell me, despite the fact they didn’t yet have a ball. I met the boys of the soccer team; their smiling faces beaming with pride and hope. Here was a group of kids who had nothing, not even a ball, and yet they were at that moment the happiest kids on Earth! When asked to write the introduction for this health and well-being issue, I was reminded that shortly after taking office, the new British Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced plans to measure the happiness of people living in the UK. The initiative was widely scoffed at and generally pooh-poohed and yet, when you look into it more deeply, a measure of national well-being based on something other than money is surely something we should applaud. The idea isn’t even new, as highlighted in this issue’s article which looks at why, according to one survey, Costa Rica is the happiest place on Earth to live in. Money doesn’t buy happiness, the saying goes, nor does it guarantee health. We face a looming global food crisis brought about by an everexpanding population, an issue which again is covered in these pages. We need land to grow crops, but cutting down our forests to provide it (see page 28), while a short-term fix, has potentially catastrophic consequences for our children and our children’s children – not to mention the world’s wildlife. In the years ahead, individually and collectively, we face many great challenges. It is therefore important to remember that, when confronted by adversity, it is not money that prevails. It is spirit, courage and endeavor – three qualities in humans that thrive on our health and well-being.

Chris Weston is a wildlife photojournalist and co-founder of the wildlife conservation NGO, Animals on the Edge.

Cover image: Lee Funnell

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The A team Chief Editor David Lichtneker AkzoNobel Design and Art Direction Pepe Vargas, AkzoNobel Additional design Masumi Briozzo Pentagram, London Corporate Director Communications John McLaren, AkzoNobel Head of Corporate Branding Berry Oonk, AkzoNobel Traffic Manager Sarah Roozendaal, AkzoNobel Publisher Akzo Nobel N.V. The Netherlands Editorial address A Magazine AkzoNobel Corporate Communications PO Box 75730 1070 AS Amsterdam The Netherlands Printing Tesink, Zutphen The Netherlands Additional imagery Allon Wechsler, ALIMDI.NET/ Oliver Gerhard, Johnny Aguirre, Photographers Direct. Awards Best of Customer Media Excellence Award (2010) SABRE Awards Certificate of Excellence (2009) European Excellence Award (2009) Art Directors Club Bronze Cube (2009) Opinions in this magazine do not necessarily represent those of AkzoNobel, and AkzoNobel accepts no responsibility for these opinions. While the information in this publication is intended to be accurate, no representation of accuracy or completeness is made.

Yellow chrysanthemum by Lee Funnell

Contents 6

Different class We look at how people in China have been coping with epic events and changes brought about by the country’s booming economy.


Living color Feeling blue? Red with rage? Green with envy? That’s because color has an irresistible impact on our daily lives.


Feeding frenzy Everyone needs to eat, but could the world be running out of food?


Searching for the holy grain Efforts to find the Holy Grail of salt substitutes have been ongoing for some time. Now, our own quest may be at an end.


Disappearing planet A report on the efforts being made to reverse deforestation and save endangered species such as the tiger.


It’s only natural Savvy consumers have created an entire industry around eco-friendly products. An industry which is growing by the day.


Handle with care We examine the impact of the Bhopal disaster and how the chemical industry responded to the tragedy.


Has employee satisfaction gone too far? When it comes to employee well-being and providing for your workforce, how far is too far?


Nothing to sniff at It might seem like just a tin of paint, but sophisticated coatings now look after our well-being as well as looking good.


The happiest place on Earth According to the Happy Planet Index, if you’re bursting with contentedness, you must live in Costa Rica.


Things usually happen on a grand scale in China. The sudden appearance of an emerging middle class – brought about by the country’s growth engine going into overdrive – is a classic example, with millions having escaped poverty over the last few years and millions more likely to join them.



Previous spread: A new Mercedes car tempts a man into the driver’s seat at the Shanghai motor show. Left: Shoppers take a break inside Beijing’s IKEA store. Below: Chinese youth now have much more in common with young people in Europe and the US.


hey’ve never done things on a small scale in China. From the Great Wall, to the Grand Canal, to the Long March, to the 2008 Olympics, Chinese history is characterized by great projects, grand gestures and grand movements. Now, two movements of unprecedented scale are taking place simultaneously and the impact is being felt – and will continue to be felt – not just in China, but all across the globe. One of these movements is what we might call the Great Migration – a flow of hundreds of millions of the rural poor to China’s industrial cities which could well be the greatest movement of people over a relatively short period of time in human history. It began as a movement to the newly opened up cities of southern China in the late 1970s and then extended to other coastal cities in the east. But the government is now trying its best to encourage development in second, third and fourth tier cities across China to ease the enormous pressure on the southern and eastern mega-cities that have been a magnet for these economic migrants over the past decades. The other movement can be described as the Great Escape, as in escape from poverty. It’s no secret, of course, that the Chinese economy is booming. It’s been growing at a rate of close to 10 percent a year for most of the last decade. GDP, barely $1 trillion in 2000, nearly doubled by 2005 and reached about $5.75 trillion last year. In human terms, that growth translates into an emerging middle class of hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens. It is estimated that at least 200 million people have escaped from poverty. Today, the Chinese

middle class – which was practically non-existent even 15 years ago – numbers 300 million people. Another 250 to 300 million more (some estimate as many as half a billion) will enter the middle class in the next 15 years. What these two great movements mean – for Chinese society in social, cultural, economic and political terms; and for the rest of the world in terms of its political and economic relationships with China – is a matter for much speculation. However, at least a few things are clear. For the Chinese government, managing the changes will be a daunting challenge. For the rest of the world, challenges, and even threats, are also likely. But there’s also the prospect of huge opportunities. The changes that have come to China are so huge and have happened so swiftly that one result has been a huge divide between parents and children. The parents, who survived famine and uncertainty in the 1960s and 1970s, are inclined to save much of what they earn; saving, indeed, has been considered a virtue in Chinese culture since long before most Western cultures existed. The children may have heard from their parents about deprivation and hard times, but they can hardly understand what it was like. They have much more in common with young people in Europe and the US – listening to the same kinds of music, embracing the same sense of fashion and craving the same “stuff” that young people all over the world crave, be it cars (18 million new cars were sold in China last year), smart phones, video games, or brand name shoes and accessories.


The gap recalls a similar generation gap in the 1960s in the West, brands elevate their social status, which the Chinese care a lot when baby boomers were growing up in a period of unprece- about.” The opportunity has not gone unnoticed, she adds. dented affluence; their parents (my parents, to put things in their “European luxury brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton are proper context) of course, had grown up in the Depression and creating an alternative growth engine for themselves, espelived through World War II. But if the rebellious youth of the 60s cially when their home markets are stagnating.” eschewed materialism and embraced “love, peace and happiThe cultural changes that accompany China’s new-found ness”, the mantra of China’s 20 and 30-somethings these days, wealth are inevitable, claims Mary Boyd, Director of the is more likely “love, peace and having things”. Economist Group’s Corporate Network in China. A former “The Chinese middle class is very much into luxury goods,” Canadian diplomat who has been watching China’s evolution says Helen Wang, the Chinese-born author of The China since she studied there in the late 1970s, she says that China’s Dream: The Rise of the World’s Largest Middle Class and rapid urbanization and the contact that Chinese have with the What it Means to You. “Many Chinese prefer Western prod- rest of the world as a result of travel are two powerful influucts because of their quality and the brand. They feel the ences on China’s development. “The possibility of travel now


Two Chinese girls photograph each other in the lobby of the trendy Ullens (UCCA) gallery in Beijing.


13 Flowers being planted outside a store in the stylish Sanlitun Village shopping district in central Beijing.

is so widely available. That brings with it the possibility of finding out what others in the world are up to. That’s going to open up all kinds of new vistas for people, and as that happens, the more traditional culture inevitably will change. What you see is that it’s manifested at both a private level – within a household, you’ve got that generational change – but also on the street, where you’ve got the growth of a sort of youth culture.” Like the youth of the 60s, China’s youth seem refreshingly idealistic (and sometimes endearingly naïve). “I feel the caring of my generation,” says JoJo Chen, a recent university graduate now working in communications for AkzoNobel in China. “Back in college, almost every student in my journalism school took part in all kinds of social activities like teaching in rural areas and trying to figure out what’s wrong with society when we did social research. “Those of us in the younger generation have experienced the two extremes of modern Chinese society,” she continues in nearly flawless English, “because our parents are coming from difficult times like the Great Leap and the drought and we’re experiencing dramatic change. So basically we can see the two ends of the world, from the poorest to the richest. The words I use to describe how I feel are ‘unique paradox’, because we continually receive information about our promising future and everything seems so positive. But meanwhile, we see unfairness in society, corruption and mistrust. We see the struggle between those two sides every day. But I think this will give us more compassion when we think about the future.” Still, she and many others who have grown up in the last 20 years seem quite accepting of the gradual evolution of Chinese society that has taken place since Deng Xiaoping first introduced political and economic reforms 30 years ago. They also give the government much credit for doing a good job managing the changes that have accompanied the economic boom. “The last thing the government needs is social unrest and social unrest can start from disparity between haves and have-nots,” notes AkzoNobel’s China Country Director Colin Tan, who came to China from his native Singapore seven years ago. “So the government has been very good with that. They have clear plans to try to distribute wealth as much as they can to third and fourth tier cities. In my work, I mingle with both

the haves and the have-nots. Obviously, the haves are happy. But coming from where they were before, the have-nots are pretty happy as well.” Recently, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao announced during an online forum that the government wanted to slow economic growth in order to rein in inflation, which has been hitting the rural poor and low income migrants especially hard. He also acknowledged that growing inequality was a threat to stability and promised to take measures to slow down the rapid rise in housing prices, which has put home ownership in China’s booming cities out of the reach of many in the middle class. What the government hopes to achieve – and what both business and governments in the West are hoping for – is a fundamental shift in the character of the Chinese economy, from one based on low-cost production for export to one driven by domestic consumption. In other words, the mass of middle class citizens has to start spending like Western consumers do. That sort of transition is already evident, says Mary Boyd, especially in pockets of affluence in interior cities, with shopping malls sprouting up in many urban centers all over the country. But even if prosperous young people in China’s cities are enthusiastic consumers, the deep-rooted thriftiness of the Chinese will certainly not disappear anytime soon. “Getting away from the centrally planned economy also meant getting away from the cradle-to-grave social welfare net, so people felt they had to save as an insurance policy,” she explains. “Now we’re seeing the government putting back some of those protections, basically to reassure households that they don’t have to save 50 percent of their income against adversity.” If that does occur, it won’t just be a few luxury brand names cashing in. If a thriving middle class of half a billion or more starts buying everything from toothpaste to technology from global producers, the much-decried trade gap could even reverse itself. In the West, many view China as a threat, pointing to the trade gap and the migration of manufacturing jobs. A more measured analysis allows for the fact that without China, the financial crisis of 2008 might have been much worse, and that those hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers entering the middle class could well be the engine to drive global economic prosperity for some time to come.


