“Zero carbon is a complete and utter misnomer.”
We’ve all heard the innuendo — it’s not the size; it’s what you do with it that counts. It’s less often that you hear the same argument applied to greenhouse gases. But as Richard Northcote, chief sustainability officer at chemicals giant Covestro, argued, simply reducing the carbon emissions in the lifecycle of a product won’t do.
“Everything is carbon — we are carbon — so this whole idea of decarbonization doesn’t make any sense at all,” he said. “It’s what we do with carbon that’s important.”
After all, a company can reduce its emissions as much as it likes, but its overall impact will still be negative unless its products are climate-friendly. That, in a nutshell, is Covestro’s manifesto for a sustainable, clean economy. “What we want to do is keep carbon alive, because the problem at the moment is that we are pushing carbon where it shouldn’t be,” Northcote explained in his Scottish burr. “We want to use it and keep it alive.”
While it may not be a household name, many people will have encountered Covestro’s work in one way or other. At its core, the company produces two main products: polyurethanes and polycarbonates. The former are used in thermal insulation, adhesives, electrical housings, fridges and as a key component of footwear, mattresses, upholstery and even 2014 official FIFA World Cup footballs. (…)
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