PPG sees strong sustainability demand pull for coatings, race to adapt to new processes – exec

Joseph Chang


NEW YORK (ICIS)–US-based coatings producer PPG is seeing robust demand for sustainable products from customers, some of which rely on new, more energy efficient processes, said an executive on Monday.

“Across the board there is strong pull… because when you look at [our customers’] narrative to the consumer, everybody is using sustainable advantage as a way to move market share,” said Peter Votruba-Drzal, vice president, Global Sustainability at PPG.

“The challenge is to move with the speed and agility that’s required from customer industries. Large, mature industries are transforming right in front of us – the powertrain (EV) transformation in automotive, for example. The same holds when you look at how they will ultimately paint cars in the future,” he added.

Votruba-Drzal spoke to ICIS at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

The time to get new, more sustainable products to market varies by industry, from being relatively quick – a matter of months – on the architectural coatings side, to longer for automotive, marine, aerospace and packaging, he pointed out.

In the marine sector, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is targeting a 20-30% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030.

“Marine coatings have a lot of sustainability benefits that are being pulled by the industry. The introduction of non-toxic anti-fouling technologies plus the benefits of fouling resistance which improves fuel efficiency over time, helps [shippers] meet their carbon emissions goals and reduces their cost of operation,” said Votruba-Drzal.

On 5 June, PPG announced a collaboration with digital maritime sustainability platform RightShip to foster the development and adoption of sustainable marine solutions.

PPG has a biocide-free silicone hull coating that helps vessels achieve up to 20% power savings and up to 35% lower GHG emissions versus traditional antifouling coatings, according to the company.

In most cases, simply introducing a more sustainable product is not enough to warrant a price premium, he pointed out.

“Our customer typically requires improved performance – lower operating cost, less waste, energy efficiency – in addition to the sustainable benefit. We can partner with customers and create mutual value so that we both partake in the financial benefits,” said Votruba-Drzal.

However, in other areas such as Europe’s architectural coatings market, consumers are willing to pay more for a more sustainable solution with the same performance, he added.

Greener specifications, such as from builders of commercial real estate, are also driving demand for more sustainable products with lower carbon footprints, as building owners seek to achieve certain levels of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications, he said.

“If we’re working with a coil coatings customer and can provide a low carbon footprint solution, they win market share in the building,” said Votruba-Drzal.

Coil coating is a continuous, automated process for coating metals prior to fabrication.

“In the coil industry, a fascinating transformation has been happening”, and only in the past two years or so, the executive said.

Coil coatings operations are moving from using football field-length ovens fired by natural gas, to a much more compact electron beam system of around 30 yards in length, he explained.

“You eliminate all of the burning of the fossil fuel and carbon emissions, as it runs off electricity which can be renewable power,” said Votruba-Drzal.

“Here is a mature industry of 50-plus years that used to be heavily focused on operational throughput costs on the technology side. Now suddenly all these formulations are changing into electron beam curing. And so it resets the opportunity for market share gains,” he added.

PPG in May 2023 introduced 2030 sustainability goals, including a 50% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions (from operations and purchased energy) and a 30% reduction in Scope 3 emissions (mostly from purchased raw materials) from a 2019 base, validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

Source: PPG

As of its May 2024 update, it has achieved 10% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions, and a 12% reduction in Scope 3 emissions. PPG has also assessed 97% of key suppliers against sustainability and social responsibility criteria.

Scope 1 and 2 emissions account for only 4% of PPG’s total carbon footprint. Further reductions to Scope 1 and 2 will primarily come from replacing motors and equipment on mixers, and using more renewable power. The bulk comes from Scope 3 emissions, with the primary components being raw materials, and how paint shops use PPG’s products, said the executive.

Often the location of a supplier’s facility plays a key role in the carbon footprint of the products coming out of that site, he pointed out.

“You can have a material made by a manufacturer that has operations in Asia as well as in other regions, that tie into very different electrical grids. And how green that grid is, basically impacts the carbon footprint associated with that product,” explained Votruba-Drzal.

With global operations, PPG can also provide the same product at different levels of carbon footprint, depending on where it makes it, and ships it from, he added.

PPG also uses recycled and bio-based raw materials in certain formulations. Its Mexico coatings company Comex uses recycled tires as a filler for waterproof roof coatings.

Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (R-PET), acrylics, elastomers, polyurethanes and polyolefins can all be incorporated into coatings, he noted.

“This is an emerging space of circularity where getting the scale matters,” said Votruba-Drzal, who pointed to partnerships between companies to develop new technologies and ecosystems.

Interview article by Joseph Chang


Global News + ICIS Chemical Business (ICB)

See the full picture, with unlimited access to ICIS chemicals news across all markets and regions, plus ICB, the industry-leading magazine for the chemicals industry.

Contact us

Partnering with ICIS unlocks a vision of a future you can trust and achieve. We leverage our unrivalled network of industry experts to deliver a comprehensive market view based on independent and reliable data, insight and analytics.

Contact us to learn how we can support you as you transact today and plan for tomorrow.