LIVING COLOR We make hundreds, maybe thousands, of decisions every day. Many are inuenced by our susceptibility to certain colors, but what is it that triggers our responses? And is red really as wicked as some make it out to be? WORDS Brian Guest



e’re constantly being bombarded with a cease- men in black hats, while the solitary good guy can’t be anyone less chatter of information and face an ongoing other than the virginal dude in white. barrage of lurid images from the world around us. As in fiction, so in life. Depending on the cultural context, The question is, how much influence can all of this the historic setting or the social background, colors carry have on our inner psyche and the way we behave? When US meaning and connotations that can have a life-enhancing or market researcher James Vicary first coined the phrase “sub- debilitating effect on psychological functioning and, ultimately, liminal messaging” back in 1957, it caused uproar. Vicary health and well-being. Yet they are clearly not all things to claimed he could prompt moviegoers to drink Coca-Cola and all men. A good example is the color red. In a recent study, eat popcorn by flashing ultra-fast invisible messages on- US researchers set out to identify the color most associated screen that penetrated people’s subconscious and encour- with sexual attraction. One clear winner emerged – red. In aged them to act upon what they had seen. China, where red represents luck and prosperity, this would Since then, there has been endless speculation regarding surely have raised eyebrows. In the West, however, red has the degree to which people unconsciously process emotional traditionally been about sex and power. And power means information such as pictures, faces, words and colors. Can status and well-being. Red light districts, scarlet ladies and they be prompted to act upon messages shown to them for a Lolitas with red sunglasses are the first stereotypes to spring fraction of a second, sometimes as lightning fast as a 50th of to mind. Delve further into history and its links with the higha second? Evidence suggests they can. Once out in the open, est echelons of power and prestige become self-evident. the implications of the power of auto-suggestion were huge. The men in red – the coccinati – Kings, cardinals and the They immediately prompted fears that wayward governments nobility all wore it, red carpets are still rolled out and we still and cults would use the technique to brainwash innocent civil- talk about red letter days. At the same time, it also symbolizes ians to carry out instructions they couldn’t resist. danger – hence the color of traffic lights, warning signs on Not that the implanting of ideas is anything new. But in a medicines and flashing red lights on fire engines and ambudecade dominated by McCarthyism, with its “reds under the lances. When red’s around, either a risk or something risqué beds” paranoia about the subversive power of emotional sug- is about to happen. gestion, it was like a red rag to a bull. Funny really, because So is popular culture predominantly shaping attitudes to the media industry – film, television and publishing – has been color and well-being? The reality is far more complex, accordemploying similar techniques for years. Black is bad, white is ing to Per Nimer, AkzoNobel’s color expert. “Cultural prefer good, red suggests a risk, green envy. Colors help to implant ences and personal taste play a huge role,” he says. “But the stereotypical ideas. Take Hollywood, for example. From the reality is that people, wherever they are, naturally respond to black-clad Heathcliff astride his black mare, thrashing the changes in the physical world and seek solace, comfort and poor beast as he gallops across the downs to get his wicked protection in the color hues employed in the living spaces, way with the wretched Cathy; to cowboy films such as Shane, working environments and products surrounding them. And where the baddies can clearly be identified as the surly looking this has an impact on their well-being and health.”






Positive associations: Power, spirituality, royalty, love of truth, loyalty, empire, patience, humility, nostalgia, memories

Positive associations: Blood (life), fire (warmth), passion, sentiment, valor, patriotism, revolution, Christ, liberty

Positive associations: Fire and flames, marriage, hospitality, benevolence, celestial fruit, pride and ambition, earthy wisdom

Negative associations: Sublimation, martyrdom, mourning, regret, penitence, humility

Negative associations: Blood (spilled), fire (burning), death throes and sublimation, wounds, surging and tearing emotions, passions, war, anarchy, revolution, martyrdom, danger, the devil

Negative associations: Malevolence, Satan

Positive associations: The sun, light, illumination, dissemination and comprehensive generalization, magnanimity, intuition, intellect, supreme wisdom, highest values, divinity, ripening grain Negative associations: Treachery, cowardice

Nimer – who has just been asked to produce a new, more want the people who are going to work there to empathize with socially inclusive color design for New York’s homes for the workplace and feel content, but not to be totally relaxed the vulnerable and elderly – says that the attack on the because you want them to be productive,” he continues. “This Twin Towers in 2001 was one of those seismic moments in means using colors they like, but also adding combinations that history that triggered a major shift (particularly in the US) in encourage productivity and create a feeling of creativity and how people perceive the living spaces around them and the optimism. The closer the supporting color is to the main color in role of color in making them feel more secure and confident terms of hue, saturation and value, the calmer the combination as they go about their daily lives. “People clearly want to feel achieved. Hence a monochromatic scheme – two similar colors more secure and yet, at the same time, less anonymous and – creates the calmest effect. The further colors are away from stressed in their lives,” he explains. “Buildings have to look each other, the more tension is created. In the home, well-being imposing and secure. At the moment, the hottest residential is created by using more personal, calmer colors and grays to color is graphite, dark gray or black, signaling strength and engender a feeling of comfort. The best colors are soothing safety. At work, you want to be in a safe, comfortable environ- colors: beiges, off-whites, yellows and grays. The easiest colors ment that is conducive to being productive.” to combine are blue and red, the hardest blue and green.” It’s not unusual for people to want to abandon the frivolous Research into the therapeutic use of color only started to for security. It’s happened throughout history. After the Refor- come into its own in the 20th century. Expanding upon ideas mation, bright colors were frowned upon as being bad for a first espoused by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his The“believer’s” health. Even in the mid-1800s, the naturally vivacious ory of Colors, the Austrian philosopher and founder of the Italians abandoned vivid colors to mimic the dark respectable anthroposophy movement, Rudolf Steiner, argued that human hues of the dominant power on the continent at the time – the happiness was only possible if man could create an organic British. For an architect, it’s important to respond to these equilibrium between mind, body and soul. Colors and combichanges, says Nimer. “When you build a place of work you nations of colors allied to shape could either have a destructive




Positive associations: Vegetation, nature, fertility of the fields, sympathy, adaptability, prosperity, hope, life, immortality, youth, freshness, auspicious, recognition of soul, wisdom

Positive associations: The sky, the calm sea, thinking, religious feeling, devotion, innocence, truth, constancy, justice, charity, cold

Negative associations: Lividness, envy, jealousy, disgrace, sinister, opposition, moral degradation, madness

Negative associations: Dark blue relates to night and the stormy sea, doubt and discouragement

or positive effect on living organisms. In the schools inspired by Steiner’s thinking, students still work in classrooms painted and designed to match their personal stage of development. In 1947, Max Lüscher, a professor at Basle University, developed the Lüscher Color Test in which he claimed it was possible to obtain accurate psychological information about a person through their choices and rejection of colors. Lüscher believed that the significance of color for well-being originated in man’s early history. Living in unison with the rhythms of nature and the cycle of the sun and moon was vital. Other scientists and researchers, such as the Russian S.V. Krakov and the American Robert Gerard, carried out pioneering work on how colors – in particular red and blue – influence the nervous system. The affect of color on health is widely documented. Blood pressure rises under a red light and decreases under a blue light. Respiration has also been found to respond to different colors: quickening when influenced by a yellow light, slowing under black. In 1990, scientists at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science reported that blue light had been successfully used in the treatment of a range of psychological problems, varying from addictions to eating disorders and impotence. Businesses

have cottoned on quickly to the power of color in managing behavior. Snack bars are decorated in a way to entice customers in and then prompt them to leave, thus ensuring a fast turnover. Coffee bars and restaurants seek to achieve the opposite. All are designed to have a targeted impact, although sometimes unforeseen effects can be achieved. One example concerns a prison which underwent renovation. Each of the four wings was painted in different colors. After a while, staff noted that the behavior of the inmates varied greatly. Those housed in the red and yellow sections were inclined to be more violent, those in the blue wings more placid. Proof of color’s power to influence all of our emotions and well-being. And, according to Nimer, color’s role as an active propagator of health and well-being is growing in importance for both AkzoNobel and its customers. “It’s not just about the improvement in the products themselves,” he states. “This morning I had a meeting with a window manufacturer who operates in northern Europe. The first thing he asked was how his products can be part of well-being. Now, when a window manufacturer starts talking about well-being, it shows you just how much awareness is growing about how color can impact on people’s lives.”

WORDS Jim Wake

Could it ever happen? Could the world run out of food? If populations continue to boom, demand might start to outstrip supply. While opinions may differ on the scale of the problem, it’s clear that our basic need to eat is leaving us hungry for answers.



ore than 40 years ago, a revolution began in India may multiply, political unrest could spread and governments with little fanfare. Farmers in the state of Punjab could fall. The world is now one poor harvest away from chaos received a variety of wheat which yielded so in world grain markets.” much more than ever before that the harvest piled In addition to the factors mentioned in the Foresight report, up in the grain storehouses. India, which had been prone to Brown is particularly concerned about the diversion of grain catastrophic famines, eventually became a grain exporter. And crops to ethanol production as a cause of shortages that drive while poverty wasn’t eliminated, mass starvation was no longer up prices. And he says that an over-reliance on ground water a constant threat. It was the start of what has been called the for irrigation is now leading to falling water tables and a potential Green Revolution, and it probably had as great an impact on collapse of agriculture in arid regions dependent on ground the welfare of the world as the Industrial Revolution. water for irrigation. Of course, there have been crop failures and famines in How is it that a problem a lot of us thought we’d solved the intervening years. The Green Revolution has not spread to is suddenly demanding urgent action? A failure to invest in every corner of the planet and hunger has not been eliminated research in recent years is one of the main reasons, claims – in fact, nearly a billion people still go to bed hungry and another Jerry Nelson, senior research fellow and lead climate change billion are malnourished. But hunger is no longer the scourge researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute that it has been throughout human history. With higher yields, (IFPRI). “The decline in prices for agricultural commodities led to improved distribution systems and emergency aid programs, complacency about the need to continue to fund research that starvation on a massive scale can mostly be avoided (except had been contributing to an increase in productivity,” he says. when governments themselves impede humanitarian assis- “International organizations backed off support for research in tance, or when conflict causes a breakdown in the distribution the public sector in both the developed and developing world. system). And with greater and more reliable supplies of staple In the developed world, that was picked up by the private sector, food crops, prices have also gradually declined over the last but not in the developing world. The result is a backlog of tech40 years. Or at least, they had been steadily declining up until nology that we’ve been drawing on and getting into the hands 2007. Since then, prices have spiked twice and agricultural of farmers, but it’s running down now. And as it runs down, then economists are sounding alarms. The Earth’s population (cur- you’re going to find things like what happened in 2008 and in rently approaching seven billion), will probably increase to 2010 – price spikes driven by a variety of things, such as high around nine billion by 2050. But it’s not certain that we’re doing heat in Russia and wheat export bans.” what we need to be doing in order to ensure that we’ll keep up He adds that one of the big problems facing agricultural with the rising demand. economists is that data on everything from land under cultivaIt’s not just a matter of more mouths to feed, it’s a matter of tion, to production figures, to spoilage, to weather and rainfall forces on both the supply and demand side that are pushing and statistics is woefully inadequate. He suggests that developing pulling in different directions. In January, a British government policies in the absence of good data could mean throwing good think-tank called Foresight released a study entitled The Future money after bad. According to Nelson, there are only two ways of Food and Farming which sounded the alarm bells. “The to increase the overall food supply – by expanding the area of global food system,” the report concluded, “will experience an cultivated land and by increasing yields (see side story). But unprecedented confluence of pressures over the next 40 years.” the potential to put much more land under cultivation is limited, In addition to a growing population, the report warns that and in any case, cutting down more trees to increase arable “many people are likely to be wealthier, creating demand for a land will only add to greenhouse effects that could accelerate more varied, high quality diet requiring additional resources to climate change. That in itself is at the very least disruptive to produce. On the production side, competition for land, water agriculture; the jury is out on whether the overall effect of global and energy will intensify, while the effects of climate change will warming is “synchronous” climate change – which causes become increasingly apparent. The need to reduce greenhouse weather events that lead to crop failures everywhere at once – or gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate will become “asynchronous” change that may adversely effect harvests in imperative. Over this period, globalization will continue, expos- one part of the world while boosting harvests in another. ing the food system to novel economic and political pressures.” While not necessarily endorsing Lester Brown’s warning At just about the same time as the Foresight report was re- that we are “one harvest away from chaos”, Nelson does not leased, the prominent American environmentalist Lester Brown dismiss it out of hand either. “In 2008, when we had the price stated the danger even more starkly, over a much shorter spike, we had several governments lose power. I don’t know if timeframe. “If the world has a poor harvest this year,” he wrote you can attribute what is going on in the Middle East today to in an opinion piece published in the International Herald Tribune, high food prices, but I suspect it’s a component of the continu“food prices will rise to previously unimaginable levels. Food riots ing unrest we’re seeing in the Arab world. You could imagine


