Protection of People and the Environment

Environmental protection

Environmental protection and the efficient use of resources are fundamental drivers guiding the actions of Covestro as an energy-intensive company, both in terms of our own business activities with substantial energy demand and the development of innovative product solutions. We continually strive to use materials and energy more efficiently and to reduce emissions and waste generated. Our innovative products also support the efforts of our customers in many industries such as the automotive, construction, wind turbine operation and electronics sectors, as well as the furniture, sports and textile industries, to improve their own resource efficiency and cut emissions. Environmental protection KPIs are reported for all fully consolidated companies. Since these figures are calculated only at the end of the year, they include the group of companies consolidated as it stands at year-end.

Energy consumption

Covestro’s energy consumption includes the primary energy used in production and during electricity and steam generation by the company as well as the purchase of additional electricity, steam and refrigeration energy and process heat. It also comprises the energy lost during the generation and distribution of electricity and steam. All told, these figures make up Covestro’s equivalent primary energy consumption.

The use of energy and materials and the level of greenhouse gases emitted are closely related to the quantity of materials we produce. In 2019, total energy consumption in the Group increased slightly by 0.3% while equivalent primary energy consumption fell by 1.0%, with a decrease of 0.5% in production volumes. As a result, the equivalent primary energy consumption for a given production volume (energy efficiency) improved by 0.5%. Our continued long-term positive trend indicating an overall 36.0% improvement in energy efficiency compared to the base year 2005 is attributable to factors including our ongoing efficiency improvement programs and the global energy efficiency system implemented by Covestro.

Energy consumption in the Covestro Group












Sum of all individual energies used at our main production sites (responsible for more than 95% of our energy consumption), converted into primary energy


All in-spec key products, which in addition to our core products also include products such as precursors and by-products, manufactured at our main production sites (responsible for more than 95% of our energy consumption)


Quotient of equivalent primary energy and in-spec production volume at our main production sites

Equivalent primary energy consumption1





Production volume2
(million metric tons)





Specific energy consumption (energy efficiency)3
(MWh per metric ton)





Of particular note are the optimization of our polycarbonate plant in Map Ta Phut (Thailand), which achieved a reduction of 15,000 MWh of primary energy (steam), as well as the Baytown (United States) site, which reduced primary energy consumption by 20,000 MWh (electricity). We retrofitted the chlorine electrolysis system at that location to bring it up to the latest technical standard of the manufacturing process used there.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Along with governments, non-governmental organizations and other private-sector companies, Covestro supports implementation of the results of the 21st UN Climate Change Conference, which took place in Paris at the end of 2015, and is committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Covestro calculates greenhouse gas emissions according to the internationally recognized standards of the (GHG Protocol). The calculations include both direct emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and indirect emissions from the procurement and consumption of energy generated outside the company such as electricity, heating or refrigeration energy. In addition to CO2, all other relevant greenhouse gases are also documented. The emissions factors for the calculation of CO2 equivalents for the global warming potential were taken from the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) dated 2014. Additionally, a completely revised and updated greenhouse gas regulation was used in 2019.

In 2019, these specific emissions totaled 0.3901 metric tons of CO2 equivalents per metric ton of product. Compared with the base year 2005, this corresponds to a cumulative drop of 46.1%, and a decrease of 10.2% compared to the previous year. We have used a calculation methodology based on the market-based method pursuant to the current GHG Protocol since 2018.

Covestro Group greenhouse gas emissions1












Portfolio-adjusted based on the financial control approach of the GHG Protocol; global warming potential (GWP) factors up to 2018 correspond to the IPCC Second Assessment Report and from 2019 onward to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Applying these factors to 2018 would produce an emissions figure that is 1.1% lower.


Total greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1 and 2, GHG Protocol) at the main production sites, which are responsible for more than 95% of our energy consumption (total of 5.8 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents in 2019) divided by the in-spec production volumes for key products. Market-based emissions factors were mostly used when calculating specific Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions; wherever these were not available, calculation was based on country-specific emissions factors from a generally accepted source (e.g. International Energy Agency, IEA).

Specific greenhouse gas emissions
(metric tons of CO2 equivalents per metric ton of production volume2)





Key drivers of the reduction are the developments at two major production sites in the United States and China. Compared with the previous year, we obtained energy such as steam and electricity externally with a significantly lower carbon footprint at these sites. This puts us back on the path to reaching our greenhouse gas goal of halving emissions by 2025.

