Becoming Circular

In Focus
NAME:Timo Slawinski
COMPANY:Covestro Thailand
POSITION:Managing Director
LOCATION:Chon Buri, Thailand
Covestro Thailand’s Managing Director Timo Slawinski on the importance of building a circular economy and creating long-term partnerships.

When Timo Slawinski joined Bayer he was promised one thing: “We are not offering a job,” the recruiter made clear from the start. “We’re offering a career.”

“It was a bold statement,” Timo smiles. “It was quite convincing to me and, in hindsight, I can say it worked out great.”

Timo had been invited to its production site as a young PhD student, where he met with Bayer employees, toured its facilities and was wooed by recruiters who were eagerly seeking fresh faces to join their teams around the world. And while Timo found their plants impressive, it was the simple promise of joining a company that would offer him a long-term goal and perspective that convinced him to accept the role.

It was a decision that turned out well for both parties, as the now-Managing Director of Bayer spin-off Covestro Thailand has been with the company for the entirety of his career, beginning as IT Project Manager and rising through the ranks. The career he was promised has taken him all over the world, from Germany to the US to Shanghai. Today, he resides in Thailand with his wife and two of his four children; the other two are studying in Europe.

Motivations

What attracted Timo to Bayer was the opportunity to work for different business units in different functions as he pursued both the Bayer company purpose, “Science for a Better Life”, and now Covestro’s “To Make the World a Brighter Place”. As an idealistic physicist with a PhD in Engineering, he wanted to be able to contribute to solving the challenges of today, and he felt that “these are things that bring value to people and planet”.

“We need to develop sustainable solutions and innovate our way to become fully circular,” he explains. “That inspired me.

“The chemical industry plays a big part in solving the problems that we now have as a society, like energy efficiency, carbon neutrality and also building circular economies.”

Circular economies, in particular, are something that Timo is passionate about. According to the European Parliament, a circular economy is a method of production and consumption that is all about reducing waste and extending the life of products by sharing, reusing, repairing and recycling.

“It’s the duty of our generation to start this transformation here, with us.”

Why does this matter? For Timo, it’s personal.

“There’s a simple reason,” he explains. “I have four children and I want them and all the other children to also have a wonderful world to enjoy. It’s the duty of our generation to start this transformation here, with us.”

It’s a philosophy that also appears dear to Covestro, who proudly state that sustainability is one of the driving forces of the company.

“We need to transform ourselves to be fully circular, and the sooner the better,” says Timo. “I think this is the most important thing.”

Competitive Advantage

But how does a major producer of plastics do so? Well, it begins with innovation, which, according to Timo, “is very much process-driven in my area of responsibility”.

Here, Covestro is very well positioned.

“Most of the principal chemical reactions for products were invented in the last century,” Timo explains. “But we have long-term experience in developing efficient, world-scale processes. We’ve always been a technology company, and as an innovative company we always try to optimise our production processes to be more energy-efficient, requiring minimal costs.”

We distinguish ourselves by making the same products with less environmental footprint and pushing them towards sustainability and climate neutrality.

It’s about doing more and wasting less, Timo says.

“Less energy, less raw material, no fossil fuels, using recycled material or bio-based feedstock. In this area we distinguish ourselves by making the same products with less environmental footprints and pushing them towards sustainability and climate neutrality.”

Covestro wants to be a trailblazer for the plastics industry, and in many ways it is. As of February 2022, it is on track to deploy sustainably sourced green hydrogen to fuel its Shanghai plant – its first globally. Considering it’s now possible to source green hydrogen from plastics waste, its attempts to build a circular economy into everything it does certainly look to be on track.

Code of Conduct

These high expectations aren’t just something that Covestro strives to achieve itself, they also expect the same principles in its suppliers. The Supplier Code of Conduct, based on the UN’s Global Compact, as well as its own corporate commitment to human rights, comprises a key component of vendor selection, making it clear that they and their supply chains are expected to uphold the same values of human rights, sustainability, anti-corruption and labour.

This is of great importance to Covestro. “Working with suppliers together as partners is crucial for our business,” explains Timo. “We are really interested that they give the best that they can with us together. This is why we are looking for long-term partnerships.”

“We’ve always been a technology company, and as an innovative company we always try to optimise our production processes to be more energy efficient, requiring minimal costs.”

Timo recognises that these long-term partnerships are key to the success of Covestro, which is why he says it’s important the relationship is win-win. It means they’re harder to replace, at the end of the day, but building these successful relationships goes back to the idea of the circular economy – as with everything at Covestro. And when the vetting process is so rigorous, they’d have to be in it for the long haul.

After all, if you are not performing together, says Timo, it’s lose-lose. And it’s the world that loses out the most.


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