Environmental Protection

Environmental protection and the efficient use of resources are fundamental drivers of Covestro’s actions as an energy-intensive company, both in terms of our own business activities with substantial energy demands 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 sectors such as the automotive and construction industries, wind turbine operation, the electronics industry, as well as the furniture, sports, and textile industries, to improve their own resource efficiency and cut emissions.

Environmental protection key performance indicators (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. Moreover, we include data from all environmentally relevant Covestro sites, i.e., all production sites and relevant administrative sites. This data is used in addition to the environmental reporting contained in this report to communicate with various , e.g., associations, the press, and government agencies, as well as to continually improve our environmental performance. In order to comply with publication deadlines, the sites estimate the environmental data for the final weeks of the current fiscal year on the basis of established estimation methodologies that ensure accurate reporting of data as close as possible to the actual figures for the year. If, however, in the course of the following year, we become aware of material deviations based on internally defined thresholds, the figures in question are corrected retroactively to promote the transparency and comparability of our reporting. This was not required in fiscal year 2020.

Energy usage

Covestro’s energy usage includes the primary energy used in production and during electricity and steam generation by the company as well as additionally acquired quantities of electricity, steam, refrigeration energy, and process heat. This takes into account the energy lost while distributing electricity and steam. All told, these figures make up Covestro’s equivalent primary energy usage.

The use of energy and materials and the level of greenhouse gases emitted are closely related to the quantity of materials we produce. In fiscal 2020, total energy usage in the Group dropped by 2.4%, while the equivalent primary energy usage at our key production facilities fell by 2.7% – in line with a 5.4% decline in production volumes. As a result, the equivalent primary energy usage for a given production volume (energy efficiency) deteriorated by 2.9%. The increase in specific energy usage in the reporting year can therefore be mainly attributed to the cyclical decline in plant capacity utilization. When the capacity of production facilities is not optimally utilized, and economic conditions necessitate start-up and shut-down processes, this inevitably results in less efficient energy usage per production unit (specific energy usage).

Energy usage in the Covestro Group at the main production sites











Equivalent primary energy usage1, 2





Production volume3
(million metric tons)





Specific energy usage (energy efficiency)4
(MWh per metric ton)






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


Equivalent to 72,765 TJ in the reporting year (previous year: 74,786 TJ).


All in-spec key products – which, in addition to our core products, also include precursors and by-products – manufactured at our main production sites, which are responsible for more than 95% of our energy usage.


Ratio of equivalent primary energy usage to production volume.

Our continued long-term positive trend indicates an overall 34.2% improvement in energy efficiency compared to the base year 2005. This is attributable to factors that include our ongoing efficiency improvement programs and the global energy efficiency system implemented by Covestro.

Of particular note in the reporting year is the commissioning of a heat recovery system in the Makrolon® plant and process optimization of the plant producing methylene dianiline (MDA), a key intermediate in the manufacture of (MDI), at the Krefeld-Uerdingen site. Steam usage was therefore cut by more than 19,000 MWh of primary energy in fiscal 2020, which is the equivalent of reducing emissions by some 5,400 metric tons of CO2.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) 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 ().

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 calculating CO2 equivalents for global warming potential were taken from the Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Additionally, a completely revised and updated greenhouse gas regulation has been used since the year 2019. Information about the upstream and downstream GHG emissions throughout the entire value chain () has not been collected or reported to date. We are currently reviewing how to reliably and efficiently collect information about Scope 3 emissions and the requirements for reporting this data.

Our environmental protection goal

Our environmental protection goal (graphic)

Specific greenhouse gas emissions per metric ton of product manufactured are expected to be
reduced by 50% from the 2005 benchmark by the year 2025.


2020: –46.2%
2019: –46.1%

In fiscal 2020, specific emissions totaled 0.3892 metric tons of CO2 equivalents per metric ton of product. Compared with the base year 2005, this corresponds to a cumulative drop of 46.2%, and a 0.2% decrease compared to the previous year. We have used a calculation methodology based on the market-based method pursuant to the current GHG Protocol since the year 2018.

Covestro Group greenhouse gas emissions at the main production sites1











Total greenhouse gas emissions2
(million metric tons of CO2 equivalents)





Production volume3
(in million metric tons)





Specific greenhouse gas emissions4
(metric tons of CO2 equivalents per metric ton of production volume)






Portfolio-adjusted based on the financial control approach of the GHG Protocol; global warming potential (GWP) factors according to the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report.