Development of specific greenhouse gas emissions

(Cumulative annual change in the specific greenhouse gas emissions per metric ton of product manufactured, compared with the base year 2005 – expressed in %)1

Development of specific greenhouse gas emissions (line chart)

1 The calculation methods for fiscal 2018 onward were changed to the current market-based method, in accordance with the Scope 2 Guidance of the GHG Protocol. Values recognized from 2005 to 2017 are calculated throughout in accordance with the methods established in the GHG Protocol and which were in effect until 2014. When calculating changes in percentage points from 2017 to 2018, the value for 2017 was recalculated on the basis of the market-based method for comparability purposes.

Covestro develops products whose manufacture results in lower CO2 emissions than those of conventional products – by using CO2 as a raw material, for instance. In this context, the company began marketing an innovative binder in 2018 for which a key component is produced using as much as 20% CO2. This conserves the same quantity of petrochemical raw materials and improves our carbon footprint.

Water, effluents and waste

Covestro takes a holistic view of water as a resource. We not only take our water consumption and the related problems of water scarcity and water quality into consideration but also the wastewater we generate and the growing concern of plastic waste in the oceans. This is underscored in our Corporate Commitment on Water.

In 2017, we therefore initiated a risk assessment of our production sites to examine water availability, quality and accessibility. In our production activities, we strive to use water several times and to recycle it. Covestro primarily generates wastewater from once-through cooling systems and production. All wastewater is subject to strict monitoring and analysis according to the applicable legal regulations before it is discharged into disposal channels.

For economic considerations alone, Covestro’s manufacturing processes are already as efficient as possible when it comes to the use of materials, so only relatively little waste is produced as a result. Ongoing observation and evaluation of the manufacturing processes minimize material consumption and disposal volumes as much as possible. This is achieved by safe disposal channels with separation according to the type of waste and economically expedient recycling processes. However, production fluctuations, building demolition and refurbishment, and land remediation can also influence waste volumes and recycling paths. The total waste volume produced rose in 2019, mainly due to nonhazardous waste from stepped-up construction and demolition activity at the Dormagen and Uerdingen sites in Germany. On the other hand, the volume of hazardous waste produced fell in the reporting year. One of the main reasons for this is the production-related waste at our production facilities in Baytown (United States) and Dormagen. We determine specific opportunities for waste reduction with targeted projects and put these into practice within the context of our existing manufacturing processes. For instance, a new procedure is currently being tested at our Dormagen site in the manufacturing process for our bulk product, which significantly reduces the resulting process waste volumes. After its successful implementation, the findings can subsequently be transferred to additional plants at other Covestro sites. The next proposed step is to equip our large-scale TDI production facility in Shanghai (China) with this technology.

Covestro also supports the reuse and treatment of its materials in accordance with economic and environmental criteria. Some of the waste created by our production processes with a high heating value is burned as fuel to generate steam for our production facilities.

Our commitment to the topic of sustainability plays an increasingly vital role with regard to the purchasing of packaging materials. The responsible unit has implemented measures to address this. Covestro reviews in principle whether and to what extent used or reconditioned packaging can be used in the place of new packaging. For instance, Covestro uses PCR (post consumer regrind) plastic barrels for waste transportation. Drums made of recycled polyethylene (PE) replace PE drums from newly produced material. Thus, Covestro uses fewer raw materials, reduces emissions and has established the initial building blocks for a in the area of transportation and packaging.

Covestro supports initiatives such as Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), which focuses on preventing plastic particles from entering waterways and oceans. We have introduced global measures to minimize to the greatest extent possible the loss of plastic pellets on the way from production to the finished product at our customers’ locations. In 2018, we urged our partners in the supply chain to join the initiative; at the same time, we are continually monitoring the progress. In 2019, Covestro in cooperation with the PlasticsEurope association and other members started work on a proposal for an external certification system. We are reviewing how we can make OCS part of the sustainability issues covered by contracts with logistics partners.