Previous spread: A summer thunderstorm approaches a wheat field in Kansas, US. Photography: Keenpress/National Geographic Stock. Above: Harvesting wheat fields in a village on the west bank of the Nile in Egypt. Photography: Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic Stock.

some serious disruptions, substantial migration of populations, resulting violence from that, and serious problems with hunger and malnutrition arising from problems with availability of food if we have either synchronous weather events or you get governments, for whatever reason, essentially causing the same thing to happen. “I think we need to concentrate on two fronts to have some hope of getting through this problem without major disruptions,” he continues. “The first is that we just need to find ways to increase agricultural productivity. We have to solve the supplyside problem. Because on the demand side, we’re going to continue to have population and income growth. That’s just

This page: According to food policy analyst Devinder Sharma, 40 percent of the food the world produces is wasted. Photography: WRAP/ Right: Farmers growing tomatoes using drip irrigation to conserve water in San Quintin Valley, Baja California, Mexico. Photography: Annie Griffiths/National Geographic Stock.

a fact we’re going to have to live with. We can tweak it and change behavior in a variety of ways, but ultimately, it just means more quantity, and we need to figure out how to do that more sustainably. Number two is the data story – we need to do a better job of understanding the nature of our challenges, because we don’t have as good a handle on it as we should, given how bad it could potentially be.” Not everyone agrees with the conclusions of the Foresight report or the dire predictions of people like Lester Brown. Devinder Sharma, a food policy analyst with the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security in Delhi, India, calls the report “a very clever camouflage to push genetically modified crops.” On the day the report was released, he told the BBC: “I see no reason why there should be panic created by the UK study. Let’s be very clear. On the planet we have about 6.7 billion people and we produce food for 11.5 billion people. Which means we produce for double the population. So if by 2050 we are expecting the population to touch nine billion, where is the crisis?” According to Sharma, the problem is that 40 percent of the food we produce is wasted, and food supplies are distorted by speculation and the globalization of the grain market. “There’s no denying that one part of the world is going hungry and one part of the world is overfed, but that is what we need to address.” Bringing more technology, he says, “is going to do more damage to the environment, create problems for water and global warming and so on.” Sir John Beddington, who headed up the study as Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government, doesn’t dispute Sharma’s assertion that waste and inequities in the distribution

system are problems, but he insists that focusing on them will not alleviate what he fears could be a global catastrophe in the next 20 to 40 years. “The question I posed to the Foresight team was how can nine billion people be fed equitably, healthfully and most importantly, sustainably?” he told the Economist in January. “The problem is that the food system is fundamentally not working because it’s not sustainable. The food we are producing is being produced at the expense of degradation of land, at the expense of biodiversity, at the expense of issues to do with the overuse of fossil fuels, massive overuse in certain areas of water, poor ways of animal husbandry, pollution coming from pesticides and so on. So the sustainability of the food system just isn’t there at the moment, and that’s the absolute key issue that we’ve got to address.” The report offers solid recommendations for action on the climate change front, on addressing hunger, on improving the global food production and distribution system (on both the supply and demand side, and the minimization of waste), and on production, including the application of new technologies such as genetic modification. “We have 20 years to arguably deliver something of the order of 40 percent more food, 30 percent more available fresh water and 50 percent more energy,” says Beddington. Solving what is clearly a very complicated problem, he suggests, will require a coordinated approach to tackle what is clearly a complicated challenge. Beddington speaks in measured words, but the implication is clear: without action, the world faces a doom scenario of food shortages, scarce water and insufficient energy – a “perfect storm” with consequences for the world order almost too frightening to contemplate.



The Green Revolution, which was so crucial in alleviating mass starvation beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, was primarily about improving seed strains and providing the basic nutrients – nitrogen, potassium and phosphate – to cultivated fields. But all plants also require minute quantities of micronutrients, primarily metals such as iron, zinc, manganese and copper. While micronutrients may be present in the soil, efficient delivery to the plant roots can be substantially improved with products called chelates, chemicals which serve as carriers of the micronutrients, preventing them from reacting with other elements or precipitating out of solution when added to irrigating water or other fertilizers. AkzoNobel is a global leader in chelate production. They are normally used to capture metal ions or control their behavior in water for applications such as cleaning and pulp bleaching for the paper industry. But chelating agents in agriculture do the opposite – delivering iron, zinc, copper, manganese and magnesium to agricultural crops to ensure healthy harvests. “Micronutrients are essential, especially in modern agricultural techniques, where high yields are important,” explains Marcel Bugter, Market

Development Manager for Micronutrients in AkzoNobel’s Functional Chemicals business. “You simply can’t get those yields without providing micronutrients, and if the conditions aren’t right, our products are one of the best ways to achieve that.” With more advanced farming techniques such as drip irrigation, the micronutrients can be effectively delivered almost exactly where they are needed in efficient doses, with very little waste. Micronutrients are also essential for hydroponics – cultivation in which food crops are grown on non-organic substrates and nourished with the appropriate mix of nutrients. Micronutrients can also be more directly beneficial to humans as food additives, as was highlighted in issue four of A Magazine, when we published a feature on Ferrazone®, an iron-containing micronutrient produced by AkzoNobel’s Chelates business. Ferrazone helps to protect against anemia when added directly to flour, powdered drinks and other foods. In addition to the micronutrients we produce, our Surface Chemistry business also supplies agro products, primarily to improve the efficiency and environmental safety of crop protection chemicals, making intensive, high-yield

agriculture more sustainable. Of course, crop protection products are beneficial because they hold down weeds and control harmful insects and plant disease. But directing the right amount of crop protection to the target crops without waste has always been difficult. And that’s where Surface Chemistry’s adjuvants, such as the Adsee AB series, can help. Adjuvants are inert ingredients that improve the physical and biological characteristics of crop protection products, allowing more effective delivery to the target. “When farmers use our Adsee AB products, they can reduce the dosage and still achieve effective control,” notes August San Diego, Global Business Director of AkzoNobel’s Agrochemical Applications business. “But each crop requires a somewhat different approach, so our R&D team has identified new adjuvant platforms to develop.” In fact, San Diego appears to take the daunting task of meeting future needs as a personal mission. “We cannot solve the world’s food supply dilemma alone,” he says. “However, our goal is to be a sustainable partner for crop protection companies. I am confident that our technologies will enable them to meet the challenge of feeding the world.”

SEARC CHIN NG FO OR THE There’s been no mention of Camelot, and Monty Python haven’t had a look in, but the quest to find the Holy Grail of salt substitutes could well be at an end. WORDS Jim Wake


ere’s something you’ve probably heard before. Oranges are good for us. Why? Because they’re bursting with all that healthy stuff we’re supposed to include in our diets, such as fiber, amino acids, vitamins and a whole range of other nutrients. Hang on though, because too much of any soluble vitamin – such as A, D or E – can lead to a variety of serious health problems. And what about alcohol? We’re all aware of the dangers of drinking to excess, yet studies have shown that moderate drinking (of red wine in particular) can help to reduce the likelihood of heart disease. Even the humble nut can be a minefield. Yes they’re packed with protein, minerals, “good” monounsaturated fats and other nutrients, but many are also loaded with calories and they can cause constipation. Some people also have serious nut allergies, so have to avoid them completely, which is often easier said than done. With so many things to consider and make decisions about, you could say we’ve got a lot on our plate. It’s not surprising, therefore, that many of us can’t stomach it anymore. We’re just too confused about what we should and shouldn’t be eating in order to stay as healthy as possible. There are established guidelines, of course, that recommend daily amounts for most vitamins and minerals, although many people are still a bit fuzzy about what these actually are.

