Partner Profile: Dr Markus Steilemann

Markus Steileman smaller size 1.jpg

“My north star is the Covestro vision of making the world a brighter place. This applies to conserving our environment and creating a sustainable economic order that unites value creation and wellbeing. And... we need fair, integrative societies that are more just, more tolerant and more cohesive." 

This issue features Markus Steilemann, Chairman of the Management Board of Covestro AG, Chief Executive Officer at Covestro

A visionary and very active leader, Dr. Steilemann is CEO of Covestro, a multinational global polymer companies located in Leverkusen Germany. Covestro is a driver of the circular economy and working on transforming its entire production from fossil to alternative raw materials based on renewable carbon. Steilemann, who holds a Chemistry PhD, is also the President of PlasticsEurope, the association of plastics manufacturers in Europe as well as a Vice President of the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI) and has numerous other functions. 

How did you initially become interested in your field?

When I was a little boy I had a cosy blanket made with a synthetic fiber from Bayer, and I imagined it would be great to work for such a nice company when I was grown up. Later, I indeed studied chemistry and economics, aiming at having a job at the interface of natural science and management. And, it came true.

You are the CEO & Chairman of the Board of Management at Covestro, President of Plastics Europe, as well as a prolific author and speaker in multiple languages. How do you do it all? 

And, a husband and father of two... To be honest, it takes a great deal of discipline and commitment. I’m burning to help create a truly sustainable world with technological innovation and the power of superior materials like plastics. This gives me the energy I need.

You have talked about the problem with the idea of “decarbonizing the environment”. Can you explain why we must not strive for a carbon-free world? And how does this goal relate to Covestro’s work with durable plastics? 

I’d rather talk of defossilization and a world that gets rid of fossil resources. This seems to be possible, at least in terms of technology. But, of course, mankind cannot do without carbon. It’s the building block of life itself and essential for materials such as cement, steel, paper and plastics. However, it must come from sources other than oil, coal and gas. Eco-friendly alternatives are there: if we use biomass, CO2 and waste, we can recirculate carbon instead of burning it to the detriment of the climate and environment.

What will we see in the future at Covestro? 

We will see a company which helps implement the circular economy as global guiding principle and is itself fully circular in each and every operation. That’s our long-term vision, and we are working with all our power to make it come true.

You were once quoted as saying: “The linear economy has no future. But we still have a lot of convincing to do to ensure that the economy and society change their behavior. This is only possible with a political framework for a circular economy.” Could you explain what you mean?

The circular economy is the key to climate neutrality, resource conservation and environmental protection, as well as sustainable value creation. It means a giant transformation, an immense project for the world. To realize this, we must change our ways of living, the way we produce and consume. And, it requires the right framework and tailwind from policymakers and regulators. For example, politics must quickly provide for huge amounts of green energy at competitive cost.

What is your assessment of COP26? What successes has it achieved? And what areas might still need more work? 

It’s a mixed bag, as almost always. The good thing is that most of the world seems to agree on the utmost urgency of climate action and that we have now a clear commitment to the 1.5 degree target. On the way to reach it, carbon capture and utilization should play a major and increasingly bigger role. A most disappointing result from Glasgow is that there are no binding coal exit targets.

You have called for a “constructive exchange between politics and business about the big hit instead of a small check”. What needs to happen for this “constructive exchange” to take place?

Policy makers, as well as business leaders, sometimes seem to lack a master plan when it comes to issues like climate change that pose the greatest dangers for humanity. We need rapid, concerted action and concrete, feasible measures. Instead, it seems to me we run the risk of getting lost in details. However, there are very good and constructive joint initiatives–take the “Chemistry4Climate” platform in Germany that is working on concrete concepts addressing how the chemical industry and parts of its value chain can become climate neutral by 2050.


You once published a piece entitled “Beyond Pride Month” with the following statement: “It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, who you love and what you believe. What counts is your willingness and ability to develop joint solutions for a sustainable future. You are welcome just as you are–hate, intolerance and discrimination are not.” This statement was very thoughtful and inspirational. What inspires you?

My north star is the Covestro vision of making the world a brighter place. This applies to conserving our environment and creating a sustainable economic order that unites value creation and wellbeing. And, as the third dimension of sustainability, we need fair, integrative societies that are more just, more tolerant and more cohesive. I’d be happy if we at Covestro, with our values and aspirations, could make our contribution to help bring this type of world into being.

Call for Papers - Deadline extended to February 1, 2022

Frontiers in Climate is seeking submissions for their upcoming collection on Negative Emissions Technologies: Harmonizing Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Techno-Economic Analysis (TEA) guidelines: A Common Framework for consistent conduct and transparent reporting of carbon dioxide removal and CCU Technology Appraisal, Volume II.

News in a Nutshell

The First Winners Of Elon Musk’s $100 Million Carbon Removal Xprize Competition Have Been Announced

After COP26, the real race to save the planet is on

Carbon capture in 2021: Off and running or another false start?

Companies Expand Plans for Removing Carbon Dioxide From Air

German environment agency warns against using fossil CO2 in CCU

The MC³ XPRIZE Carbon Removal Team

Aker Carbon Capture ready to start CCUS project at Twence's waste-to-energy plant in the Netherlands

Imminent Events

AirMiners Event Series: Carbon Utilization and Storage Roundtable

December 8


Trying to make headway on utilization or storage pathways for a startup? They are going to lay out the case for both in an AirMiners Roundtable event. Grant Faber will lay out the case for each. For more information or to register, click here.

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