Interview: “Carbon footprint analysis is becoming increasingly important

Climate protection issues are playing an increasingly important role in the paints and coatings sector. We spoke to Rachel O’Connor, Managing Director at General Paints Group, about the development of architectural paints and technical innovations.

Rachel O’Connor: "The architectrual coatings industry has gone from solvent-based to almost entirely water-based over the last thirty years. Image source: General Paints Group. 

Climate protection is becoming an important factor for consumers when making purchasing decisions. To what extent do you take the footprint into account when developing binders/selecting raw materials for architectural paints?

Rachel O’Connor: Climate protection and reducing the total footprint of architectural coating products is being achieved through a systematic approach to the measurement of carbon emissions and by setting targets for continuous improvement. We have goals in place to actively work on sustainability governance with indicators for carbon management, energy management, sustainablie transport, pollution prevention, waste management, biodiversy and water management.

There is strong merit in using high quality raw materials to produce durable coatings, having a positive impact on product lifecycle. Higher durability coatings require less frequent repainiting, thus avoiding greater material usage. The useful lifespan of substrates is extended due to protective coatings, hence coating performance is high on our agenda when it comes to selecting raw materials.

The architectrual coatings industry has gone from solvent-based to almost entirely water-based over the last thirty years, resulting in huge savings from solvent emmissions. Using water-based polymers allows us to replace higher carbon containing solvent-based materials which also contain high levels of harmful VOCs.

We continue to work with our suppliers and on our internal operations to reduce the effects of our carbon footprint. Many raw materials within the coating industry come from or are derivatives from natural resources, and with this in mind progressive raw material suppliers are committed to using these limited natural resources responsibly. Our raw material suppliers openly share their sustainability reports, achievements, and their commitment to reducing carbon emissions, be it through raw material choice or eliminating waste and emissions within manufacturing facilities. This transparency can often contribute to raw material selection. We are also seeing developments in renewable resins, plant based alternatives with no origination from chemically produced momomers.

While we strive to use raw materials that contribute positively to product footprint, we are dependent on raw material suppliers’ commitment. Carbon footprint analysis is becoming increasingly important, the more data suppliers share on this topic, the more attractive they will become to customers.

What technological trends do you expect to influence architectural coatings in the next five years?

O’Connor: The architectural coatings industry is already predominantly water-based, the remaining solvent-based portion will likely shift to water-based. We are also likely to see increased movement towards natural and biobased raw materials. Biocidal protection, both in can and on substrate, is an increasingly challenging issue for today‘s formulators. BPR has introduced restrictions on the use of biocides within the paint industry, leading to demand for biocide free coatings. The challenge and concern is maintaining standard protection of both plant and product if moving to such technologies.

Finally, consensus and standardisation on the total footprint of a product would simplify and demistify for consumers and manufacturers alike.

These answers are part of a longer article that can be found in the European Coatings Journal 01/2021. The issue is available digitally in our 360° online library.

Event tip

The topic of sustainability is also in the focus of the EC Webforum Green Deal on March 23. In this virtual forum, experts report on challenges and opportunities and commit to the Green Deal.


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