History shows that nutritional fads come and go, a bit like ice cream flavors. The latest “superfood” seems to change almost monthly – nobody could have been happier than me when it was claimed that eating chocolate could be good for you. But one issue which has been near the top of the health agenda for a while now concerns something far more basic – the amount of salt we consume. There’s a good chance you already know (either because you’ve read about it or someone told you) that the average adult shouldn’t consume more than 6g of salt per day. But do you know how that translates into your daily diet? Well, consider this. Half of a supermarket brand pepperoni pizza can contain around 2.3g salt. So it doesn’t take much for us to reach that recommended daily limit. The response from the food industry has been to introduce low sodium or sodium replacement products. One of these, Suprasel Loso OneGrain, has just been launched by AkzoNobel’s Salt Specialties business. Potentially the Holy Grail of salt substitutes, it is effectively a like-for-like salt replacement which contains up to 50 percent less sodium. If you’ll excuse the blatant advertising speak, we think it’s a major advance on other available products. “With OneGrain it’s all in the name,” explains Marketing Manager Sander Tierolf. “It grains like traditional salt and can be stored and used in exactly the same way. Other low sodium products are a blend of several different

ingredients and might de-mix on storage, or dust might form realization is just starting to emerge and the subject is also refrom the powdered flavorings. OneGrain is a like-for-like swap ceiving more attention in the US. The impact of OneGrain could in recipes. That’s the main advantage and what we believe will be huge there, and we haven’t even spoken about the sodium make it attractive to customers. Even more importantly, we’ve intake in Asian countries yet.” also had great feedback on the taste.” Of course, it’s important to remember that we do need The new product is aimed at food manufacturers for appli- some salt in our diets simply to stay alive. Sodium is vital for cation in a wide variety of products, ranging from bread to meat, controlling the amount of water in our bodies, maintaining the and from cheese to snacks. Adds Tierolf: “The rules change. blood’s normal pH levels, transmitting nerve signals and helping So the problem of using too much sodium, for example, is one muscular contraction. But as processed foods have become created by the authorities and consumer organizations, not the norm – and the 6g recommended daily amount is really no consumers themselves, who choose what they want to buy in more than a teaspoon – it’s not surprising that the majority of the supermarket. If we can offer a solution to manufacturers, it people consume nearer 9g. “After obesity, too much salt in our makes their lives easier – they can get on with more exciting diets is one of the hot topics, healthwise,” continues Huisman. and creative projects, such as developing new products.” “With society’s increasing use of processed foods, it’s not going R&D Manager Eric Huisman adds that once Suprasel Loso to go away either.” OneGrain becomes established with manufacturers, it could That’s why a like-for-like product such as OneGrain is ideal. smooth the way to a future launch on the consumer market. If we don’t want to forego our favorite treats – we’re back to So it’s the sensible way to go, especially when there’s so much that pepperoni pizza again – then something that can make potential. “The pressure to reduce salt consumption is increas- them healthier, without losing any taste, has to be the answer. ing in many countries, especially the UK and the Netherlands. Let’s face it, we’re all fairly intelligent. We’ve got at least a vague Driven by scientific evidence on the link between salt intake and idea of what we should and shouldn’t be eating. But if there’s cardio-vascular disease, the authorities and consumer organi- something out there that makes it easier to follow the rules of zations are calling for action from the industry. Manufacturers healthy living, then the sooner food manufacturers will be gobknow they need to find solutions. But in some EU countries, this bling it up.

26 AkzoNobel is one of the world’s leading salt producers. We have production facilities in Delfzijl (pictured) and Hengelo in the Netherlands and Mariager in Denmark. In fact, our Hengelo site – with a capacity of 2.5 million tons – is one of the largest vacuum salt plants in the world. As well as supplying products for cooking, the salt we produce is also applied for chemical transformation via electrolysis, is used for water softening, for de-icing roads and has various applications in the agricultural, food processing and pharmaceutical industries. Photography: Bram Reinders.


This false-color image shows the extent of deforestation. It combines near-infrared, red and green light. Tropical rainforest appears bright red, while pale red and brown areas represent cleared land. Black and gray areas have probably been recently burned. Photography: The Advance Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reection Radiometer (ASTER).


Our trees are vanishing. Fast. Which is a big problem, not only for the planet’s human population, but also the many species that are dangerously close to extinction. Welcome to the International Year of Forests.


31 Below: Logging and slash-and-burn agriculture have devastated Borneo’s rainforest in Malaysia. Photography: Mattias Klum/National Geographic Stock. Bottom: Huge stacks of logs piled five stories high dwarf man and cranes in Alberta, Canada. Photography: James L. Stanfield/ National Geographic Stock. Left: An aerial view of slash-and-burn deforestation in north-eastern Madagascar. Photography: Michael Fay/National Geographic Stock.


t the beginning of February, the United Nations launched the International Year of Forests 2011. On exactly the same day, the Chinese Year of the Tiger officially ended. These seemingly unrelated milestones didn’t exactly trouble the headline writers, who were far too busy covering various high profile global news stories to even notice. Admit it, you probably weren’t aware either. But the fact that these two events went largely unnoticed shouldn’t cloud, or dilute, their significance. Why though, has the UN dedicated 2011 to forests? Well, they want to remind us of the beauty of trees, which is fair enough. But more importantly, they want to emphasize their value and highlight the critical threats that they face. Essentially, the International Year of Forests is all about raising awareness for the fact that the world’s forests need protecting more than ever. And don’t forget, as studies have shown, human health is directly linked to the health of the planet. Here’s a thought which should put things into perspective and, perhaps, give those headline writers something to ponder. Since 1950, the world has lost half of all its natural forest. Today, they cover about 31 percent of the Earth’s total land area, amounting to just under four billion hectares. And they’re being cut down twice as fast as they’re being replaced. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 13 million hectares of forest are lost annually, due mainly to deforestation resulting from the conversion of forest land to other uses. This obviously can’t be good, for us, the planet, or those that make the forest their home – like the tiger. “By declaring 2011 as the International Year of Forests, the United Nations General Assembly has created an important platform to educate the global community about the great value of forests and the extreme social, economic and environmental costs of losing them,” explained UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at February’s launch event. “Forests are vital to our well-being. They harbor 80 percent of land-based biodiversity Whether you’re familiar with the state of our forests or not, our and store more than a trillion tons of carbon.” He went on to physical, economic and spiritual health is tied to the health of mention that greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation our forest ecosystems. An intricate, interdependent relationship account for more than those produced by the world’s entire clearly exists between forests and humans, underlined by the transportation sector. But there is plenty of hope, because fact that at least 1.6 billion individuals depend on forests for their global efforts are being made to encourage decision-makers daily livelihoods and subsistence needs, while forests are also to take action. home to more than 60 million people. “Our research confirms At the recent climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico, what we know instinctively – that human health is inextricably for example, governments took an important step towards linked to the health of the planet,” notes Chris Elliot, the World building a low emissions, climate-resilient future. The balanced Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Executive Director of Conservation. package of measures on which they agreed included progress “Deforestation increases the spread of certain diseases while on the conservation and sustainable management of forests. destroying plants and animals that may hold the key to treating Ban Ki-moon now hopes that further progress will be made in illnesses that plague millions of people.” He adds that protecting 2011. “In this International Year, we have a chance to agree on natural landscapes can contribute positively to human health how best to realize the full potential of forests – for sustainable through protecting future medicinal resources, reducing the imdevelopment, economic stability, the fight against poverty and pacts of pollution, toxins and weather extremes and providing our efforts to ensure future prosperity for all.” recreational places that support physical and mental well-being.


But the rate of deforestation is also impacting the world’s wildlife, with tigers among those most at risk. Latest estimates suggest there are little more than 3,000 left in the wild. Yet tigers have no natural predators. Humans are their worst enemy. Large-scale poaching is posing the greatest immediate threat, but habitat destruction means they’re running out of places to live (see side story). The subtle poignancy of the International Year of Forests being launched on the same day that the Year of the Tiger ended should therefore not be lost. So what’s the answer? There isn’t one of course. At least not one single solution that will make the problem go away. But there’s a lot we can do to help improve on the current situation. There’s already growing recognition of the role that forests managed in a sustainable way can play in everything from mitigating climate change to providing wood, medicines and livelihoods for people around the world. And it’s this sustainable approach to properly managing and conserving all types of forest which is key. “We have to make sure that the billions of dollars pledged towards forests and climate change financing is actually released and applied to sustainable forest management,” commented Sha Zukang, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, during the International Year of Forests launch event. Industry obviously has a vital role to play in all this and is responding to numerous environmental and social concerns by improving its sustainable use of resources. For example, 37 per cent of total forest production in 2010 came from recovered paper, wood waste and non-wood fibers, a figure which is likely to grow to up to 45 per cent in 2030, with much of that growth coming from China and India. The importance of wood stewardship to AkzoNobel’s sustainability agenda was underlined last year when the company signed an historic agreement with the Forest Stewardship Council. The agreement made AkzoNobel the FSC’s first global partner outside of products that are FSC certified. Many AkzoNobel businesses – particularly our woodcare brands – are already committed to the responsible sourcing of forest products. Now, under the terms of the agreement, the company is working closely with the FSC to promote forest stewardship and drive demand for responsible products. “Developing partnerships such as the one we have agreed with the FSC is a clear illustration of our willingness to achieve transformational change, take positive action and help to protect the source of wood for future generations,” said the company’s Corporate Director of Sustainability, André Veneman, when the partnership was announced. FSC Director General, Andre de Freitas, added: “Both FSC and AkzoNobel are invested in the care of natural resources, and the partnership draws on the synergy between sourcing from well-managed forests and maintaining long-term objectives for the lifecycle of forest products. By working together through the FSC Global Partner Program, we will not only raise awareness of FSC certification, but also bring attention to innovations that address environmental, social and economic issues in forest management.”

One of our businesses most closely connected to the world’s forestry activities is Pulp and Paper Chemicals (which trades as Eka Chemicals) – a leading manufacturer of bleaching and performance chemicals for the pulp and paper industry. While producers and consumers have gradually become more aware of the environmental and social impacts of industrial activity, Eka has long been going to great lengths to ensure that it is committed to long-term, sustainable operations. As a supplier to forest-based industries, all of Eka’s products (either as systems solutions or on their own) are developed with a primary focus on reducing the use of water, fiber and energy. In addition, the business has the ambition to become the leading supplier in eco-system analysis. “One of the most important aspects of safeguarding forest ecosystems is to ensure that we can give business value to the ecosystems on which we all depend,” says Managing Director of Pulp and Paper Chemicals, Ruud Joosten. “That’s why we use the Environmental Strategy Review to analyze the risks that our customers in China and Indonesia face from the degradation of ecosystem services, including increased scarcity of wood fiber and fresh water. These customer risks are then translated into business risks and opportunities for our business. We’ve found that the Corporate Ecosystem Services Review fits nicely into our toolbox for sustainability assessments.” Another AkzoNobel business helping to reduce the need to cut down trees is Wood Finishes and Adhesives. They have developed a new concept known as the Automatic Putty System (APS), which is used to repair imperfections and defects that occur naturally in wood, and are normally repaired by hand. Using the traditional method, the putty needs to be dried before the huge panels of wood can be turned into flooring, furniture, doors and so on. This process is slow, not always accurate and the technology used is not particularly durable. APS, on the other hand, is an automated system which uses scanners/ cameras to detect imperfections, robots for application and a special machine (the APS machine) to push down, smooth out and cure the putty, which is supplied by AkzoNobel. This new patented process brings major benefits to the customer as it requires fewer people, offers increased quality due to the use of our UV curing putty, results in higher productivity and efficiency and is more accurate and consistent. Tarkett is running one line in Hanaskog in Sweden, while Swedwood is using the system to produce spruce and pine furniture for IKEA. Because our customers are able to transform defective or poor quality wood into usable wood, it means there is less waste, so fewer trees are being harvested. In the end, there can be little doubt that a world without trees isn’t an option. As the WWF’s Chris Elliot states: “When WWF stresses the importance of biodiversity, it’s not just because we enjoy a variety of trees or frogs in a forest. It’s because the science tells us that those trees and frogs are vital to the forest’s health, and the forest’s health is vital to our health.”

33 Eucalyptus trees at a pulp mill plantation in Brazil.



Before 2010, the previous Year of the Tiger was in 1998. Since then, tigers have lost 40 percent of their habitat. It should therefore come as no surprise that three tiger sub-species have become extinct since the 1940s, while a fourth – the South China tiger – has not been seen in the wild for 25 years. From an estimated 100,000 a century ago, the global wild tiger population is dangerously close to reaching the point of no return.

