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Covestro drives sustainable solutions around the value chain
Visions for the bigger picture

Sustainability is about more than reducing emissions and strictly adhering to statutory requirements. To Covestro, true sustainability requires that all activities of our company benefit both economy and society, with the lowest impact on our environment possible. We know: To achieve this goal, we must go to the core of the complex interactions between suppliers, manufacturers, contractors, and consumers.

Only based on this holistic approach we can develop sustainability concepts that consider the product lifecycle in its entirety. We increase efficiency on-site – e.g. by recycling salt and water in our own production plants. We expand the resource base – e.g. by turning CO2 into a raw material in the manufacturing of plastics. And we develop materials that are more energy-efficient and save natural resources – e.g. in the production processes of our partners in the textile industry.

“At Covestro, our vision is to make the world a brighter place. We do that today, by using new technologies that reduce emissions.”
Richard Northcote, Chief Sustainability Officer at Covestro

Sustainability from the core

Increasing efficiency on-site

Production processes in the chemical industry are – and will continue to be – resource- and energy-intensive. At Covestro, we do not hide behind this fact, but regard it as the root of our responsibility to minimize the consumption in our plants and processes.

Among others, one important means to get ahead on this constant journey is our measurement management system STRUCTese®: it monitors the energy consumption of production sites and offers the possibility of fine-tuning processes to reach an optimum value. In this way, more than 1.65 million megawatt hours can be saved annually. Already today, the STRUCTese® management system is applied at 60 production sites all over the world.

Measures for more on-site efficiency
  • Isocyanates and polyols are the two primary precursors of polyurethanes. As a world-leading manufacturer of both components, Covestro pioneers in making their production easier, more cost-effective and eco-friendly. One milestone in this endeavour is the gas-phase technology. It allows the production of isocyanate with far less resources than the conventional, liquid-based processes require.

    About 80 percent solvent and 60 percent energy can be saved in this way. What’s more, annual carbon dioxide emissions for a typical large-scale plant (with a production capacity of 250,000 metric tons of TDI) are 60,000 metric tons lower than with the conventional process. Covestro has been using this process at an industrial-scale plant at its site in Shanghai, China since 2011 and at its Dormagen site since 2014.

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  • Many industrial processes produce substantial amounts of wastewater with very high salt concentrations. This makes it necessary to develop new, environmentally friendly and economically viable methods for the treatment and use of such wastewaters.

    Together with our partners from industry and academia, we have developed an answer to this challenge. We found a way to recover salt and water from industrial wastewater as environmentally friendly as possible: our so called “Re-Salt” technology. The recycled water and salt can be reused for the production of chlorine, a key raw material for the manufacture of polycarbonate and other plastics. 

    Covestro is planning a Re-Salt demonstration plant for testing purposes at its Krefeld-Uerdingen site in Germany. Our next goal is to develop a process that benefits not just the plastics industry but other industry segments as well.

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  • About 60% of all chemical products are fabricated, directly or indirectly, using chlorine and/or caustic soda. One of the major challenges for the chlor-alkali industry: the high energy consumption of common salt electrolysis in the production of chlorine and caustic soda.

    Together with its partners ThyssenKrupp and UHDENORA, Covestro has developed the so-called Oxygen Depolarized Cathode (ODC) technology. It is based on an electrode which is able to save up to 30 percent energy in the process of chlorine manufacturing. That is a big leap in efficiency. If every chlorine production in Germany would use this process, it could save as much energy as the city of Cologne needs.

    Among the further possible applications for ODC technology are water purification and wastewater treatment, as well as disinfection applications or the storage of renewable energy using metal air batteries.

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„Oil, gas and coal are the major raw material sources in our industry. Utilizing CO2 is one pioneering approach to expand our carbon base.”
Dr. Berit Stange, Project Manager CO2-Polyols at Covestro

New resources in the spotlight

Replacing fossil fuels to improve the carbon footprint

In line with our overall objective of saving natural resources, we are constantly re-thinking established materials to improve their properties regarding energy efficiency and environmental soundness. A big part of this endeavor is finding sustainable alternatives to conventional resources based on fossil fuels.

The CO2 technology of Covestro which turns CO2 into a raw material is a groundbreaking first step on the long journey towards a circular economy in plastics production. And Covestro experts are already looking at the bigger picture: systematically finding the most productive ways to utilize alternative resources – be it CO2 or bio-based raw materials – to replace fossil components wherever possible.

