Protecting the resource water
In a double interview, Ricarda Hübner and Dr. Lorenz Kramer explain how Covestro intends to support the UN SDGs with a water initiative.
Why is a chemical company suddenly interested in clean water?
Lorenz Kramer: At Covestro, we are not suddenly interested in water. Rather, we are aware of the special responsibility that the use of this valuable resource entails. Water is both the basis of life and an important raw material. We have to be very careful with the water that is available - it is valuable and not infinite - so that there is enough water for everyone. That is precisely why we want to protect water as a resource.
That is a noble approach. How exactly does Covestro want to protect water as a resource?
Ricarda Hübner: That's exactly the right question: what role can we as a company play with our products, solutions and activities in addressing water-related needs? Certainly a complex question that requires diverse and holistic thinking. In order to approach the best answers, we launched an internal initiative together with representatives of our business units. As part of this, all colleagues globally were called upon to submit ideas with business potential to promote the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). As a result, we were able to collect dozens of proposals. More than 20 of these ideas are currently being tested for their concrete feasibility in operational business.
What kind of ideas are they?
Ricarda Hübner: Among the suggestions from the workforce are many ideas for urban agriculture, but also for cleaning water of microplastics. Our own water consumption in production and how this can be improved also played a major role. Should we implement these ideas on a large scale, we will certainly have many more exciting details to share.
A water initiative like this sounds really great, but is Covestro already doing anything to protect water today?
Lorenz Kramer: Absolutely, that's what we're doing! We already started recycling process water a few years ago as part of the ReSalt project. We now operate two large saline water recovery plants in Krefeld-Uerdingen and Caojing near Shanghai. This enables us to reuse some of the brine-containing process water that is generated in the production of polycarbonate. This is an important step toward conserving resources and moving toward a circular economy. We are currently developing this process further in the RIKovery project.
The water initiative relies on swarm intelligence within the company to come up with sustainable solutions. Is this the way companies will create innovations in the future?
Ricarda Hübner: Certainly, such collaborative idea generation concepts will play a greater role in the future. To promote sustainable growth, we need to tap every creative source we can find. And our colleagues are of course great sources that we as employers must and want to actively involve in innovation processes. It's our job to develop exciting concepts that encourage our diverse workforce to get involved and help us realize our innovative potential. This always involves the right mix of inspiration and interaction. But of course, our research work together with scientific institutions cannot be replaced by this.