Supplementary information

Part of the supplementary sustainability information (not form part of the statutory audit of the annual financial statements)

Environmental protection goals

We aim to use all natural resources as efficiently as possible while reducing emissions into the environment to the greatest extent possible. The management tool we use for this purpose is our continuously updated integrated management system. Sophisticated data management systems also help us identify and realize potential efficiency improvements and keep the environmental impact of our production activities to a minimum.

Covestro aims to halve direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases per metric ton of product by 2025 compared with the 2005 base year levels. In addition, our goal is to halve the specific energy consumption of our production facilities by 2030 compared with the same base year. This improvement in energy efficiency is a key lever for significantly lowering our specific greenhouse gas emissions.

Optimizing energy consumption

Our production volume fell by 0.5% in 2019. Energy consumption also decreased over the same period. Although total energy input rose by 0.3%, the calculation-based equivalent primary energy consumption stated below fell by 1.0%. As a result, the specific energy consumption figure improved by 0.5% over the previous year. Compared with the base year 2005, this represents an improvement of 36.0%.

Along with other factors, our STRUCTese® energy efficiency system contributed significantly to this result over the years.

This system developed by Covestro compares actual energy consumption in production with the realistic potential optimum. Eliminating inefficiencies results in permanent energy savings. STRUCTese® comprises many different steps that can be used to identify potential improvement measures – from analysis to monitoring and benchmarking. These are known at Covestro as STRUCTese® projects. The system, which has been gradually rolled out since 2008, is now used in many of our energy-intensive production facilities worldwide and will be implemented in other facilities in the future.

Equivalent primary energy consumption comprises the fuels used directly at Covestro for generating energy (primary energy) plus externally sourced energy (secondary energy), such as electricity, steam and refrigeration. The latter are converted into the energy required to generate them.

Energy consumption by type of energy












E.g., hydrogen


Secondary energy consumption for electricity is based on the raw material mix of the country concerned.


Sum of all individual energy figures translated into primary energy at our main production sites, which account for more than 95% of our energy consumption. Secondary energy usage is recalculated to equivalent primary energy consumption at all sites based on specified factors aligned with figures (literature values) for best-in-class energy generation plants operating at maximum efficiency.


Sum of the in spec key products at our main production sites, which account for more than 95% of our energy consumption


Specific energy consumption: quotient of equivalent primary energy and in-spec production volume at our main production sites (1 MWh = 3,600 MJ)

Primary energy consumption for the in-house generation of electricity and steam (net, TJ)





Natural gas





(Natural gas sold to external third parties)










Liquid fuels




















Secondary energy consumption (net, TJ)










(Electricity sold to external third parties)










(Steam sold to external third parties)





Steam from waste heat (process heat)





Refrigeration energy





(Refrigeration energy sold to third parties)










Total energy consumption (TJ)










Equivalent primary energy consumption3 (TJ)





Production volume4 (million metric tons)





Specific energy consumption5 (MWh per metric ton of product)





Every year, projects are implemented under STRUCTese® that bring about lasting energy savings. An example is the optimization of the polycarbonate plant in Map Ta Phut (Thailand) in which recycled solvents can be reused within the plant from this year onward. Steam usage was therefore cut by more than 15,000 MWh of primary energy in 2019, which is the equivalent of reducing emissions by some 4,500 metric tons of CO2. At the Baytown (United States) site, the electrolytic cells for chlorine production have been continually retrofitted to the newest technology used at the site since 2016, which lowered electricity requirements by around 20,000 MWh of primary energy in 2019 alone and reduced CO2 emissions by some 3,000 metric tons. Covestro carried out various other projects in 2019, resulting in annual savings totaling 145,000 MWh of primary energy corresponding to 28,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. Combined, all the projects implemented since the introduction of STRUCTese® in 2008 result in lasting annual reductions totaling 2.22 million MWh of primary energy and 680,000 metric tons of CO2.

These energy savings become evident particularly when viewing the significant fall in specific energy consumption in production since fiscal 2005 (see chart).

Development of specific energy consumption

(Change in specific primary energy consumption per metric ton of product, compared with the baseline year, in %)1

Development of specific energy consumption (line chart)

1 (Equivalent primary energy consumption/production volume) / (equivalent primary energy consumption 2005/production volume 2005)

Greenhouse gas emissions in detail

Direct emissions from our plants (Scope 1) are determined at of Covestro’s production locations and relevant administrative sites. Emissions are calculated based on the specific activity rates, e.g. of the fuels used, and the relevant material parameters. In addition to CO2, the calculation includes nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and partly fluorinated hydrocarbons.