Total greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 1 and 2, GHG Protocol) at the main production sites (responsible for more than 95% of our energy usage).


All in-spec key products – which, in addition to our core products, also include precursors and by-products – manufactured at our main production sites, which are responsible for more than 95% of our energy usage.


Total GHG emissions divided by production volume. Market-based emissions factors were mostly used when calculating specific Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions; wherever these were not available, the calculation was based on country-specific emissions factors from a generally accepted source (e.g., International Energy Agency, IEA).

Key drivers of the reduction are the developments at the production sites in Dormagen, Krefeld-Uerdingen, and Leverkusen in Germany. In combination with a cyclical decline in energy usage, we obtained energy such as steam and electricity externally with a significantly lower carbon footprint at these sites in the reporting year. We continue to find ourselves on the right path to reaching our GHG emissions target, i.e., halving specific emissions by the year 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. The values reported for the year 2005 to the year 2017 are calculated throughout in accordance with the methods in the GHG Protocol in effect until the year 2014. When calculating changes in percentage points from the year 2017 to the year 2018, the value for the year 2017 was recalculated on the basis of the market-based method for comparability purposes.

We continue to drive the development of products whose manufacture results in lower carbon emissions than those of conventional products – by using CO2 as a raw material, for instance. In this context, the company began marketing an innovative polyol in fiscal 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 take not only our water usage and the related problems of water scarcity and quality into consideration, but also the wastewater we generate and the growing concern about plastic waste in the oceans. This is underscored in our Corporate Commitment on Water.

In fiscal 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; relatively little waste is produced as a result. We observe and evaluate our manufacturing processes on an ongoing basis to 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 volume of waste produced declined in fiscal 2020, mainly due to decreases in nonhazardous waste from construction and demolition activity at the Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen sites in Germany. The volume of hazardous waste produced also fell in the reporting year. One of the main reasons for this is the production-related waste at our production facilities in Baytown, Texas (United States) and Dormagen (Germany). 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, in the manufacturing process for our toluene diisocyanate () product, our Dormagen site began testing a new procedure that significantly reduces the resulting process waste volumes in the year 2019. After its successful implementation, the findings can subsequently be transferred to additional plants at other Covestro sites. We therefore plan to equip our large-scale TDI production facility in Shanghai (China) with this technology. Due to pandemic-related restrictions, however, this project was postponed for two years and is not currently being carried out.

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. We have implemented an approach to address this: When procuring packing materials, 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 post consumer regrind (PCR) plastic barrels for waste transportation. Drums made of recycled plastic replace plastic drums from virgin 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 also 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 the loss of plastic pellets on the way from production to the finished product at our customers’ locations. In fiscal 2018, we urged our partners in the supply chain to join the initiative; at the same time, we are continually monitoring its progress. In fiscal 2019, Covestro started work on a proposal for an external certification system in cooperation with the PlasticsEurope association and other members. Building on this effort, we added the topic of OCS to Covestro’s health, safety, environment, energy, and quality () certifications in the year 2020. Auditors from an external certification body will now incrementally review and assess the relevant sites using a list of specifications to this end, and document the results in a report. The aforementioned list includes systematic environmental aspect analyses, risk assessments, preventive measures, targets, improvement measures, and employee training. Corrective measures must be taken in the case of identified deviations. We are further reviewing how we can make OCS targets part of the sustainability issues covered by contracts with logistics partners.

Environmental protection targets

We aim to use all natural resources as efficiently as possible while reducing emissions into the environment to the greatest extent possible. Our integrated management system, which is continually refined, serves as a steering mechanism for this purpose. Moreover, sophisticated data management systems help us to identify and leverage potential efficiency improvements and to keep the environmental impact of our production activities to a minimum.

Covestro’s goal is to halve direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gases per metric ton of product by fiscal 2025 as compared with the 2005 base year levels. In addition, by the year 2030 we also want to halve the specific energy usage of our production facilities compared with the same base year. This energy efficiency boost will contribute to further reducing specific GHG emissions.

Optimizing energy usage

Covestro’s STRUCTese™ (Structured Efficiency System for Energy) system played a key role in permanently improving our specific energy usage. The energy efficiency system developed by Covestro compares actual energy usage in production with the realistic potential optimum. Eliminating inefficiencies results in permanent energy savings. STRUCTese® includes several different steps that enable the identification of improvement measures – from analysis to monitoring to benchmarking. These measures are known at Covestro as STRUCTese® projects. The system, which has been gradually rolled out since the year 2008, is now used in many of our energy-intensive production facilities around the world and will be implemented in other facilities going forward.