Big picture habitat protection would go a long way to reversing the downward trend, although poaching is still the biggest problem and represents the largest immediate threat to the species worldwide. Tigers are highly prized in China and other parts of Asia for their pelts and body parts, which are used to make medicines. The growing prosperity of the Asian economies means demand for these traditional remedies is only going to increase. Which leads us to

a startling statistic – India’s remaining tigers alone are worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars dead. Thankfully, concerted conservation efforts are underway in many parts of the world. The main challenge is to ensure that sustained measures are implemented to reverse the tiger’s current decline. The World Wildlife Fund is working hard to try and double the number of tigers in the wild (estimated to be around 3,200 at present) by 2022. In partnership with


Photography: Chris Weston /

If you would like to win a copy of Chris Weston’s book, Animals On the Edge visit: To contribute to the wildlife conservation effort, A Magazine has adopted a tiger. We have in turn donated the adoption to a school in Shanghai, China. To read the full story visit:

governments and policy makers, they’re striving to strengthen existing legislation to protect the tiger and help integrate tiger conservation into economic, development and land-use planning. This determination to save the tiger gained significant momentum at the end of last year when the International Tiger Conservation Forum was held in St. Petersburg, Russia. Government leaders and ministerial officials of the 13 countries where wild tigers remain endorsed the wide-ranging plan to double the number

of wild tigers by 2022 – the next Chinese calendar Year of the Tiger. In addition, the World Bank has offered a $100 million loan package to three tiger range countries for conservation work, while the Global Environment Facility offered to provide up to $50 million in grant funding for tiger habitat conservation. “While our discussion is about the fate of the tiger, we are in fact touching on issues that are critical for the entire planet, humanity and its future,” said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who hosted

the event. “Using the example of the tiger, we are speaking about how to preserve nature.” Protecting and preserving wildlife is such an emotive subject that it stirs many people into action, such as acclaimed wildlife photographer Chris Weston. Principle photographer for NGO Animals on the Edge, he is a regular visitor to India’s tiger reserves and has published a book (also entitled Animals On the Edge) which offers a visual survey of the world’s rare and endangered mammals.

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IT’S ONLY NATURAL In the age of 21st century environmental awareness, the discerning shopper has wised up. They want stuff that’s good for them and good for the planet. This demand for more natural products means manufacturers are having to up their game. WORDS Daniel Grafton PHOTOGRAPHY Lee Funnell



e consumers are a demanding bunch. For example, not only do we want a shampoo which cleans our hair and makes us look fabulous, but we also want to know it has been made responsibly, with minimal impact on the environment. Oh, and that includes the product itself and the packaging it comes in. Plus, we don’t want to pay any extra for the privilege. Fortunately, eco-friendly products are everywhere these days. From bio-yoghurts to organic face scrubs, our demand for greener, more caring products has created an entire industry. There was a time when these eco-consumables appeared to be just a fad, but now they’re most definitely in the mainstream – and they’re here to stay. According to Maria Tolchinsky, Global Marketing Manager for AkzoNobel’s Global Personal Care business, it’s all down to awareness. “Today’s consumers are much more aware of what they put into or onto their bodies,” she explains. “They are much more educated than in the past. They want to know what goes into the products they buy and what impact making these items has on the world around them.” And don’t forget, as consumers, we have influence. We can vote with our feet (or credit cards), deciding what to buy and what not to buy and which products, if any, we will boycott. We can even influence policy and legislation. The upshot is that manufacturers have been forced to rethink their processes, formulations and recipes. They’ve realized that the future – and their own success – is dependent on the use of less complex and more eco-friendly ingredients. There are other factors to consider as well. Like ensuring that product labels are clear, userfriendly and provide detailed information to consumers about what is contained in the product they’re holding in their hands. As Tolchinsky puts it, in today’s eco-savvy world, manufacturers have to fully understand consumer perception and know exactly what they want – even before they know themselves. Most of the time, however, what the customer wants, the customer gets. Which is where AkzoNobel comes in. Our Global Personal Care business has developed a range of eco-friendly ingredients for use in a wide range of hair care and styling, skin care and sun care products. “The ingredients we provide to the likes of Procter and Gamble, L’Oreal and Schwarzkopf act as thickeners for creams, or give products such as sun screen or body lotions their non-sticky, ultra-smooth feel,” adds Tolchinsky. Many of these ingredients are derived from natural materials including coconut oil, rapeseed and soybean oil. But the key ecoingredients – the super ingredients if you like – are natural polymers like cellulose and starch. These are widely used throughout the biochemical industry to create biodegradable plastics and biofuels, to name but two. Global Personal Care uses cellulose and starch in a number of its products. For example, Naviance® certified organics are starch polymers used as thickening agents and aesthetic enhancers in creams and lotions. Our Amaze® polymer is a non-tacky starch which works as a fixative in hair gels, mousses and styling lotions, while Natrasorb® Bath starch, based on tapioca, carries large quantities of oils which dissolve in water, ideal for that relaxing bath at the end of a busy day. Meanwhile, Celquat® polymers – which are based on cellulose – are used as conditioning polymers in shampoos and mousses. But replacing traditional ingredients that have been used for many years with ones that are more eco-friendly is not without

its challenges. “One of the difficulties is that petroleum-based chemicals perform very well, but they are not considered natural or renewable by the consumer,” notes Global Personal Care’s Director of Research and Development, Gary Martino. “This means we have to use natural alternatives, such as cellulose and starch, but without adding to the cost of the final product. The difficulty here is that while nature provides a basic composition, we have to modify this to get it to work in the same way as petroleum-based products. So our starting polymer and our ability to modify it are absolutely crucial. There are many variables that can lead you down a blind alley.” There are also other challenges to overcome. “We constantly have to adapt to legislation, much of which is driven by NGOs such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals),” continues Tolchinsky. “These organizations have the ear of consumers and their messages often demand action from manufacturers – sometimes warranted, sometimes unwarranted. This, of course, creates difficulties. Also, there are lots of governing bodies out there, all with different legislations, and many certifiers of organic products. So it is difficult to know which way to turn. This makes launching organic products globally challenging.” Global Personal Care, by the way, uses three certifiers to approve its products – ECOCERT France SAS (for natural certification), Quality Assurance Institute Worldwide (for organic certification) and Lacon Qualitat (for organic certification) which, Tolchinksy points out, are agencies with global reach. She adds that another area of legislation which can pose something of a challenge is the current drive for manufacturers to attain low VOCs in order to help reduce greenhouse gases. “Recent US legislation demands low VOC levels for personal care products such as hairspray and mousse. We have developed formulations and have worked closely with customers to formulate products that not only meet the VOC requirements, but also perform as expected by the consumer. Our knowledge of how to formulate consumer products allows us to showcase our products in the best light and to minimize the additional work of our customers.” Ultimately, like many things in life, it’s about cost. “We have to provide eco-friendly ingredients to the consumer with no added cost to the final product they buy,” explains Martino. “In high growth markets such as China and India, this is particularly challenging because we start from a much lower cost base. So you have to be very cost effective. It’s all about getting a higher performance for a lower cost.” As part of this innovative drive to create more eco-friendly products, AkzoNobel has entered into a global alliance with a company called IBT to develop completely green, botanicalbased solutions. “IBT have a patented process to isolate active ingredients from plants,” Martino goes on. “This means grinding and pressing plants to fractionate the juices and isolate bioactive compounds which can be used to make completely green ingredients – with no solvents or non-natural ingredients.” These fractions, he says, will be used in products such as antiirritants, moisturisers, anti-aging and anti-wrinkle creams. So. Attractive, younger looking skin at an affordable price. Which has minimal impact on the environment. Consumers benefit. The planet benefits. Perhaps beauty isn’t just skin deep after all.

Nearly 30 years ago, the world’s biggest and most deadly industrial environmental disaster occurred in India. The lessons learned resulted in the chemical industry taking swift action. Now, for many companies, responsibility for well-being extends far beyond their gates and into the surrounding communities. WORDS David Lichtneker



ust after midnight, in the early hours of December 3, 1984, a terrifying explosion occurred at a chemical plant in the densely populated city of Bhopal in India. The incident resulted in the catastrophic release of a lethal cloud of highly poisonous methyl isocyanate gas. Official government figures put the death toll at 5,295, but others insist at least 10,000 perished in the immediate aftermath alone. And the fatalities, they claim, have never stopped – 15,000 more are thought to have died after eventually succumbing to their horrific injuries. Then there are the injured who survived (reportedly more than 500,000), of whom around 120,000 remain chronically ill and require regular medical treatment. Caused by a runaway reaction widely regarded to have resulted from a combination of inadequate safety systems and lack of employee training, Bhopal is still the world’s biggest and most deadly industrial environmental disaster.

Almost 30 years later, the pesticide plant – operated by Union Carbide at the time – remains deserted. There has been no clean-up. Some say the groundwater up to three kilometers away has become contaminated by the toxic effluent which to this day is leaching into the soil. Compensation claims have also proved to be a legal minefield, while nobody has yet accepted full responsibility for the disaster – which in many respects is still ongoing. It serves as a stark and tragic reminder to chemical companies around the world that they have a duty of care to protect those who live close to their sites. Because the responsibility for ensuring people’s safety and well-being extends way beyond the factory gates and deep into the surrounding communities. Few know more about the human consequences of what happened in Bhopal on that fateful night – or have done more to try and help the victims – than Satinath Sarangi. He was 150 kil-


Previous spread: Young boys collecting water from polluted ponds, which women use for washing clothes and other household chores. In many areas, this is also the only source of drinking water. Photography: Jack Laurenson. Far left: A woman grazing her goats in the shadow of the derelict factory in Bhopal. Photography: Jack Laurenson. Left: Tens of thousands of children born to exposed parents are suffering from growth problems. Photography: David Graham.