Indirect emissions (Scope 2) are calculated in accordance with the methods outlined in the and are based on the energy used and the corresponding production site-specific emissions factor. If there is no specific factor available, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) country-specific emissions factor is used among others for the calculation. The factors are taken from the IEA Emissions Factors (2018 Edition), ©2019 IEA Online Data Services. Since the 2018 reporting year, Scope -2 emissions have been reported using the location-based method and the market-based method in accordance with the most recent requirements of the GHG Protocol (dual reporting). The new form of presentation does not affect comparability with prior-year figures with regard to the two long-term corporate goals of lowering specific energy consumption and specific greenhouse gas emissions.

Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell by 10.3% from the previous year, with direct greenhouse gas emissions up by 2.4% and indirect greenhouse gas emissions down by 13.2%. At our major production sites, which account for over 95% of our energy consumption, the production volume fell by 0.5% in 2019. Specific emissions consequently decreased by 10.2% compared with the previous year.

Greenhouse gas emissions1 (million metric tons of CO2 equivalents)












Portfolio-adjusted based on the GHG Protocol; financial control approach; global warming potential (GWP) factors correspond to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Up to 2018, the IPCC Second Assessment Report was applied. Applying these factors to 2018 would produce an emissions figure that is 1.1% lower.


In 2019, 58.5% of emissions were CO2 emissions, 39.8% were N2O emissions, 1.6% consisted of partly fluorinated hydrocarbons, and 0.1% was CH4.


In combustion processes, CO2 typically makes up more than 99% of all greenhouse gas emissions; this is why we restrict ourselves to CO2 when calculating indirect emissions.


Total greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1 and 2) at the main production sites, which are responsible for more than 95% of our energy consumption. These emissions totaled 5.8 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents in 2019, divided by the in-spec production volumes for key products at the sites. Regarding the determination of specific Scope 2 emissions, market-based emission factors according to the GHG Protocol were used in a majority of instances. If they were not available, country-specific emission factors from a generally accepted source were used for calculation purposes.

Direct greenhouse gas emissions2





Indirect greenhouse gas emissions calculated using the location-based method (GHG Protocol 2015)3





Indirect greenhouse gas emissions calculated using the market-based method (GHG Protocol 2015)3





Total greenhouse gas emissions, comprising Scope 1 and 2 emissions according to the market-based method of the 2015 GHG Protocol





Specific greenhouse gas emissions (metric tons of CO2 equivalents per metric ton of product)4





Other direct emissions into the air

In addition to greenhouse gases, Covestro’s business activities result in other emissions into the air, e.g., from burning fossil fuels in order to generate electricity and steam. Emissions are also recorded and analyzed as part of determining the Group’s environmental impact. The impacts are assessed annually in the environmental management process with the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). While carbon monoxide emissions (–11.3%) and nitrogen oxides (–14.4%) fell, sulfur dioxide emissions remained at the previous year’s level. Dust emissions increased by 19.7%. The reported figure for NMVOC emissions rose by 11.3% year over year. The key reason for this increase was a data collection methodology we refined this year that now for the first time includes measurement of diffuse NMVOC emissions from improper seals or leaks, as well as those from defined direct sources (such as chimneys or ventilation ducts). The data is collected according to the locally applicable official standards in each case.

Other important direct air emissions (1,000 metric tons p.a.)












Non-methane volatile organic compounds


Ozone-depleting substances































Water consumption and usage

For our production sites, the availability of and access to clean water is vital. As part of our Corporate Commitment on Water issued in 2017, we initiated and have continually updated a risk assessment of our production sites covering water availability, quality and accessibility.

Once again in this reporting period, we refined our risk-based water approach and implemented it at all sites currently exposed to a high risk of water stress. Water stress includes water scarcity as well as other factors such as water quality and access to water. 16% of our total water consumption is at sites located in current water stress regions.

By analyzing local water management at sites, risks can be spotted at an early stage and potential for improvement can be identified. For instance, the production site in Antwerp launched a program to decrease water consumption and increase the percentage of recycled water used.

