(MENAFN - Arab News) The organized Saudi corporate sector has remained unaffected by the strict enforcement of new labor laws. This is particularly so because leading international companies in the Kingdom, by and large, adhere to local laws. The implementation of the Nitaqat system in particular has hardly impacted them adversely.
One such international company is Jotun, which has consistently and strongly pursued its commitment to Saudization like some other major business entities.
In fact, "the new labor laws have not affected us because as an international company we abide by local laws at all of our operational locations," David Wright, MD, Jotun Saudia Company Ltd, told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
The company is an offshoot of the Norwegian giant Jotun Paints.
"We are very careful to protect and preserve our position and standing in the Kingdom and our Saudization rate is now approaching 40 percent," he said.
"Our commitment to Saudization is very strong. We offer good opportunities for Saudi nationals and invest a lot of time in training and preparing new employees to work within the Jotun environment," he said.
When asked for the estimated size of the Saudi paint market, Wright said: "A report last week indicated that the Middle East is one of the fastest growing paint markets in the world with an annual growth rate of around five to 10 percent. This is very positive considering the economy that is increasingly becoming global. The report estimates that the GCC market will reach 3 billion by 2017, with Saudi Arabia accounting for 50 percent of it."
Wright said Jotun considered its corporate responsibility (CR) very seriously and it is implemented in a number of ways.
"Jotun pledges to conduct business in an ethical manner and accordingly we have signed up to the Transparency International Norge/Norway agreement and UN Global Compact. We support both these organizations proactively in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption."
Jotun has also moved CR up the agenda, Wright said, adding: "Our expectations regarding CR are linked to the corporate core values of loyalty, care, respect and boldness, which run strongly through our organization. Because of this we do a lot of work in the community. For example, as part of Jotun's global initiative to bring color into children's lives, we recently painted the entire premises of the Hope Center for Exceptional Needs Children in Jeddah - Saudi Arabia's first and only multi-lingual center for disabled children licensed by the Ministry of Social Affairs."
The Hope Center's buildings were painted in colors, especially chosen from the Jotashield Extreme color range. The application of the new coat of paint adds beauty to the center's appearance, and the "unique Jotun technology" will reduce temperatures at the center.
Along with its 2x Heat Reflective feature, Jotashield Extreme is guaranteed to provide 10-year protection against the toughest climate conditions, while other features of Jotashield Extreme include 2x UV protected colors, low dirt pickup, anti-carbonation and sustainability.
"As well as the Hope Center initiative, we are currently working with orphanages in Makkah. Jotun is always looking for great opportunities where we can give back to the community in Saudi Arabia," Wright added.
Jotun Green Steps is an initiative launched globally by Jotun to strengthen its environmental policies. The objective is to develop environmental initiatives related to its business.
"We have a number of approaches to this. One area is to remove hazardous chemicals from our paints. Many years ago, things like lead were removed from paint but it is an ongoing process and two years ago Jotun stopped selling paint containing coal tar due to the potential hazard to health of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons contained in the raw material," he said.
"We are currently phasing out chromate pigments due to the risks to workers during the manufacture of these pigments and we will continue to work to reduce the impact of our products on health. Also, as part of Jotun Green Steps, we have more efficient coatings, such as Jotashield Extreme, designed to lower the temperature inside buildings, reducing electricity consumption. We also have low emission products that reduce the release of harmful greenhouse gases to the atmosphere," Wright added.
In the marine coatings market where Jotun claims to be the number one global supplier, "we have an amazing initiative called SPC where we use ship speed calculations to enable vessels to operate at optimal efficiency when using the Jotun coating system."
Within the scope of Jotun Green Steps, Wright said: "We recycle and reuse all our factory wastewater and air conditioner condensate; we don't use electric light, instead we use solar tubes to light our factories by sunlight.
All these work toward reducing energy consumption and the carbon footprint of Jotun in Saudi Arabia."
About its latest product, he said, a lot of work went into the Lady Design before its launch in Saudi Arabia, including extensive market research with focus groups and customers to find out what people really wanted. The information was then reviewed in consultation with Mona Hussein, well-known interior designer who helped us to develop Jotun Lady Design. The ideas that came from the customers were then turned into the concepts, which were launched earlier this year, Wright said.
Many commercial premises in Jeddah have their exteriors finished in white paint, but now metallic tiles are all the rage.
Asked how Jotun's sales of exterior paint finishes have been affected by this new trend, he said: "In fact, this trend has actually worked to our advantage. Jotun not only manufactures paint; we also manufacture powder coatings and the exterior metallic tiles are quite often coated with these products."
Wright said: "We take recruitment and people's development very seriously and Jotun has an amazing worldwide academy to make full use of Saudis to improve everyone's hard and soft skills."
He added: "Our values of loyalty, care, respect and boldness are what Jotun is built on."