A closer look at our alternative raw materials
  • Our innovative approach to reuse CO2 as a raw material breaks new ground in the plastics industry. With our CO2 technology, a part of the crude oil normally required in the production of a precursor for polyurethane foams – e.g. for mattresses – can be replaced by CO2. The key to this technology is a catalyst that makes the chemical reaction with CO2 possible, as well as the right process technology. Thanks to the catalyst, the inert carbon dioxide molecule can finally be put to practical use. Packed inside this powder and process are years of intensive research by Covestro and its partners – and the courage to think beyond existing boundaries.

    Soft foams, however, are not the only potential application for CO2 as raw material. We have already achieved considerable progress, for instance, in the CO2-based production of rigid foams and elastomers at lab scale.

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  • Aniline is a highly important material in the chemical industry, e.g. as a base material of pharmaceuticals, paints and plastics. Covestro needs aniline for the production of MDI, a vital component of isolation foams.

    Together with our partners, we have recently achieved a scientific breakthrough in the production of aniline: For the first time ever, the material can be sourced from 100% bio-based materials. Until now, crude oil had been the only available raw material for aniline. This achievement benefits not only our environment thanks to an improved carbon footprint: the broader resource base also reduces the impact of market fluctuations on the manufacturers. What’s more: The production of bioaniline does not compete with food production, because the technology uses unrefined raw sugar, which is renewable and already available on an industrial scale from, for example, feed corn, straw and wood.

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Sustainability concerns society as a whole. This is why Covestro teams up with partners in various industry sectors to achieve true breakthroughs in this regard.

Sustainable impulses across all boundaries

Enabling more sustainability for our partners and customers
Covestro materials make homes cozy, attractive and energy-efficient at the same time.

The commitment of Covestro to sustainability does not end at our factory gates. We put great emphasis on sustainability throughout the entire life cycle of our products and technologies. This already begins with our ambitious supplier management, which ensures that the way we conduct business with our suppliers is in line with environmental, social and ethical standards.

On top of that, we strive to raise awareness of environmental issues at our clients and partners, and we enable sustainable delivery management and further processing. And, at the end of the day, it’s our products that improve sustainability in countless end applications of the modern world.

How Covestro boosts sustainability along the value chain
  • Covestro is not only optimizing its manufacturing sites around the world. We supply our customers in the various industries with solutions that help them make their own production processes more resource-efficient and sustainable. A good example for this principle is INSQIN®, our water-borne coating technology for high-class polyurethane-based textiles. Avoiding all ecologically harmful solvents, INSQIN® enables our partners in the fashion industry to reduce their water consumption during textile processing by up to 95 percent, and energy consumption by up to 50 percent.

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  • While many of our materials do take up a considerable amount of energy in the manufacturing process, their sustainable potential becomes quite clear when their carbon footprint during the entire life cycle is taken into consideration.

    Just take our rigid polyurethane foam insulating system Baytherm® Microcell. For decades, rigid polyurethane foam has efficiently insulated refrigerators, saving energy while preserving food. Our new insulating system Baytherm® Microcell even goes a step further: Due to a 40 percent reduction of the average pore size, this rigid foam enables a further decrease of the energy consumption of refrigerators by seven percent.

    Another example: polycarbonates for the manufacturing of Light Emitting Diodes (LED). LEDs are considered the most future-oriented lighting systems due to their low energy consumption, the small amount of maintenance required, and their long service life. Polycarbonates by Covestro add unique opportunities regarding design and lightness of LED lamps: compared to glass and metal, they are easier to shape in small-scale and complex geometries.

Covestro is committed to reducing its specific greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent between 2005 and 2025. By 2016, we have already achieved a reduction of more than 40 percent compared to 2005.

Progress that counts

The ambitious sustainability goals of Covestro

In 2016, we aligned our corporate strategy even more closely with the goal of a sustainable development and set measurable targets that we aim to reach until 2025: we want to halve CO2 emissions, help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and support undersupplied sectors. An estimated 10 million people, especially in developing and emerging countries, should benefit from our products and solutions. As the material we work with primarily is carbon, we also establish innovative methodologies to ensure our use of carbon delivers optimal productivity.

Stories that push boundaries

Follow the links below and learn more about our commitment to make the world a brighter place.
#EfficientWindPower
Covestro helps to make wind power more economical.
#CO2Dreams
Covestro is transforming CO2 into a useful raw material.
#SolarImpulse
Covestro materials open new horizons – in the air and on the ground.
#PushingBoundaries
An overview of all highlight stories.
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