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Painting the Future: Mark Kwok

Paint. It all started many millennia ago with coloured earth, a sticky liquid and curious humans. They wanted a way to express themselves. So they turned to clay, ground up insects, minerals, coloured rocks and more to make their mark.

Mark Kwok, President of Akzonobel China

Now, in the 21st century, while creative expression is just as important, it’s luckily much simpler to pop into a paint shop and have the colour specialist mix up the perfect shade of beige – or Millennial Pink or Brave Ground – for the office walls.

As it stands, the global paints and coatings market is estimated to be worth US$223 billion by 2025. It’s a vital part of various segments of the global economy, providing protective and enhancing finishes to products in several end-use markets. Translation: it’s absolutely indispensable.

More than 200 years ago, AkzoNobel harnessed the power of paint to make its mark on the world, managing to exceed even its own expectations. “We have been making paints and coatings since 1792, and we have never stopped pushing the boundaries on what paint can achieve,” says AkzoNobel China President for China and North Asia Mark Kwok.

“We are already delivering products and services far beyond our own expectations and the imaginations of our customers. And now, we must go beyond generations to protect our planet, as our industry is part of a global ecosystem.”

AkzoNobel is a Dutch multinational company with a world-class portfolio of brands, including Dulux, International, Sikkens and Interpon, which are trusted around the globe.

It’s also regarded as the most sustainable paint company, taking steps each and every day towards a greener future by empowering its people, reducing its impact on the planet and continually innovating to deliver more sustainable solutions to its customers.

Sustainability is at the core of Akzonobel and is the DNA of our business.

“In 2020, we announced our new ‘People. Planet. Paint.’ approach to sustainability, ensuring that we remain a leader in our field and maximise our value for all stakeholders,” Mark says. “This vision helps us safeguard our future and that of our planet. Sustainability is at the core of AkzoNobel and is the DNA of our business.”

As a leader in the paints and coatings industry, innovation is the cornerstone of AkzoNobel’s success. The company has five technology centres and 70 laboratories around the globe – the Songjiang Technology Centre in Shanghai is a key component of its research and development network. Its team of scientists work closely with customers to develop sustainable solutions across the spectrum.

“To us, innovation isn’t just limited to products. It also incorporates processes, services and ways of thinking, especially when it comes to all things digital,” Mark explains, noting it even extends to AkzoNobel’s partnerships.


“Wanhua Chemical Group is one of our long-term strategic partners. We have shared a long history together, particularly in our paints business. It is committed to working with us closely, helping to provide leading solutions to our customers in the area of sustainable innovation.”

Despite the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, AkzoNobel has been busy making strides for a healthier planet. In China, all four of its decorative paint plants made the switch to manufacturing water-based products.

It’s also been making investments in developing powder coatings that are free of volatile organic compounds to align with stringent environmental requirements in China.

“Last year, a breakthrough innovation, which uses UV light, oxygen and renewable raw materials to make resins, was unlocked by the research we conducted in collaboration with the Dutch Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium,” Mark points out.

“It’s a great example of how AkzoNobel uses the power of innovation to reimagine a new world of possibilities for the paints and coatings industry, while also making the world more livable and sustainable.”

And it’s doing it more and more with the help of others. In an industry first, the company launched the ‘Paint the Future’ campaign in Brazil in 2019 with the sole purpose of seeking out the most innovative and sustainable solutions by way of a collaborative network of local startups.

This year, it is partnering with Plug and Play China for a challenge focused on three key areas: digital customer experience, smart supply chain and towards zero waste. “This initiative is a large part of AkzoNobel’s innovation footprint,” Mark says.

“Paint the Future acts as a means for startups, academia, research institutes and suppliers to collaborate, test, launch and scale revolutionary solutions together with AkzoNobel. And we are thrilled to launch this challenge here this year with an aim to accelerate innovation in the paints and coatings industry by bringing together China’s brightest minds.”

Knowing that innovation happens by bringing together people from all different backgrounds and walks of life, AkzoNobel champions diversity in the workplace. “Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of what we do,” Mark reveals.

“We currently employ more than 32,000 talented people from all over the world, and we want to continue attracting talent from across all demographics, ensuring our workforce reflects the societies and markets where we do business.

“We also believe it’s important that our management teams reflect the diversity of our total workforce because diverse and inclusive teams are better able to understand our customers and innovate to meet their current and future needs.”

It’s an effort that continues to pay off in more ways than one. Not only is AkzoNobel a stand-out for its innovative solutions, but it also earned Top Employer certification in five key markets last year: China, the UK, Brazil, the US and the Netherlands.

“For the past two years I’ve spent in this role as President, I’m proudest of the fact that AkzoNobel China has won the Top Employer award for eight consecutive years,” Mark beams.

“As we look forward, we will continue onto our ‘Grow and Deliver’ strategy, which serves to build a strong foundation and positive momentum to create a fit-for-purpose organisation, while increasing profitable sales and share in markets, and reclaiming our place as the industry reference for paints and coatings.”

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