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 calculated to reflect the energy required to generate them.

Energy usage by energy type











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





of which Natural gas





(of which Natural gas sold to external third parties)





of which Coal





of which Liquid fuels





of which Waste





of which Other1










Secondary energy usage (net, TJ)





of which Electricity2





(of which Electricity sold to external third parties)





of which Steam





(of which Steam sold to external third parties)





(of which Steam from waste heat (process heat))





of which Refrigeration energy





(of which Refrigeration energy sold to third parties)










Total energy usage (TJ)










Equivalent primary energy usage3 (TJ)





Production volume4 (million metric tons)





Specific energy usage5 (MWh per metric ton of product)






e.g., hydrogen.


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


Total of all individual energies used at our main production sites (responsible for more than 95% of our energy usage), converted into primary energy Secondary energy usage is recalculated to equivalent primary energy usage at all sites based on specified factors aligned with indicators (literature values) for best-in-class energy generation plants operating at maximum efficiency.


All in-spec key products manufactured at our main production sites (responsible for more than 95% of our energy usage).


Specific energy usage: ratio of equivalent primary energy to in-spec production volume at our main production sites (1 MWh = 3,600 MJ).

Every year, projects are implemented under STRUCTese® that bring about lasting energy savings. An example is the use of waste heat from the plant neighboring the Bisphenol-A (BPA) facility in Shanghai (China). This cut steam usage considerably, which in turn reduced the energy required by some 16,000 MWh of primary energy and decreased emissions by around 3,000 metric tons of CO2 in the year 2020. Covestro carried out various other projects in fiscal 2020, resulting in annual savings of 58,000 MWh of primary energy, or 12,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. Combined, all the projects implemented since the introduction of STRUCTese® in the year 2008 have resulted in lasting reductions totaling 2.32 million MWh of primary energy and around 700,000 metric tons of CO2 per year.

These energy savings become particularly evident when viewing the significant fall in specific energy usage in production since fiscal 2005 as indicated in the following chart.

Development of specific energy usage at our main production sites

(Change in specific primary energy usage per metric ton of product, compared with the base year 2005, expressed in %)1

Development of specific energy usage at our main production sites (line chart)

1 (Equivalent primary energy usage/production volume) / (equivalent primary energy usage 2005/production volume 2005).

GHG emissions in detail

The data on direct emissions from Covestro’s own plants (Scope 1) is collected at all of our production sites 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 factors. If no specific factors are available, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) country-specific emissions factor is used among others for the calculation. Here we use the latest available IEA factors (IEA (2020), Emission Factors. All rights reserved). 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 usage and specific greenhouse gas emissions.

The Group’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions declined by 5.6% over the previous year, with direct greenhouse gas emissions down by 3.3% and indirect greenhouse gas emissions down by 6.2%. At our major production sites, which account for over 95% of our energy usage, the production volume fell by 5.4% in fiscal 2020. As a result, specific emissions also dropped by 0.2% year over year.

Greenhouse gas emissions1 (million metric tons of CO2 equivalents)











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






Portfolio-adjusted based on the GHG Protocol; financial control approach; global warming potential (GWP) factors correspond to the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report.


In the year 2020, 58.2% of emissions were CO2 emissions, 40.1% were N2O emissions, 1.6% consisted of partly fluorinated hydrocarbons, and 0.1% was methane.


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.

Other direct emissions into the air

In addition to greenhouse gases, Covestro’s business activities result in other emissions into the air, mainly 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). Whereas emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen remained at their prior-year levels, sulfur dioxide emissions dropped (–35.0%), primarily as a result of production declines and lower volumes of sulfurous waste at our largest facility in North America. Dust emissions also declined (–8.7%), mainly as a result of downtime caused by the pandemic as well as lower capacity utilization overall at our Greater Noida site. The figure reported for NMVOC emissions dropped by 14.3%, but the value for ODS remained stable at the prior-year level.

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










































Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC).


Ozone-depleting substances (ODS).

Water usage and consumption

The availability and accessibility of clean water is vital for our production sites. As part of our Corporate Commitment on Water issued in the year 2017, we initiated and have continually refined a global risk assessment of all of our production sites covering water availability, quality, and accessibility.