ometers to the south, studying for his PhD in metallurgical engi- “I had no notion it was such a calamity,” says Sarangi, recalling neering, when he heard about the disaster on the radio. Thinking his arrival and the terrible scenes he witnessed. “I walked out he might be able to help in some way, he traveled to Bhopal, ar- from the platform and saw thousands of people in utter agony. riving just a few days after the explosion. He intended to stay for Their eyes were swollen, tears streaming, people were groana week. He never left. A tireless campaigner for the rights of the ing, people were walking then falling down. Some even think survivors, he set up a clinic for the victims in 1985 which was that those who survived were the unlucky ones.” raided and quickly shut down. Undeterred, he later founded the Many of those survivors are among the 25,000 people Sambhavna Clinic (in 1996), which is run by an independent registered at the Sambhavna Clinic (see side story), which charitable trust and is dedicated to offering free treatment to the sees around 180 patients every day. “A lot of people who victims, as well as raising awareness for their plight. Funded en- come here suffer from breathlessness and almost all of them tirely by individual donations (money from corporate funds is not have some sort of problem with their eyes,” continues Sarangi. accepted), the clinic moved into purpose-built premises in 2005. “Many of the women have reproductive system problems, peoIt is located in the center of the community most badly affected ple have brain damage, a lot of them have become paralyzed by the gas leak. And there, just a few hundred meters away, cast- over the years and many have psychiatric problems such as ing a haunting shadow over the entire city, stand the eerie tanks panic attacks, anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal tenand towers of the now derelict plant. dencies.” He adds that he felt compelled to stay because the

victims deserved better. Someone had to fight for their incidents have been reduced by 50 percent. Employees are well-being. “I wanted to show that more could be done. I four times safer at a Responsible Care company compared did it for the people around me who had lost their health with other manufacturing industries in the US. Our employand had no money.” ees are effectively safer at work than they are at home.” Bhopal had a huge impact on the chemical industry as The fact that AkzoNobel Chairman Hans Wijers was a whole. A year after the incident, what has since become one of the first CEOs to sign the Responsible Care Global the International Council of Chemical Associations’ (ICCA) Charter says everything about how seriously the company signature global initiative – Responsible Care® – was born, takes its commitment to ensuring the highest standards as a direct response to the tragedy. It was industry’s com- when it comes to health, safety and the environment. But mitment to doing the right thing. Originally established in according to Sherman, there’s one area where Responsible Canada, the program was quickly adopted worldwide, with Care still has work to do. “Where I think the program has companies, through their national associations, working fallen short of expectations is turning around public perceptogether to continuously improve their health, safety and tion,” he explains. “They still perceive the industry as unsafe, environmental performance. Now, any company wanting to as polluting, as producing dangerous products. They don’t become a member of the ICCA has to prescribe and com- see the value side; they don’t recognize that the chemical mit to Responsible Care. industry is a vital component of around 98 percent of all “Although employee and process safety were corner- manufacturing. We are the solution to alternative energy, stones of the chemical industry, Bhopal taught us that we GHG reduction, clean water, efficient farming and longer life. had to take responsibility beyond our plant gate,” notes Turning that perception around is an ongoing challenge.” Frank Sherman, AkzoNobel’s Country Director in the US. He adds that there are various ways this could be ad“What the industry has developed is a world class manage- dressed, including the setting of industry targets for the key ment system which has spread across 53 countries and environmental metrics that member companies have to reensures a harmonized approach and standard of perfor- port publicly. This option is currently being considered by mance. A Responsible Care company takes responsibility the ICCA. Having better relationships with environmental for their products from cradle to grave.” NGOs could also help. “Some of them are out to destroy Sherman – who ran AkzoNobel’s Surface Chemistry the industry,” claims Sherman. “They think that we are the business for many years – is a passionate advocate of Re- bad guys. But there are some environmental NGOs that sponsible Care, so much so that he was named the Ameri- really have the public at heart and we should have a dialog can Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care Leader of the with them to listen and try to understand them. They’re the Year for 2008. “The initiative has come a long way over the voice of the public, so we need to address their concerns.” last 20 years or so,” he continues. “If you look at ResponsiIn Bhopal, the majority of residents knew precious litble Care companies in the US, total greenhouse gas emis- tle about what went on inside the gates of the Union Carsions have come down 30 percent since 1992. Total envi- bide plant. Responsible Care takes this into account ronmental releases are down 70 percent, while transport through a strong focus on community outreach, which

A new generation of young people growing up in Bhopal cling to hope that the future will promise more than the city’s tragic past. Photography: David Lichtneker.



A member of staff at the Sambhavna Clinic, which makes its own traditional remedies and treatments, stirs the ingredients which are heated and reduced to make Ayurvedic medicines. Photography: David Graham. Look beyond:

forms an integral part of its Code of Conduct. Many Responsible do to protect themselves and reassure them when the situation is Care companies have established Community Awareness Pan- under control,” continues Hoffman. “It’s part of our commitment els (CAP). Although they aren’t mandatory, they provide an impor- to ensuring that we are managing our facility in a responsible way.” tant link between manufacturing facilities and their close neigh- Which is all well and good. But Sherman points to studies that bors. One of the many AkzoNobel sites that operates a CAP is have shown that awareness of Responsible Care diminishes the Surface Chemistry’s Houston plant in Texas. further away you travel from a chemical plant. Again, we’re back Set up in 2003, it is run in partnership with a nearby company to perception. “When you describe Responsible Care, it always called Champion Technologies. Meetings are held ten times a gets a favorable reaction,” he goes on. “People don’t go away as year, with membership made up of a wide range of community skeptics, they go away excited and that’s what you find with the figures including teachers, government officials and church rep- neighbors who participate in these CAPs. They are passionate resentatives. “It’s vital that we remain very open about what we about the subject. They are influential people who are interested. do here and that the local community is confident that we are They commit their evenings and free time to be with us. We eduoperating responsibly,” says John Hoffman, the company’s Plant cate them on what we’re doing and it gives them a favorable imManager in Houston, who is the CAP’s Industrial Sponsor Repre- pression of the industry. We need to be doing more of that.” sentative. “We want to extend as much awareness and informaBack in Bhopal, today’s generation of young people still need tion to the residents as possible to help educate them and reas- convincing. With tens of thousands of children having been born sure them that we are carefully managing the health, safety and to exposed parents – many of whom are suffering from growth environmental issues surrounding our business. The CAP pro- problems – the disaster is still ongoing. Teenage student Saaid vides an open forum for us to communicate what we do and Kamal’s story is a familiar one. He’s lucky enough not to have ingives people a chance to raise any issues they want to discuss.” herited any health issues, but his grandmother lost her sight as a Following the Bhopal blast, no warnings were issued to the result of the tragedy. He says the incident still makes the news in public. There was no immediate help or guidance. At AkzoNo- India, particularly around the time of the December anniversary. bel’s Houston plant, a so-called reverse 911 system has been But it’s his response to what can be learned from the accident installed as part of their emergency response plan which auto- which proves the most disturbing, and perhaps sends the most matically calls all residents within a specified radius in the event of chilling message: “The most important lesson that the people of a chemical release. “Once triggered, the system will give people Bhopal learned from the incident is that you have to be prepared, a message about what’s happening, tell them what they should because death can come from anywhere, at anytime.”

Magnum photographer Raghu Rai’s heartwrenching image of a victim of the 1984 Bhopal tragedy. Photography: Raghu Rai, Magnum Photos/ Hollandse Hoogte.


In late 2010, a group of AkzoNobel employees visited the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal. There were 22 in total, all executive potentials, who were in India as part of an intensive, week-long leadership and sustainability program. I was with them. Our walk to the clinic took us through one of the slums worst hit by the 1984 tragedy. It was a surreal experience. The realization that you were standing in a spot where, decades earlier, people had died in agony, sent a cold shiver down your spine. But that unnerving moment was only fleeting, because within minutes we were surrounded by scores of excitable young people. In some respects, it was as if they had no reason to be so full of happiness and enthusiasm. Their wide-eyed innocence and spontaneous outpouring of joy seemed to be completely at odds with what had happened on these very streets. Yet here we were, people from the chemical industry – mixing with Bhopal’s children – and we were about to walk into a clinic built to treat the victims of the world’s most deadly industrial environmental disaster. If a single experience was to have a lasting impact on the 22 participants, this was surely going to be it.

As we entered the facility, nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to see and hear. Founder Satinath Sarangi welcomed us and, before taking us on a brief tour, he gave a short presentation about the disaster and the work of the clinic. He could easily have resorted to shock tactics, but there was no need. The extent of human suffering which has resulted from the incident said it all. The selfless work being carried out to try and treat those who survived said even more. Let’s be honest, during the visit, several participants felt very uncomfortable – as employees of a chemical company – to be on the premises. Even though we were representing AkzoNobel, a responsible and ethical organization where safety and sustainable operations are top priorities, it somehow felt uneasy. But the visit also presented the team with an unexpected source of inspiration – Sarangi himself. He was a model example of real leadership in action. “The visit to the clinic in Bhopal touched me in different ways,” admits Christian Schulze-Severing, who was one of the AkzoNobel group. “Having seen people who are still suffering from the incident, it really made me realize

that I have a very personal responsibility as a Production Manager in Ibbenbüren, Germany, to do everything in my power to protect our employees and neighbors from harm. We already have a lot of procedures in place, such as giving personnel frequent safety training, having a well-drilled emergency response team and maintaining close links with the fire brigade and the local community. But we can always do more, because as our visit to Bhopal proved, being prepared is the key.” Walking away from the Sambhavna Clinic, back through the same streets, the children returned. They have to cling to hope in Bhopal, and that hope was represented in the smiling faces of the boys and girls we met during the precious few minutes we shared. How many of them were born to women affected by the gas leak we will never know. What we do know is that they inspired the entire group to return to their jobs with renewed determination and a reinforced commitment to doing the right thing.

Some people freak out, in a good way, at the thought of having fabulous workplace perks such as funky offices and on-site games rooms. For others, however, the corporate playground approach simply doesn’t rock their world. Just how far does employee well-being have to go?

WORDS David Lichtneker PHOTOGRAPHY Google

A slide in Google’s Zurich office.


Fireman’s pole at Google Zurich.



here was a time when simply having a job was the only perk, benefit or incentive you needed. Then the war for talent broke out. As that war continues to rage, the 21st century employee has to choose sides carefully, because as savvy employers are only too aware, it’s not just about the job description and the salary anymore. Merely scratch the surface and you’ll discover that the era of engagement is booming. Companies are adopting a new recruitment and retention culture, one of relaxation zones, free food, games rooms, on-site gyms and funky work spaces. Day-to-day drudgery is on the wane, now that your own wellbeing and the opportunity to actually (shock, horror) have fun at work can have a major influence on who wins the battle for your signature. They’re an extreme example admittedly, but consider moviemakers Pixar. They have created what can best be described as a corporate playground at their California head office, although talk to the people who work there and they prefer to call it their home away from home. Why such gushing sentiment? Well, when they’re not creating works of animated genius such as Toy Story, Up!, Cars or The Incredibles, Pixar employees can invariably be found zooming around their HQ on scooters, customizing their beach hut-style work areas, watching a free movie, chilling out in the pool or letting off steam in the ultracool games room. Compare that with having a sneaky fag in the toilets or eating your lunch in the car park. That’s hardly taking well-being to infinity and beyond now is it? Certain companies (often the more successful ones) have wised up you see, they’ve seen the proverbial light. They’ve gotten in touch with their softer side and embraced employee wellness as being about more than just the traditional health and welfare aspects. Global players in particular – who can arguably most easily afford to go the extra mile (or lightyear) – have realized that employee satisfaction and, yes, being happy at work, have become all-important. They’ve come to understand that if you want to unleash your workforce’s creativity and make the workplace environment more stimulating – and your business more successful – you have to inject some fun and ditch the monotonous drone. Even the simple option of being able to work flexibly can make all the difference. The sad fact is that most of us have to spend around a third of our life there, so shouldn’t we at least be allowed to enjoy our time at work and feel, well, a bit pampered? We deserve it don’t we? Or at least, we like to be made to feel that we do. Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation, John Lasseter, certainly thinks so. Winner of two Oscars and director of the first two Toy Story movies, he’s a vociferous advocate of creating a relaxed, friendly environment where employees can thrive. He’s particularly keen on letting his workforce loose to completely personalize their workspaces. “Isn’t that what any organization needs to discover – what drives an individual’s creative spirit?” he argues. “It doesn’t have to be an exorbitantly decorated room or a collection of costly ‘stuff’, it just has to be what employees feel represents who they really are.” Culture expert Bill Capodagli shares Lasster’s view on cutting your workforce more slack. Author of Innovate the Pixar Way, he claims that too many employers feel that in order to succeed, work has to be hard. “Organizations often think that if people are having fun, then they’re not productive enough and that you need to suffer in order to produce a great product.


