As part of our materiality analysis, "Circular Economy" was established as one of the most important sustainability issues for Evonik. It provides an alternative to the conventional linear economic model (manufacturing, use, disposal): It ideally displays recyclables in the maximum level of value creation and led to this in different cycles from production, use, recycling and re-use.
The overarching goal of the circular economy is the production of products using renewable energies – without generating waste along the value chains. In German, this concept is also called the "circular economy". However, since "circular economy" is often equated with "waste management", Evonik also uses the technical term "circular economy" in German.
As a specialty chemicals company, we research and develop solutions for mechanical and chemical recycling. This includes both the recycling of plastics and rubber, as well as the material use of CO2. In addition, Evonik is currently examining the sensible feasibility of chemical recycling for PET plastics. The aim of a Group-wide meeting in the summer of 2019 in Marl was to gather the knowledge available at Evonik on the topic of the "Circular Economy in the Plastics Sector" and to network the actors. Around 50 representatives from various Group divisions and operational units took the opportunity to exchange ideas and discussed how Evonik can benefit from the current trend towards a more sustainable use of plastics.
In addition, an interdisciplinary working group dealt with the quantitative evaluation of the circularity of selected Evonik products. After intensive research, they decided to use the methodology of the “Material Circularity Indicator” developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Granta Design. This indicator is now calculated for selected products to assess their circulatory capacity. In addition to the calculation of circularity, Evonik products have eco-balances in order to be able to assess environmental impacts. The results will be used in the selection of materials for the production process and will support the sustainability analysis of the business (see chapter "Strategy and Growth" in the Sustainability Report).
A kick-off-meeting of a strategic circular economy initiative took place to increase the visibility and attention of management to the challenges and opportunities of circularity within the Group. After that meeting we transformed our existing working group into the Expert Circle "Circular Economy". This has been confirmed by the Global ESHQ Committee and is now fully integrated into our ESHQ management approach. In view of the increasing importance of a circular economy in the society and for Evonik, we presented our stakeholder conference "Evonik-Perspectives" in Berlin in 2019 under the title "The future is running round – Circular Economy as an opportunity for Germany as a center of commerce and industry”. The feedback and comments of the more than 150 participants will feed into the work of the Expert Circle.
In 2020, we will continue to closely monitor the development of a “Circular Economy”, actively shape it and report on progress on a regular basis. This will be done especially in the new Expert Circle. We also want to take further steps to quantitatively assess the circularity of selected Evonik products.