In order to make the circular economy a reality and become operationally climate-neutral by 2035, Covestro pushes many projects aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are generated in the company’s own production through the use of energy and throughout the value chain, both upstream at suppliers and downstream at customers.
Covestro’s climate impact in the manufacture of its products can be assessed using the product carbon footprint from cradle to gate, which can be calculated automatically for about 50,000 intermediate and finished products. At the moment, the results are being validated in order to make them available to customers gradually in 2024. In the meantime, Covestro continues to deliver data from a manual process using a life cycle assessment tool and a method that was certified according to ISO 14040/44 and ISO 14067 last year by TÜV Rheinland Energy GmbH. The automation of the calculation will enable Covestro to determine the specific carbon footprints for products in its entire product portfolio and identify the potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, Covestro plans to provide its customers in the future with data on the products for sale, thereby contributing to an emissions assessment and a potential subsequent emissions reduction on the customer’s side. In addition to the carbon footprint, the digital solution also enables the calculation of other environmental impact categories, such as the acidification- or photochemical ozone creation potential.
The calculation considers emissions of raw materials used, energy consumed, direct emissions generated, and waste streams generated during the manufacture of a product. The calculation is based on Covestro’s internal plant- and site-specific data as well as external databases for e.g., raw material data and, if available, specific raw material data from suppliers. The data that is calculated includes intermediate and finished products, meaning that the entire value chain for the products all the way to the Covestro gate is taken into account.
“We all want and need to reduce emissions along the value chain – this applies to us at Covestro just as much as it does to our suppliers and customers. Our customers’ requirements are clear: to provide data for all our products and to identify opportunities to reduce emissions,” explains Lynette Chung, Chief Sustainability Officer at Covestro.
Digitalization as a core component for generating sustainability data
Covestro has now taken a major step forward in automated calculation. Information on material and energy consumption is pulled from existing data sources and systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), and merged with data from databases in the cloud. Covestro uses the Product Sustainability Platform from AllocNow GmbH for this purpose. The software company specializes in the automated calculation of life cycle assessments for chemical products. In the future, further supplier data could be reflected in the calculation. “In 2022, our portfolio had about 50,000 intermediates and finished products. The manual calculation of life cycle assessment data for just one of these products took several days,” explains Michaela Lentz, IT & Digital Transformation Partner for Sustainability at Covestro and IT lead for the project. “By combining and using the data, we can now calculate greenhouse gas emissions in production for a single product. Annual recalculations and future process changes can be retrieved at the push of a button, so to speak. Our software solution has been developed directly in the cloud,” Lentz continues. Covestro does not need to maintain server capacity for the annual recalculation of LCA data, but can scale up computing capacity as needed. The company is thus very resource-conscious in its use of server services and is making a further contribution to its sustainability goals.
“Covestro’s manual life cycle assessment calculation process was already reviewed against ISO 14040/44 and 14067 and certified by TÜV Rheinland Energy GmbH last year. Now we are seeking additional certification according to the relevant ISO-standards and in alignment with the Together for Sustainability (TfS)-guideline for the automated method,” says Dr. Catherine Lövenich, the project manager who works at Group Innovation. “The method is very complex. Take MDI, for example, a typical precursor for insulation foams. Covestro purchases the raw material benzene, which is then converted into the finished product MDI via several intermediates using energy and other raw materials,” Lövenich explains. “All these steps and the use of the raw materials employed are included in the calculation of the carbon footprint for a particular MDI type.” Since both the quality of the methodology and of the data are important to Covestro, the results are being validated at Covestro. Validation of the data should be completed by the end of 2024. In the meantime the current manual approach will keep supporting with customer requests.
Digitalization is a major driver to improve sustainability and achieve the circular economy. Covestro is focusing on more data-centric business management to achieve digital transformation. Production, Research and Development, and Supply Chain Management are the three divisions that are currently the main focus.