Covestro, WindStax to continue collaboration on sustainable business practices

Covestro and WindStax have been partnering for months with New Mexican artist Andrea Polli to create an energy-efficient lighting display on Pittsburgh’s Rachel Carson Bridge that will be unveiled tonight during the city’s Light-Up Night festivities.

But even after the installation goes dark following the holiday season, the two companies will continue to collaborate on initiatives that promote sustainable business practices.

Top executives from each are spearheading a new group, CEOs for Sustainability, that aims to build a cohort of local business leaders who will focus on spreading the benefits of such initiatives to companies throughout the region.

“The intent is to aid businesses regardless of where they are on the sustainability spectrum,” said Rebecca Lucore, head of corporate social responsibility and sustainability for Covestro’s North and South American regions.

For businesses, sustainability and social responsibility encompass practices that benefit society overall, such as reducing energy consumption and using renewable materials; engaging in corporate philanthropy; and maintaining ethical business standards.

Covestro, a Germany-based firm with its North American headquarters in Robinson, produces specialty plastics used in products including automobile parts, electronics, and construction materials.

Plum-based WindStax makes wind energy power systems.

Jerry MacCleary, president of Covestro’s North American region, and Ron Gdovic, founder and chief executive of WindStax, are the founding partners of CEOs for Sustainability.

About 18 regional executives are already involved in the group, said Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, a nonprofit working with the effort. He declined to name those that have committed but said they range from large, publicly-held corporations to mom-and-pop enterprises.

For the past six years, Sustainable Pittsburgh has been convening a group of corporate sustainability officers that has grown to 60 members. “What they’ve taught us is that corporate social responsibility is all about the organizational culture and it begins with the CEO,” he said.

A major goal of the new initiative will be to get out the message that such practices can boost a company’s bottom line and attract more investment, Mr. Gould said.

“Sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have,” he said. “The markets favor investment in companies that are doing well by doing right.”

The initiative was unveiled Thursday to participants in the National League of Cities annual summit at the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District. About 50 summit attendees gathered at the center for one of its “mobile workshops,” held throughout the city to explore urban challenges such as riverfront development and transportation.

At the Energy Innovation Center, Covestro sponsored a workshop on sustainability where topics ranged from broad global guidelines to how businesses and local governments can implement sustainable products and practices.

Walid Nagi, chief of local network for the United Nations’ Global Compact, said U.N. leaders last year adopted 17 sustainable development goals to be addressed over the next 15 years, including clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, gender equality and an end to poverty.

Responding to several questions from the audience about whether last week’s election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president could stymie ongoing environmental and clean energy initiatives, Richard Northcote, Covestro’s global chief sustainability officer, said it’s too early to predict.

During his campaign, President-elect Trump talked about abolishing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and throwing out the Paris climate accord worked out last year that set new international goals for reducing emissions.

“We’ll have to wait and see what actually happens,” Mr. Northcote said. “The Paris agreement was signed by virtually every country on the planet. I can’t see where the benefit of scrapping it is.”

The private sector can still drive sustainability in its business models, he said, by actions such as reducing carbon emissions and monitoring the use of sustainable products in supply chains.

Joyce Gannon: or 412-263-1580.

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