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Following on from her recent appointment as Executive Vice President and Head of Decorative at Hempel, PPCJ spoke to Ana Henriques, who joins the coatings company straight from multinational brewing giant AB InBev, to see what fresh perspectives she can bring to the world of coatings
Q: Moving from AB InBev to Hempel is quite a career change! What inspired the move and what do you think your experience in the beverage industry will bring to the world of coatings?
A. In previous leadership positions, I enjoyed and succeeded in taking up challenges that were quite unique and pushed the boundaries, such as leading Health & Wellness businesses for PepsiCo and non-alcoholic beverages for ABInbev, the largest brewer in the world. Here at Hempel, which is traditionally known for ships’ paints, I am leaning into this strength and experience by leading the Decorative segment, which in 2022 accounted for 36% of the company’s revenue.
Hempel owns some incredible Decorative brands – including luxury paint and wallpaper brand, Farrow & Ball, and mid-market brands like Crown Paints in the UK, Wattyl in Australia and New Zealand and Hempel Decorative in the Middle East, as well as private-label brands, J.W. Ostendorff and Renaulac. Although the beverage industry clearly differs in terms of product offering from the coatings industry, my experience in managing broad brand portfolios, each with their own special identities, highlights the synergies at play. I look forward to applying my wealth of experience to Hempel, to grow and develop the Deco brands we nurture around the globe, together with a very talented team.
"My experience has taught me that Sustainability is not just lifted by one department in a company, but rather a group effort owned by all. It is a fundamental business imperative if we want to be customer-centric."
Q. What attracted you to Hempel?
A. Hempel is a values-driven company and I was convinced from early in the process that the Hempel culture was one that aligned with the impact I also want to have in the world. Hempel is wholly owned by the Hempel Foundation, a philanthropic foundation with a focus on empowering children to learn, making coatings more efficient and sustainable, and sustaining biodiversity.
It’s a really motivating factor to know that profits we generate at Hempel are contributing to philanthropic work around the world. The better the performance of Hempel, the more dividends are paid to the Foundation.
In addition, I was impressed by Hempel’s products and brand portfolio and the commitment to sustainability that Hempel has as a company. It inspires me to become part of a transformational journey – not just in terms of growth, but also growing in a responsible way, decoupling business impact from our environmental footprint.
Q. What will be the first thing/s you focus on in your new role in the decorative coatings segment?
A. In my position as Executive Vice President and Head of Decorative, I am excited to lead over 2000 Hempel colleagues across the globe.
I’ve already had the pleasure of visiting my Farrow & Ball and Crown colleagues in the UK, JWO colleagues in Germany and will be off to Australia, France and the Middle East to visit the Wattyl, Renaulac and Hempel brand teams in the coming weeks. These site visits are combined with customer, own store and stockists visits.
Learning a new business involves a lot of listening and I am committed to listening to the many talented new colleagues I have around the world. As I listen and absorb new information, forge new relationships and develop an understanding of our industry, I will begin to align those learnings with our ambitions. Only then will the direction-setting begin.
Q. Sustainability is a huge global issue for all industries. Is there anything that you learned in the beverage industry that you want to apply to the coatings industry?
A. My experience has taught me that Sustainability is not just lifted by one department in a company, but rather a group effort owned by all. It is a fundamental business imperative if we want to be customer-centric.
I am impressed with Hempel’s level of maturity in its sustainability efforts. We have a strategic framework called Futureproof that puts sustainability at the heart of our business. The Futureproof framework outlines the actions we’re taking to drive reductions in our CO2 emissions, move away from hazardous raw materials and radically reduce waste.
Hempel’s emissions reduction targets are approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). We have committed to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 90% from a 2019 base year and to halve absolute Scope 3 GHG emissions by 2030 from a 2019 base year.
Even Hempel’s credit facilities (€1.5bn) are linked to four sustainability targets. I think that’s a great proof point to walking the talk.
Q. Likewise, supply chain logistics must have been a huge factor for AB InBev. Is there anything that you think the coatings industry can learn from the beverage industry?
A. In the beverages industry, business and brands were good at learning from each other and optimising based on best practices. I see an opportunity to ensure that the Decorative business can maximise the power of the entire Hempel value-chain and vice versa.
In addition, digitisation has been a critical enabler to address points of friction and better serve customers – this is already a top agenda item at Hempel and there is a lot we can learn and continue to optimise.
Q. Are there any other global trends that you think are cross-industry, that you will be able to have a fresh outlook on for the coatings industry?
A. There’s a movement towards more sustainable products and healthy homes. Our Decorative brands are also embracing these market trends, by having a focus on sourcing and formulations. Low VOCs and water-based paints are now product claims that conscious consumers are seeking on the can.
Paint can also serve a functional purpose in a space. After the COVID-19 pandemic, a focus on clean and hygienic public places came to the forefront. For example, hospitals and education facilities are now seeking antibacterial properties in their paints, not just aesthetic coatings.
Q. What do you think are the main challenges and opportunities in the decorative coatings segment at the moment?
A. I spent three years working in China and experienced a digital ecosystem 20 years’ ahead of the Western world. I am looking forward to driving further development of our digital capabilities in e-commerce, in a sustainable way.
We also have opportunities for growing our brands into new geographies and increasing our customer-base worldwide. For that, we see an increasing demand for water-based products due to their lower environmental impact, expanding our e-commerce efforts to meet our customers’ needs in a frictionless and personalised manner and looking to innovation to bring new benefits that solve day to day challenges.
Q. And finally, are you excited about the move to Denmark? Have you visited the country much before?
A. I am thrilled to move to Denmark. I’ve lived all over the world, but never before in the Nordics. Scandinavian culture is renowned for its focus on a balanced, high-quality lifestyle and Denmark has famously topped the charts as the world’s happiest country, so it already featured high on my list of possible places to live.
I have a young son, so the idea of an active, outdoor lifestyle really appeals to me and my family. We’re certainly looking forward to embracing Danish culture: riding bicycles and getting out into nature come rain or shine and learning the language.
I was tickled when I heard the Danish saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. One of the first purchases I made when I arrived in Copenhagen was a proper raincoat. And I have already put it to good use in the two weeks I have been in the country!