This guest blog post is authored by Rebecca Lucore, head of CSR and sustainability, Covestro LLC.
At Covestro, we think of ourselves as the “new-old company.”
Formerly Bayer MaterialScience, Covestro was “reborn” in the fall of 2015 as its own, independent entity. Being independent means we can chart our own course—one that’s fully embedding sustainability into the heart of our business strategy.
As an innovative producer of advanced materials, it’s true our products enable other industries to make more energy-efficient products. In fact, this past summer, our ultra-lightweight coatings, polycarbonate and polyurethanes propelled the groundbreaking Solar Impulse—the world’s first 100 percent solar-powered aircraft—to complete its historic flight around the world without using a single drop of fossil fuel.
Solar Impulse was a virtual flying laboratory for clean technologies and material innovations. The cockpit featured our adhesives and coatings, as well as our polyurethane foam, which provided the insulation that kept the pilot safe and comfortable in wide-ranging temperatures. This highly efficient insulating foam, which saves 70 times more energy than is used to make it, is now being used in modern refrigerators. The plane’s polycarbonate windshield was another real energy saver, which is why the auto industry uses it in cars and trucks, understanding that the lighter the weight, the more fuel efficient the vehicle.
We know the manufacturing process behind these materials requires a lot of energy, so we’re continuously developing processes and solutions that reduce our energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Going forward, four-fifths of our research and development will be dedicated to delivering sustainable solutions through our products and processes, and these projects will be tied directly to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations Global Compact, which we’ve signed on to.
But this isn’t just about the future. We’ve already made real progress.
Earlier this past summer, we exceeded a key sustainability goal four years early. We committed to reduce our 2005 level CO2 emissions 40 percent by 2020. Having already achieved that goal, we’re upping the ante and working to halve those emissions by 2025. And, as far as increasing energy efficiency goes, we achieved our 30 percent reduction goal last year—five years ahead of schedule.
How did we do it?
Numerous production improvements around the world. In Baytown, Texas, for example, at our largest U.S. manufacturing facility, we made a $120 million investment in 2011 to improve energy efficiencies, minimize waste and reduce natural resource consumption. The investment included a two-phase project to install
catalysts that dramatically reduced greenhouse gas by 800,000 tons per year and cut the plant’s overall carbon dioxide footprint by more than half.
And now comes a major breakthrough in our conservation efforts. Our scientists and university partners have developed an innovative manufacturing process that allows us to replace petrochemical feedstock with CO2. We’re capturing emissions and using them as a raw material. In June, we opened a new production facility in Germany dedicated to manufacturing the first product with this new method—a polyol that uses 20 percent CO2 to make a new kind of flexible polyurethane foam for mattresses and furniture.
We’re using more sustainable feedstock, saving the energy that would be needed to process it and using CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. It’s a win-win-win.
Of course, it’s just the beginning. With sustainability at the heart of all that we do, we see many more wins in the future for the environment, our customers and our business.