Use of water in 2019 (million cubic meters)

Use of water in 2019 (million cubic meters) (graphic)

1 Water stress regions

2 E.g., rainwater

3 Differences between the volumes of water drawn and discharged can be explained in part through unquantified evaporation, leaks, water used as a raw material in products, and condensate from the use of steam as a source of energy.

4 Also includes water for irrigation purposes

5 Total from production processes, sanitary wastewater, and rinsing and purification in production

At 256 million cubic meters, total water consumption in the Group is lower than in the previous year. Once-through cooling water accounts for 80.2% of this figure, which consequently represents most of the water used by Covestro in 2019. This water is only heated and does not come into contact with products. It can be returned to the water cycle without further treatment in line with the relevant official permits. The total volume of once-through cooling water was 205 million cubic meters in the reporting year.

Some of the water used can be recycled in various ways. For instance, recycled water can be used again in the same process multiple times, e.g., for cleaning or cooling purposes. It is also possible to reuse water from upstream processes in subsequent steps. This permits corresponding quantities of fresh water to be conserved each year. In the reporting period, the volume of recycled water used stood at approximately 5 million cubic meters, around the same share as the prior year.


Our goal is to minimize wastewater emissions, which depend largely on our production volumes and the current product portfolio, as much as possible.

The volume of process wastewater decreased by 6.4% year over year. The proportion of process wastewater purified at a wastewater treatment plant operated by Covestro or a third party amounted to 74.8% worldwide. Following careful analysis, another 24.9% was categorized as environmentally safe and returned to the water cycle. The remainder (around 0.3%) was disposed of mainly through incineration. In the reporting year, the percentage of evaporation losses dropped by 10.8% to 10 million cubic meters.

Total organic carbon (TOC) emissions into wastewater decreased by 5.1% compared with the previous year, while the volume of phosphates discharged was down 7.3%. The amount of nitrogen compounds discharged also fell by 7.0%, and the volume of inorganic salts discharged into wastewater was down 6.2%. During the year under review, the volume of heavy metals emitted rose by 1.8%.

Emissions into water (1,000 metric tons p.a.)












Total organic carbon


Chemical oxygen demand, calculated value based on TOC values (TOC x 3 = COD)
















Heavy metals





Inorganic salts










Work on the Re-Salt joint project aimed at recycling salt-laden industrial process wastewater promoted by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) since 2016 is coming to a close. A pilot plant has been successfully operated at the Uerdingen site since mid-2019 that increases the salt concentration in process wastewater. In addition, insights into quality assurance gleaned from the project have already been transferred to the Caojing site in China. Salt-laden process wastewater is not used by Covestro there, but instead supplied to an external electrolyzer operator who in turn uses it to manufacture chlorine.

Waste and recycling

In nearly all countries the law stipulates exhaustive reporting on waste volumes and waste streams, a requirement complied with accordingly by Covestro’s sites. In Germany, for example, there are waste-tracking procedures between the waste producer and the waste disposer that enable end-to-end traceability of the waste flows. We classify waste in the individual waste categories and the corresponding methods of disposal according to the locally applicable definitions. Based on this documentation, we prepare and evaluate our waste balance, which is published annually.

Waste generated (1,000 metric tons p.a.)












Definition of hazardous waste in accordance with the local laws in each instance

Total waste generated





of which non-hazardous waste generated





of which hazardous waste generated1





of which hazardous waste from production





Waste by means of disposal (1,000 metric tons p.a.)












A variance between the volume of waste generated and waste disposed of may arise due to the different times the waste is generated/disposed of and any resulting internal temporary storage.


E.g., passed on to third parties (such as providers/waste disposal companies)

Total volume of waste disposed of1





of which incinerated





of which recycled





of which hazardous waste removed to landfill





of which non-hazardous waste removed to landfill










GHG Protocol/Greenhouse Gas Protocol
International accounting system for greenhouse gas emissions developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
TDI/toluylene diisoycanate
A chemical compound from the class of aromatic isocyanates, primarily used in polyurethane foams and coating systems
Circular economy
A regenerative economic system in which resource input, waste production, emissions and energy consumption are minimized based on long-lasting and closed material and energy cycles
GHG Protocol/Greenhouse Gas Protocol
International accounting system for greenhouse gas emissions developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)