Focus on sustainability: PPCJ speaks to PPG’s Vice President of Global Sustainability

27 June 2024

PPG’s recently appointed Vice President, Global Sustainability, Peter Votruba-Drzal, spoke to PPCJ about his initial observations in the role, his focus areas moving forward and the challenges facing PPG related to sustainability 

Q. Sustainability is such a huge topic. How do you go about tackling the issue in such a large company? Coming into this role, what will be the first areas you focus on?

A. Focusing on sustainability in its broadest sense is core to PPG’s purpose – we protect and beautify the world. Now more than ever, sustainability can no longer be a bolt-on or optional activity, nor is it solely driven by dedicated sustainability teams. It needs to be integrated into everything companies do and every business decision we make.

One of the first areas of focus is partnering across the PPG enterprise to further incorporate sustainability and productivity advantages into our product offerings. Innovating products and processes that help mitigate climate change and solve our customers’ biggest challenges is a key component to how we’ll ultimately grow. We’re also focused on driving environmental excellence throughout our value chain, particularly related to increasing circularity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and waste.

Q. What are the current prominent trends in sustainability in the coatings industry? Are there any upcoming trends in sustainability that you think will become a major focus in the future?

A. There are a few areas where our customers are focused right now when it comes to sustainably advantaged products. Over the past decade, there has been growing demand for water-based paints and coatings that have lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). More recently, there is also a growing focus on circularity and bio-based and renewable raw materials. While the availability of these materials isn’t as reliable as traditional sources, the industry is exploring alternatives to fossil-fuel derived ingredients, such as bio-based resins and solvents.

PPG is also focused on making the paint application process more sustainable for our customers, by reducing paint overspray and waste, reducing baking times and temperatures, and utilising digital tools to make customer processes more efficient. One example is PPG LINQ, an end-to-end digital solution designed to increase throughput, minimise human error and increase efficiency during the entire automotive refinish repair process.

Another item that customers are asking for is environmental product declarations (EPDs) and life cycle assessments (LCAs). In 2023, PPG received third-party certification of our Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) process by the only qualified certification body in the U.S. By standardising our process, we’re able to increase product transparency for our customers and publish a higher volume of EPDs at a rate three times faster than the previous process. These EPDs are allowing our customers and consumers to make more informed decisions based on the environmental performance and benefits of products.


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Q. What are the main challenges facing PPG in terms of sustainability and manufacturing paints and coatings? And what are the main sustainability challenges facing PPG in terms of a 360 degree picture, such as company infrastructure, electricity use, etc?

A. At PPG, we’re focused on reducing the emissions of our operations and our value chain emissions, guided by our 2030 science-based targets.

Reducing GHG emissions from our value chain is our most direct and impactful means of contributing to the low carbon transition. To meet our 2030 goals, PPG is partnering with NextEra Energy to develop a decarbonisation roadmap to achieve a 50% GHG emissions reduction in our scope 1 and 2 emissions footprint by 2030. The roadmap includes PPG energy efficiency investments in our manufacturing facilities and increased use of renewable energy to replace our current sources of electrical energy supply. The key components of the renewable energy roadmap include on-site and off-site renewable energy installations and the purchase of renewable energy via power purchase agreements.

Our waste intensity is another focus area. In 2023, it increased by 7% compared to the 2019 baseline. 45% of process waste was either reused, recycled or recovered. We’re working with 25 PPG sites that generate the most waste, developing detailed waste inventories and using root cause analysis to identify opportunities to reduce sources of waste. This effort is aligned to our 2030 ambition to reduce our waste intensity by 25% vs. a 2019 baseline.

Q. Do you notice a difference in sustainability trends and focuses in different geographic regions?

A. Yes, sustainability trends differ by geographic region, however, products that last longer, use less energy, generate less waste, or use less water is valued globally. Adoption of sustainably advantaged products is mixed across industries, regions and businesses that PPG serves because it is highly influenced by the approval cycle of the specific industry. For example, adoption of sustainably advantaged products in our architectural coatings business in Europe is one of the fastest examples that we’ve seen. A short development and commercialisation cycle, in combination with collective pressure from customers, regulators and green building certification requirements, is accelerating adoption of sustainably advantaged architectural products across both trade and consumer segments. To support and further scale adoption of sustainably advantaged products, we recently launched a marketing strategy in Europe called “Tomorrow Included,” which will commercialise and promote new products that offer sustainable improvements like reduction in carbon footprint, with the same performance customers have come to expect from PPG.

Adoption of sustainably advantaged solutions is also widespread in the automotive industry, catalysed by the move to electric vehicles and the desire to reduce paint shop energy consumption. One example of this is the PPG ENVIROPRIME™ EPIC300 line of electrocoat products, which cure at a lower temperature. These features are especially valuable to manufacturers that produce electric vehicles, which require heavier metal supports, resulting in longer required coating cure times. Regardless of whether the model is electric or a traditional combustion engine, PPG Enviroprime products help automotive customers use less energy and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions while improving the quality of their finished goods.


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Q. PPG has released its sustainability report. What are the key areas it focuses on and what are the biggest takeaways from the report?

A. PPG maintains a strong commitment to transparency. This year’s report continues our ongoing journey of accountability toward our sustainability goals.

In 2023, we became the first U.S.-based coatings manufacturer to receive validation from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for our 2030 scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. PPG also announced additional 2030 targets, which focus on driving sales of sustainably advantaged products while reducing environmental impacts and improving social impacts for our stakeholders. We’re committed to supporting our customers and their biggest sustainability challenges, and we’re proud to have achieved 44% of our sales from sustainably advantaged products in 2023.

In addition, on the social side, we completed more than 500 Colorful Communities projects since the introduction of the programme in 2015, bringing colour and brightness to public spaces around the world.

Q. What do you think will be PPG’s biggest sustainability challenges going forward?

A. Customers are interested in sustainably advantaged solutions, but when developing new products, customers expect improved performance attributes and benefits in addition to sustainable advantages. It will be necessary to incorporate all these benefits to create mutual value with the customer.

Another challenge will be raw material availability, especially in the bio-based and renewable material areas. While renewable or low carbon raw materials are of interest to customers, their availability, cost and performance characteristics may not always match those of conventional materials. At PPG, we’re partnering across the supply chain to ensure these new raw materials will not impact the performance and application characteristics that our customers expect from our products.

Regulatory compliance with substances of concern will also continue to be a focus for the paints and coatings industry. PPG operates in over 70 countries, and evolving regional regulations will require us to be agile in localisation of our products to deliver market winning products to our customers.

Lastly, reducing our customers’ scope 1 and 2 emissions in their paint processes will continue to be a focus. Partnership and collaboration will be required to innovate with our customers and deliver new and innovative solutions in colour, performance and application quality that they expect from paints and coatings.

PPG recently released its latest sustainability report, which can be viewed here:

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