Guest editorial: Towards a sustainable future


By Charlotte Rahbek, Group HSE & Risk Director, Hempel
Operating in a responsible and sustainable manner is top of the corporate agenda for most companies – to safeguard their future and the future of generations to come. Whilst the “here-and-now” is important, progressive companies have their sights firmly fixed on future-proofing their organisations and impacting positively on the environment in which they operate.
At Hempel, we are committed to aligning our operations with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As a signatory to the UN Global Compact, we promote the United Nations’ principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and have integrated these into our sustainability programmes. This commitment extends throughout our entire value chain from the responsible sourcing of raw materials to employee development programmes.
To further this aim, in 2018, we established our Sustainability Excellence strategy which now underpins our overarching Journey to Excellence (2016-2020). Sustainability Excellence encompasses five key goals that have been integrated into all our global operations and include: ensuring a healthy and safe work environment for all employees; phasing out red raw materials (hazardous substances); equal opportunities; reducing energy consumption and waste; and an extensive anti-corruption programme.
One of our biggest successes to date is that at the end of 2018, we had completely stopped the manufacture and sale of all coal tar products and made excellent progress on phasing out other red raw materials that contain alkylphenol ethoxylates. In total, an impressive 35 red raw materials were removed from our processes in 2018. This was no mean feat.
Other achievements have included our success in helping our customers reduce their environmental footprint through the supply of more environmentally friendly products, solutions and services. More than 60 per cent of the energy we consume is from electricity and following a commitment across the regions, we have reduced the kilowatt hours we consume to produce one litre of paint by one per cent. At first glance this seems insignificant, but with 1,600 litres of paint being produced every minute, the savings soon add up. We did this by introducing out-of-hours shutdown procedures, replacing equipment with more energy-efficient equivalents and optimising systems and machinery.
To reduce waste, our regional offices are moving ahead with initiatives that include optimising the use of raw materials, improving wastewater treatment and solvent recovery, as well as working with suppliers to mitigate packaging waste. We now have verified data from our 28 factory sites and R&D centres and we are using this to benchmark waste reduction as we move into 2019.
The future is bright
Our world is changing and ‘adding value’ is no longer just about profit and improving the bottom line. We must demonstrate to our customers, our employees and all our stakeholders that we are committed to operating in an ethical, responsible and encouraging way. The United Nations has thrown down the gauntlet and it is our role – and the role of others in our industry – to prove that we are equal to the challenge.
About Hempel
As a world-leading supplier of trusted coating solutions, Hempel is a global company with strong values, working with customers in the protective, marine, decorative, container and yacht industries. Hempel factories, R&D centres and stock points are established in every region.

Across the globe, Hempel’s coatings protect surfaces, structures and equipment. They extend asset lifetimes, reduce maintenance costs and make homes and workplaces safer and more colourful. Hempel was founded in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1915. It is proudly owned by the Hempel Foundation, which ensures a solid economic base for the Hempel Group and supports cultural, social, humanitarian and scientific purposes around the world.


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