K 2022 Kick-Off Event: A Seat at the Table for the Young Generation

Written by: Christian Haessler

K 2022: what a trade show, what a team, what a journey! Covestro has eight tough but incredibly exciting days behind it, with great impressions, discussions and new contacts. It is difficult to pick out a highlight from this. In keeping with this year's Covestro motto "Crafting Connections with you," one of the many highlights of the diverse trade show program that I personally remember is the kick-off event on October 19.

The K-fair has always been a place of inspiration and discussion for economic and political decision-makers from all over the world. It was therefore only logical that Covestro's very first program item and associated panel would focus on the key issues we wanted to present and discuss at the show: "Pioneering a Fully Circular Future - with climate-neutral plastics." How do we make the transition to a fully circular economy and climate neutrality?

Possible answers to this question were discussed on stage by Covestro CEO Markus Steilemann, Sophie Herrmann, partner at SYSTEMIQ, Teresa Oberhauser, global coordinator of the UNEP Youth Representative Council, and Markus Krebber, CEO of RWE.

Acting faster and more efficiently together

An exciting mix of different opinions and backgrounds, thus, which led to a vital discussion on the stage of our Covestro booth. Exactly what the K-fair and especially the plastics industry needs to meet the challenges regarding climate targets and the circular economy. Markus Krebber, for example, emphasized that the energy crisis is a global crisis and was present even before the war in Ukraine. An important point to understand that the challenges in the energy sector will remain and that we need to work not on short term but on long term solutions. We are on the right track!

Sophie Herrmann highlighted one of the most important aspects in the topic of the circular economy by giving plastics a new role in which plastic can stand for cutting-edge again. This was also the focus of various stations at our Covestro stand at the trade fair, where we presented visitors with forward-looking solutions made of plastics for our customers, some of which were already based on alternative raw materials such as recycled or biobased.

At the end of the panel discussion, all four agreed that joint action must be taken more quickly and efficiently. The various sectors from politics, business, NGOs and society must work together at the international level and procedures must be set in motion more quickly.

Having the younger generation at the table

This is a commendable conclusion of the panel, but not the reason why I see the kick-off event as one of the highlights of this year's fair. My reason is Teresa Oberhauser.

Teresa reinforced several times in the discussion that the biggest problem of the young generation is the feeling of powerlessness. That this is exactly what creates frustration. I still have the image in my mind that she described: At the K-Fair, business giants and influential policymakers discussing decisions that will affect this young generation in particular.

Of course, she's right - more than half of the world's population is under 30, and Teresa's key questions on the panel were: How can the younger generation be involved in decision-making? Where is their place at the table?

There are definitely structural changes involved. There are few examples so far at the European level where young people have a seat at the table of large corporations, can influence decisions and give their opinion directly to decision makers.

I believe that we can also transfer this way of thinking to industry and business; participation by the younger generation is also possible and necessary here. Covestro could lead the way in this respect, in the spirit of the chemical industry.

Markus Steilemann summed it up very accurately on the panel in conclusion: The chemical industry is not an old industry, as it is always said to be. It is younger and more modern than ever before!

In a company as young and modern as Covestro, we must take care not only to enter into dialog with the younger generation, but also to let them participate in important decisions.

For me, this is emblematic of "crafting connections with you" and a good basis for all that lies ahead in terms of the circular economy and climate neutrality.

Missed the kick-off event? Then watch the recording on Covestro's YouTube channel.

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