In fiscal 2020, our risk-based water approach was expanded. In addition to physical risks such as water scarcity and quality, we now also consider potential regulatory risks at our production sites. This approach is followed at the main production sites currently exposed to a high risk of what is known as water stress. Water stress includes water scarcity as well as other factors such as water quality and access to water. We identify locations subject to water stress using recognized tools, such as the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas by the World Resources Institute and the Water Risk Filter by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). In addition, we have internal exchanges with the experts at each site. Sites located in current water stress regions account for 27% of our total water usage. By analyzing the local water management at the sites, risks can be spotted at an early stage and potential for improvement can be identified. For instance, the production site in Antwerp (Belgium) launched a program in the year 2018 to reduce water consumption and increase the percentage of recycled water used. Moreover, the site along with 50 other chemical and pharmaceuticals companies joined a project called “Learning Network Water” organized by Essenscia, the Belgian Federation for Chemistry and Life Sciences Industries. The project aims to develop action plans for water protection and circular water usage and to provide a platform for members to learn from one another.

In addition, Covestro set up a water community in the year 2020 in which the affected sites can exchange information and share good practices.

Use of water in the year 2020 (million cubic meters)

Use of water in the year of 2020 (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 246 million cubic meters, overall water usage in the Group is below the previous year’s figure. This is mainly attributable to a decline in the volume of water obtained from external suppliers by our North Rhine-Westphalia sites due to lower capacity utilization for economic reasons. Once-through cooling water accounts for over 80% of this figure, and consequently represents most of the water used by Covestro in fiscal 2020. 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 199 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 year, the volume of recycled water used stood at approximately 5 million cubic meters, around the same share as the prior year.

Total water consumption amounted to approximately 2 million cubic meters in the reporting year. This results from the difference between total water used and total water discharged. We currently calculate our total water consumption according to Standard 303-5 (2018).


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 saw a year-over-year decline of 4.0%. The proportion of process wastewater purified at a wastewater treatment plant operated by Covestro or a third party amounted to 76.9% worldwide. Following careful analysis, another 22.8% 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 decreased by 2.2% to a total of 9 million cubic meters.

Total organic carbon (TOC) emissions into wastewater were down by 8.7% compared with the previous year. The volume of phosphates discharged was down 12.8%. The amount of nitrogen compounds discharged and the volume of inorganic salts introduced into wastewater grew by 17.7% and 1.9%, respectively. The volume of heavy metals emitted in the reporting year rose by 17.4%.

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


























Heavy metals





Inorganic salts






Chemical oxygen demand (COD), calculated based on total organic carbon (TOC) values: 1.39 (TOC × 3 = COD).

Work on the collaborative Re-Salt project, which was launched in the year 2016 by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for the purpose of recycling salt-laden industrial process water, was successfully completed in fiscal 2020. A pilot plant we operated at the Krefeld-Uerdingen site effectively demonstrated that the salt concentration in process wastewater could be increased from 7% to around 12% using a membrane process. Currently, the plant is being used to gauge options for further increasing concentrations and reducing energy requirements. Covestro submitted a funding request to the BMBF to continue developing this process. At the same time, we are investigating ways to optimize the two recycling plants in operation at our production sites in Krefeld-Uerdingen (Germany) and Shanghai (China). Covestro’s projects aimed at recycling salt-laden water were singled out by the Finnish innovation fund SITRA as examples of innovative circular economy solutions and showcased at the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) in September 2020.

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 source of the waste and its disposal 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 footprint, which is published annually.

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











Total waste generated





of which non-hazardous waste generated





of which hazardous waste generated1





of which hazardous waste from production






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

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











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











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


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

Internal and external interest groups which are directly or indirectly impacted by the company’s corporate activities and/or may be so in the future
MDI/diphenylmethane diisocyanate
A chemical compound from the class of aromatic isocyanates, primarily used in polyurethane foams
The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were ratified by all UN member states and entered into force on January 1, 2016. Their objective is to combat global poverty, protect the planet, and secure peace and prosperity for all.
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)
Scope 1, Scope 2, Scope 3 emissions
The GHG Protocol distinguishes between direct emissions of greenhouse gases (Scope 1), emissions from the generation of externally purchased energy (Scope 2), and all other emissions arising in the value chain either before or after our business activities (Scope 3).
TDI/toluene 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.
HSEQ/Health, safety, environment, energy, and quality
Health, safety, environment, energy, and quality
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)
GRI/Global Reporting Initiative
Guidelines for the preparation of sustainability reports by companies, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)