Online Exclusive: Richard Skorpenske, vice president of public affairs for North America, Covestro

Editor’s Note: For the December Beds by Design feature titled, “The Path to Sustainable Design,” we asked industry leaders to fill out a questionnaire about their creative process. Turns out, they are so passionate about the topic that we couldn’t use all their sage insights in the print feature. So, we’ve decided to post the entirety of their Q&A’s online, allowing you, our valued audience, to read all their good answers. This interview with Richard Skorpenske, vice president of public affairs, North America, for Covestro, is the last of a seven-part, online-only series that we will post weekly throughout the month of December. Most of all, our sincerest thanks to the executives who participated in the sustainable design feature to help educate the industry about a future defined by a circular economy.

What does sustainable design mean for your company?

At Covestro, it starts with the principles of a circular economy. A circular economy is becoming the new global guiding principle for many companies. Plastics are essential to effort, due to their high sustainability potential. Covestro is fully focused on the circular economy principle and becoming a guiding force for the entire plastics industry. Society and economics must find new ways of putting our world’s limited resources to good use and make the circle our new guiding principle: Viewing used products as a resource, recovering everything we can from them to recycle along the value chain. It also means exploring alternative sources of sustainable raw materials, such as biomass. Overall, it is important for companies to design cycles efficiently and by using renewable energy, thereby enabling a true circular economy.

Sustainable Design: Covestro's Vision. In 2021, Covestro partnered with the University of Pittsburg to offer a Ph.D. program.
In 2021, Covestro partnered with the University of Pittsburg to offer a Ph.D. program.

Covestro is investing in academia as well. The Covestro Circular Economy Program, created in 2021, at the University of Pittsburgh enables students to earn a Ph.D. while gaining unique expertise in circular economy principles, including design. Filling this gap in education will allow companies like Covestro and many others to design sustainably for years to come. 

What are your greatest obstacles or challenges when it comes to sustainable design?

There is lack of education when it comes to the sustainable design of products. This presents a challenge as we need the next generation to be well versed in sustainable design. Additionally, design is not limited to just products; it is also relevant to logistics and infrastructure. Collection, transportation and sortation are all key aspects to the circular economy that currently pose challenges in the industry and society. Finally, economics play a key role. Can new systems and products compete with the traditional materials and system and perform the same?

What sustainable products does your company offer?

Covestro’s motivation is to grow with products and technologies that benefit society and reduce our impact on nature. We realize that our products are based on carbon and with the help of our carbon productivity initiative, we aim to increase the added value of the carbon used along the value chains we operate in. With our strategic programs, our primary aim is to maximize the use of limited resources and manufacture products in a truly sustainable, climate-neutral way. By using alternative raw materials and renewable energy, we aim to shrink plastic’s environmental footprint, reduce our emissions and eliminate waste, or reuse it as a resource. Some examples of our sustainable products include:

  • Waterborne polyurethane coatings that make textile production safer and more eco-friendly. Manufactured under the name INSQIN, our product enables producers and brand owners along the value chain to offer high-quality soft goods with a global warming potential that is far lower than those made with solvents.
  • Introduction of Covestro’s mass balance portfolio. Our mass balance approach helps our customers realize their goal of introducing renewable materials into large-scale industry installations. We provide solutions that help transform customer product portfolios into more circular and climate-friendly ones. By using these drop-in solutions, our customers can reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Mattresses with a Covestro Niaga tag are made of polyester and steel only. That’s it. Happily, both are clean and infinite materials. The various components are connected with our click-unclick polyester-based Niaga adhesive. The Niaga tag enables producers to get their materials back at the end of each product’s life cycle. We turn waste streams into infinite material streams, bringing high-quality resources back to life for new high-quality applications, again and again.

What is your ultimate goal when it comes to sustainability?

Covestro has set ambitious sustainability goals for 2025. We want to further reduce our specific emissions, pass on our sustainability standards to our suppliers, align our research with the goals of the United Nations, get the most out of carbon, and thereby improve the livelihoods of 10 million people in underserved markets around the world. Through these initiatives, we aim to be climate neutral regarding Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2035. We will also be announcing Scope 3 targets in early 2024 and, finally, our vision is to become fully circular.

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