Gaining traction towards becoming fully circular
Humanity is pushing the planet to its tipping point. Unsustainable production and consumption patterns must become a thing of the past. It is essential that businesses and society become climate neutral and resource conserving – and fast. For Covestro, this means rethinking waste. It means switching to renewable energy. And it means a profound culture change.
Plastics are indispensable in modern life. Many advances in medical technology and sustainable construction, and many products, from renewable energy to electronics, would not be possible without them. It is therefore hardly surprising that 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics were produced worldwide between 1950 and 2015. At the same time, today’s consumer behavior and throwaway society are placing a massive burden on the planet. More than 40 percent of the plastics currently produced are used just once and then thrown away, ending up in landfills or in the environment. Fewer than 20 percent of all waste is recycled. One of the benefits of plastic, its durability, also makes it a long-term problem when discarded inappropriately.
“Plastic waste in the environment has become a global challenge. Solving it is both extremely complex and urgently needed,” says Prof. Volker Sick from the University of Michigan, who specializes in the use of CO2 as a raw material. “In order to address this challenge and make a circular economy become reality, companies and every single one of us must completely rethink waste. Generating and dumping waste can no longer be considered appropriate.”
This is associated with the concepts of value and prosperity. On the one hand, waste must be seen as an asset, a valuable resource. On the other hand, the currently most profitable production methods and products are not always the most sustainable. In short: A paradigm shift is needed.
The world must make a circular economy the guiding principle. This can only work if the economy acts in close cooperation across all sectors, with a tailwind from politics, as well as the awareness and conscious support of each individual. As the basis of modern life, plastics play a key role in this endeavor. And Covestro is a driving force.
What do you think?
Correct! Environmental pollution with plastic waste could be reduced by 80% by 2040 through consistent circularity.
Unfortunately not correct. Environmental pollution with plastic waste could be reduced by 80% by 2040 through consistent circularity.
The circular economy is only really sustainable if green electricity is used in production processes and in the supply of energy in general. For this reason, Covestro is investing in alternative energies and optimizing its infrastructure with a view to making production as environmentally compatible as possible.
We are gradually integrating green electricity into our production mix. The first milestone: Starting in 2025, Danish electricity supplier Ørsted will cover part of our German electricity requirement with North Sea wind power for a ten-year period. The agreement for a capacity of 100 megawatts – sufficient to meet the electricity needs of 300,000 people – is one of the world’s biggest industrial green power purchase agreements for offshore wind energy.
To support and accelerate this process, we are also steadily making our production processes more energy-efficient. New technologies and artificial intelligence are helping us here. For instance, the energy efficiency system STRUCTese® developed by Covestro uses data from our plants to optimize their energy usage. And at our Spanish site in Tarragona, we will soon produce basic chemicals via a process that can reduce energy usage by one quarter. In Brunsbüttel, Germany, we are manufacturing the rigid foam component MDI via a new technology that also uses up to 25 percent less electricity than before.
Thus, step by step, we are coming closer to achieving both our short-term and long-term goals: to halve the 2005 level of greenhouse gas emissions per metric ton of product by 2025, and to gear all our operations to the circular economy – with the increasing use of green electricity.
What do you think?
Correct! The European Union aims to become climate-neutral by 2050.
Unfortunately not correct. The European Union aims to become climate-neutral by 2050.
Becoming fully circular is the challenge of a century. The challenge and responsibility, for us as company and as individuals, is to leave the planet inhabitable for our children and future generations. It is a challenge that we can only meet together. A responsibility that we can only live up to if we act as one, and if we all contribute. It is in pursuit of this vision that Covestro is re-aligning its strategy and its corporate culture.
To develop our new strategy, we asked ourselves who we want to be and how we can achieve our vision, while remaining a reliable supplier, an appreciated partner in the value chain and a respected employer. We want to become the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be – and to do so as one. We understand that this journey starts with us – with strength from within and with a powerful culture.
We have weathered the challenges of 2020 under the flag of our “We are 1” culture. We will further incorporate this culture into our recruitment and personnel development processes and our daily corporate practices. We will be supported by a model based on the pillars of “acting responsibly”, “wanting better”, “winning together” and “leading forward”. With our common understanding, and our diverse and engaged 16,501-strong workforce acting as one, Covestro can become circular. We can then leverage our potential, be a motor for innovation, combine sustainability and profitability, and ensure our place in a world without fossil energy and resources. This is our goal.
»Our corporate culture will be key in our efforts to become fully circular.«
Dr. Markus Steilemann
CEO of Covestro