I don’t think that’s the case at all. Even when working with some very technical teams of global engineering firms, fun was very important and as a result they were highly, highly successful.” Capodagli adds that it’s equally important for employees to understand that they are all working towards a common goal and vision. “When people know what they are doing within an organization, then the mood within the organization needs to be collaborative and the way to make it happen is to make it a fun experience.” So while some may scoff at the likes of Yahoo! for providing stress-busting on-site massages, or Google for collecting employees from home and bringing them to work in eco-friendly buses, Capodagli clearly thinks there’s method in the mollycoddling. “When you are a child you think you can do anything. You have all kinds of ideas and think you can do any of it. It’s by encouraging this daring to dream like a child again that will reawaken the innovative spirit that is missing in so many companies.” And just look at those names. Pixar. Google. Yahoo! Microsoft. Yes, they’re all tech companies, and that’s surely no coincidence, but they’re hardly struggling for success are they? They also regularly appear near the top of those best-placesto-work-on-the-planet polls. So they must be doing something right. Right? Well, that depends. You can’t force people to have fun. Nobody likes to be on the end of a wagging finger ordering them to go and have another bowl of free breakfast cereal, or play a quick game of pinball. That would be counterproductive at best. Skeptics would also question the economic merits given the extravagance often involved, particularly when it comes to facilities such as on-site hair salons (no, really). So while looking after the comfort and well-being of your employees is all well and good, not everyone can – or wants to – go to such spectacular lengths. Anyway, from an occupational health perspective alone, it’s clear that “doing a Pixar” wouldn’t work everywhere. “It’s really all about what drives people in their jobs, what gives them energy,” offers AkzoNobel’s own Corporate Health Director, Dirk Veldhorst. “A lot of the time, work isn’t just about the pay check at the end of the month. It’s also about

being inspired, the relationships you form, having clarity of goals, the environment you create, and that differs from culture to culture. Different things are important to different people and everyone has an inner sense of what gives them energy and what creates well-being for them in the workplace.” Certainly within AkzoNobel, Veldhorst doubts that a company-wide approach would work. “We have hundreds of locations around the world and they’re made up of so many different people that you really have to act local,” he explains. “You have to find out what makes people tick and see if people want certain things, like a fitness room for example. Although from what I’ve experienced over the years, once people have something like that, they end up not using it. Naturally employees get a lot of energy if they work in an environment that they like, and I think the importance of well-being isn’t always as recognized as it should be. But I’m a bit cynical about how far you have to go because I think it really has to relate to an inner need.” Sweden is a good example of where AkzoNobel does go some way to offering employees energizing activities that they actually make use of. For example, as well as providing a free on-site gym, the company’s Bohus plant organizes various health events throughout the year, including yoga sessions and a salsa dancing course. In Singapore, some of the company’s factories provide soccer pitches and basketball courts, while in China, free lunches are common and badminton and table tennis facilities are made available. Over in Indonesia, employees can exercise their vocal chords at on-site karaoke rooms. Not to everyone’s taste admittedly, but Indonesia recently recorded one of the highest engagement scores in the whole of AkzoNobel. So maybe there is something to be said for using fun to help get people more in tune with their day-to-day work. Unsurprisingly, in Pixar’s case, they take it much, much further. They offer more than 110 classes to employees that vary from job-related lessons in screenwriting and drawing to sculpting and self-defense. Everyone in the organization, from the receptionist to the President, is encouraged to take four


Far left: Cycling on an indoor bike lane at Google in the Netherlands. Left: Honeypot-shaped seating areas at Google’s Zurich office.

hours of class every week – on company time. “Pixar feels that everybody has unlimited potential and the more you exercise your brain, the better receptionist, technician or executive you’ll be,” continues Capodagli. For example, when the Dean of Pixar University (yes, they have a university) was asked why they would teach an accountant to draw, he replied that they didn’t just teach them how to draw. They taught them to be more observant. And every company would be more productive if their employees were more observant. AkzoNobel might not have its own university, but Veldhorst points to the company’s Wellness Checkpoint as being an important resource which not only enables employees all over the world to monitor their own health and well-being, but also allows him to quite literally take the temperature of the global workforce of 55,000. Essentially it involves filling in a lengthy questionnaire on a whole host of topics relating to individual medical health and lifestyle. “All the questions are somehow linked to wellbeing and it’s interesting for the employee because they receive a detailed report, based on their input, which gives useful tips and advice,” notes Veldhorst. “What makes it interesting for me as an occupational health professional is that it also talks about the balance between private life and work, stress at home and stress at work and asks a lot of questions on those subjects. It also enables me to run results on an aggregated level, say at a location or plant level, and I can obtain extremely useful insight into the health of the company and get different perspectives. We’ve been running it for two years now and participation at the moment is around 12 percent, but it’s gaining momentum all the time.” Obviously it’s in a company’s best interests to keep its workforce fit and healthy. In fact, it’s such a hot topic that a number of major corporations – all of them participants in January’s World Economic Forum in Davos – have formed the Workplace Wellness Alliance. It’s a consortium of global CEOs dedicated to measuring the link between employee wellness, engagement and productivity. The idea is that by applying metrics and best practices, the Alliance will enable

employees to achieve their full potential while making optimum contributions to their enterprises’ growth and success. Or in other words, healthy work environments are essential to a business’ bottom line. One UK survey alone, conducted in 2009, revealed that a staggering 40 million days are lost each year to workplace absence. Another study, this time from 2008, suggested that if organizations increased investment in a range of good workplace practices which relate to engagement by just 10 percent, they would increase profits by €1,700 ($2,400) per employee per year. But most employers are well aware of the benefits of ensuring that their employees are working in a safe and healthy environment. It’s what can be gained from going further – much further – that many companies either don’t subscribe to, or simply consider to be a total waste of time and money. Perhaps Lara Harding, Google’s UK People Programs Manager, can put forward a compelling case. “At Google, we know that health, family and well-being are an important aspect of Googlers’ lives,” she said in a 2010 interview. “We have also noticed that employees who are  happy and healthy, as well as respected and rewarded for their contributions,  demonstrate increased motivation and productivity. From both a work-life  balance, as well as a job satisfaction perspective, our programs work to ensure that Google is, and remains, an emotionally healthy place to work.” So health and well-being – which clearly translate into engagement and motivation – appear to be about far more than just looking after a person’s welfare. As Google, Pixar and many others have so successfully shown, there are huge benefits to be had from energizing your employees and getting them fired up creatively. All things considered, maybe companies shouldn’t confine their innovation to R&D. Because other areas, such as HR programs, could also benefit from a regular injection of imaginative thinking. Why bother? Well, author EM Forster perhaps put it most succinctly: “One person with passion is better than 40 people merely interested.” Now, where’s that onsite alpine ski slope?



WORDS Daniel Grafton PHOTOGRAPHY Lee Funnell

Modern coatings do far more than just add color to your wall. With technology advancing all the time, new functionality means that paint doesn’t just look good, it can make us feel good as well.




hen you smell paint, do you automatically associate it with something good, or something bad? Does it smell sweet or pungent? And does an unpleasant odor necessarily mean that it’s bad for your health? The good news is that 21st century technological innovations have made their way into modern-day paints, transforming very traditional products into high performance coatings designed for specific purposes – and with the person using them very much in mind. Nowadays, household paints are the result of highly sophisticated formulation technology and painstaking, innovative research. They have a better environmental profile, are easier to apply, leave less mess and make it easier to clean up, often using nothing stronger than water. And because they have low VOC (solvent) content, they also reduce the amount of emissions entering the atmosphere, which means there’s less impact on the environment and, ultimately, the human race. But despite all of this, consumers’ perception of the impact paints can have on well-being is not always so positive. Much of this can be explained by one simple thing – certain paint can temporarily leave a bit of a stench. However, according to David Brunt, AkzoNobel Decorative Paints’ Global Sustainability Products and Services Manager, odor is a highly subjective issue. “Paint today does not necessarily affect human health,” he says. “But to some consumers, a bad or pungent odor means a product is bad. The truth is, solvent has a sweet smell which masks other more acute smells. So our intention to remove solvent from our paints for environmental reasons can have a negative impact on odor. If you take it out, these acute smells can be revealed. You have to be aware that odor is an indicator, both of positive and negative things. It’s like eating a strong cheese – just because it smells strongly, doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t like the taste.”

We all know that odors give things a characteristic scent or smell. But reaction to odor is very much based on personal perception. And geography. “Aversion to smell is different from country to country,” reveals Brunt. “For example, what a German might find an appealing smell could well be very offensive for a Japanese person.” This is especially relevant in China, where odor and health have a strong significance. “Chinese people want to control the smell of their internal home environment as much as possible,” he continues. “In fact, it is so important to them that they will even move out of their houses while painting and drying takes place. That’s why our Chinese paints focus on low odor and some contain a green tea scent to help improve it.” Brunt adds that in Europe and the US, consumers want assurances that the paint they use on their children’s walls will not damage their health. “They might even move the children into a different room until the paint has dried completely. Our paint is safe when used correctly, with no damaging odors, but the smell sometimes leads the consumer to think otherwise.” To help investigate the subjectivity of this, AkzoNobel’s Decorative Paints business conducted an odor survey of its key paints. It involved consumers all over the world, who helped to determine which ones had the best odor. This included rating paint odor when it is in the can, when it is applied and after application. The product consistently rated the best was Ecosense, a low odor paint available in the UK with no added solvent and independently measured to have a 50 percent lower carbon footprint. “We want to reduce the impact of our paints, particularly if it impacts on the benefits perceived by consumers and the wider environment,” explains Brunt. “And this includes odors. We want to make odors neutral. In the minds of consumers, as our survey showed, low odor products provide reassurance that the product is a healthy product to use.” Our Decorative Paints business


This spread: Our Sikkens Alpha SanoProtex antibacterial paint can contribute to both lower infection occurrences and effective infection prevention programs. Sikkens Healthcare Services can also provide professional help when dealing with large institutional projects such as clinics and hospitals. They provide technical, functional and aesthetic expertise in the use of color in public spaces and its impact on productivity and well-being.

has developed a number of paints with a reduced odor. These include The Freshaire Choice in the US (which contains no VOCs), Bindoplast 7 in the Nordics – a region with a long history of demanding low odor paint – and the Dulux All in 1 range in China. So we’re agreed then. Odor is very subjective. But one thing which certainly isn’t, is the issue of emissions. Because what gets released into the atmosphere can, and ultimately does, have a big impact on human health – through the indirect creation of smog. That’s why there’s such a major global effort being made to reduce the amount of VOCs being emitted. And let’s face it, we’d all rather be breathing in clean air. “Countries, organizations and companies need to take a leadership position on this,” states Brunt. “France, for example, is looking to drive the agenda on higher air quality in Europe by imposing legislation regarding clean air in houses. AkzoNobel, as the world’s largest coatings company, is also taking the initiative with a drive to reduce emissions beyond legislation levels. We are committed, ethically, to doing the right things. One particular way in which we’re contrib-

uting to well-being is by having higher standards globally than any other paint company. Our base line of health and safety – from product stewardship to understanding the latest research on environmental impact and the subsequent impact on human well-being – is clearly ahead of many local competitors. Importantly, we’re also continuing to develop innovative products that can positively contribute to human well-being.” These new products include antibacterial paint used in hospitals to help kill dangerous bacteria (see side story) and the antiformaldehyde series of low odor paints in China, which pass the Chinese test for absorbing formaldehyde from indoor air. As good as these products are, they’re obviously not the be-all-andend-all to addressing the full range of well-being issues. But there can be no doubt that they’re playing their part. They are making an important contribution and their benefits are being fully recognized and appreciated by consumers all over the world, who are driving much of the demand for their introduction. Nobody can turn their nose up at that.



The latest developments in coatings technology have led to the launch of an array of products with innovative functionality, many of which wouldn’t look out of place in a futuristic movie. Admittedly, not all of them have a direct impact on our well-being, but AkzoNobel’s Sikkens Healthcare business recently introduced an antibacterial paint which does just that. Specifically designed for use in high risk areas – including hospitals and health centers, elderly care homes and doctors’ surgeries – Sikkens’ Alpha SanoProtex can help to reduce the likelihood of an outbreak of killer bacterial infections, including MRSA and E. coli, when combined with appropriate cleaning practices. “The paint was developed to meet the exacting requirements of the healthcare sector,” explains Sikkens Brand Manager, Martijn Berkman. “Hospitals and surgeries require the highest standards of cleanliness to avoid infection to staff, patients and visitors. Alpha SanoProtex has been found by numerous global assessors to combat seven key bacteria, including MRSA and E. coli.” Launched in 2010, Alpha SanoProtex uses a technology based on silver ions to kill microbial organisms before they have a chance to colonize surfaces such as walls and ceilings. “The silver ions work

quickly to ensure that bacteria don’t take hold of surfaces during their six to 24hour lifecycle,” continues Berkman. “If the bacteria don’t develop during this period, then they die.” The key ingredient is silver. Unlike other metals, even a very small amount of silver ions can be highly toxic to micro-organisms such as bacteria, but they’re harmless to humans. So only a small quantity is needed in the paint for it to work effectively. But how does the silver kill the bacteria? Time for a chemistry lesson. “Silver is well known for its antibacterial effect, but the actual mechanism is not so well understood,” explains Richard Barcock, AkzoNobel Decorative Coatings’ Global Category Technical Manager for Interior Walls. “Slow leaching of the silver ions penetrates the cell wall to disrupt a micro-organism’s metabolism, thus inhibiting enzyme growth. The advantage of silver is that, unlike other agents, it has several methods of achieving this, which means there is less chance of the bacteria adapting.” Another feature of the silver ions is the fact that they don’t leach out of the paint after extended cleaning of surfaces. “As you might imagine, cleaning protocols in hospitals are very strict,” Berkman goes on. “Intensive care wards need to be

cleaned at least twice a day with strong cleaning agents to avoid bacteria growth. It’s no good if the additives in the paint leach out over time, which can often happen when painted walls are cleaned with strong detergents. In fact, the silver ions become more active the more frequently they are cleaned.” Adds Barcock: “All of this helps contribute to the paint’s longevity. The non-leaching means the paint’s performance continues at the same high level over time.” Pretty impressive when you consider that the typical redecorating cycle for a hospital is three to five years. Alpha SanoProtex is more than just a smart paint, though. It’s a key product in the whole healthcare concept developed by Sikkens to ensure that the right coatings and colors are used in the right rooms in individual healthcare facilities around the world. “Coatings are chosen on a room-by-room basis to maximize patient and staff well-being,” notes Berkman, who was part of the team responsible for devising the concept. “Therapy, treatment and patient rooms all require different coatings and color schemes compared with public spaces such as receptions, waiting areas, corridors and restaurants. It’s all part of enhancing the physical and mental well-being of patients, staff and visitors.”


WORDS Andrea A. Dixon

Traditional satisfaction surveys have it all wrong. According to the Happy Planet Index, being content isn’t about having money and owning stuff. It’s more to do with long-term well-being and living a full life with less.


n a scale of one to ten, how happy are you? If you said 8.5 or above, you probably live in Costa Rica. According to the Happy Planet Index (HPI) – created by independent “think and do” tank the New Economics Foundation (nef) – Costa Rica is the highest scoring nation in their global study. Last carried out in 2008, they surveyed 99 percent of the world’s population, measuring the relationship between well-being, longevity and ecological efficiency. Surprisingly, Costa Rica was not an anomaly in the study, with nine of the top ten places being occupied by traditionally poor Latin America countries, at least in economic terms. So how do you measure happiness and satisfaction? Well, while the concept of contentment might be up for debate, the HPI claims that being happy is more than just having a smile on your face. To quote their website: “We use the term subjective well-being to capture its complexity.” They define well-being in terms of personal satisfaction: a social network (measured in both strength and size), relationship status, education, disability, material conditions (such as employment and income), autonomy and resiliency. They go on to describe well-being as a combination of individual vitality, meaningful opportunities, engaging activities, close relationships and a connectedness to a wider community as well as a strong pool of inner resources in order to deal with life’s challenges. While Latin American scores lead the way in the overall HPI, Western, Anglo-Saxon countries like Norway, Ireland and Denmark aren’t far behind sunny Costa Rica in terms of overall life satisfaction. But the real goal of the HPI is not to reveal the best place to live or the happiest place on Earth. If that was the case, we’d all be scrambling to move there. Statistician Nic Marks, one of the nef’s founders, says the HPI is all about asking people what they want. “Unsurprisingly, people all around the world say that what they want is happiness, for themselves, for their families, their children, their communities. OK, they think money is slightly important… but it’s not nearly as important as happiness… [or] love. We want to be healthy and live a full life. These seem to be natural human aspirations. Why are statisticians not measuring these? Why are we not thinking of the progress of nations in these terms, instead of just how much stuff we have?” So Marks and the other nef thinkers decided to do something about it. They studied the efficiency of nations to convert the planet’s resources into long and happy lives for its citizens. The report explains: “The HPI urges us to question what is really valuable in life. … happy and healthy lives are sought-after around the world…this should not be a privilege of the current generation… [but also] future generations.” While the HPI does not indicate the most developed country in the traditional sense, or the most environmentally-friendly, it combines all of these – a methodology for comparing a country’s progress towards the


goal of providing long-term well-being for all, without exceeding the limits of equitable resource consumption. In democratic, peaceful Costa Rica – a relative eye of calm in an oft-stormy region – 99 percent of their electricity comes from renewable sources (they combined their environment and energy ministries back in the 1970s). Forests cover twice as much land in the country as it did 20 years ago. Literacy and education are higher than the rest of the region and most of the world. And in 1949, they abolished their army, freeing up government spending for other worthwhile initiatives. And as nef’s Marks jokes: “They have that Latin vibe, don’t they?” But perhaps by living la pura vida (Costa Rican for knowing what’s important in life, literally: pure life), Latin Americans are showing that happiness and minimal consumption are possible. Mexican native Alejandro Ortega, a Digital Communications Specialist who works for AkzoNobel in the Netherlands, says that he isn’t too surprised by the HPI findings. While he acknowledges that poverty and drug crimes are high in Latin America, he says Latinos often have an “it could always be worse” attitude. The easy-going openness of the people is a key factor, along with a strong social and family connectedness. “They use humor to lighten everything and they don’t take themselves too seriously,” Ortega explains. “Look at the weather. You have paradise there – and mangoes are falling all the time.” He adds that varieties of delicious tropical fruit grow year-round in some parts of his country. “And if people don’t have to fight for a mango…” alluding to the fact that if basic needs are being met, for many, that’s enough. AkzoNobel’s Latin America Communications Director, Carlos Piazza, says that diversity is the norm in Brazil, while humor is just as important as in Mexico. “There are Jews and Muslims living together, negotiating goods in the same neighborhoods. Brazil is big and full of diversity and good humor predominates, despite the adversities. The most impressive quality of Brazilians is their capacity to help people in bad situations. They share their miseries, they share the little they have with one another; this simple act transforms simple people into great citizens. This is the basis of their happiness: they can share different cultures, realities, beliefs, religions and customs to create a real melting pot.”

Brazil, he adds, is also a country of contrasts. “You can find very rich and very poor people in the same community. And both are very happy. Creativity and adversity walk hand-in-hand and Brazilians today are recognized as the most creative people in the world. They do not follow rules by the book, they try to transform everything. They are always challenging and delivering astonishingly brand new ideas.” On the happiness front, the HPI agrees. “Once our basic material needs are comfortably met, more consumption tends to make little difference to our well-being.” The HPI was designed exactly for that reason: to provide a “radical departure from our current obsession with GDP,” and provide a new way of measuring progress and sustainability. GDP was never measured 60 years ago. As Nic Marks points out: “In World War II, we needed to produce a lot of stuff. And indeed, we were so successful at producing stuff that we destroyed a lot of Europe, and we had to rebuild it afterwards…so our national accounting system became fixated on what we produce.” Yet despite all this production and consumption, basic needs are still not being met in many places. As Robert Kennedy once said: “The gross national product measures everything except what makes life worthwhile.” Nef asserts that growth is only one strategy for achieving prosperity. “Rather than pursuing growth at all costs, leaders should be striving to foster well-being and sustainability, even if detrimental to growth.” Yet despite the global focus on growth, there is still major economic disparity between wealthy nations and impoverished ones, and between rich and poor people in wealthy nations. Marks and the HPI team don’t claim to know what a happy planet looks like. But they know it doesn’t take the consumption of four planet Earths (like the UAE and US per capita consumption) to get there. “The thing we have to think about,” Marks contends, “is that the future might not be North American or Western European. It might be Latin American. And the challenge, really, is to pull the global average up. That’s what we need to do. And if we’re going to do that, we need to pull countries from the bottom. And then we’re starting to create a happy planet.”


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Photography: Lionel Derimais

AkzoNobel is the largest global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals. We supply industries and consumers worldwide with innovative products and are passionate about developing sustainable answers for our customers. Our portfolio includes well known brands such as Dulux, Sikkens, International and Eka. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, we are a Global Fortune 500 company and are consistently ranked as one of the leaders in the area of sustainability. With operations in more than 80 countries, our 55,000 people around the world are committed to excellence and delivering Tomorrow’s Answers Today™. © 2011 Akzo Nobel N.V. All rights reserved. “Tomorrow’s Answers Today” is a trademark of Akzo Nobel N.V.



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