Richard Northcote, chief sustainability officer of Covestro A.G., died unexpectedly, the materials company said June 22.
Northcote, 58, had a varied career spanning journalism, government affairs and corporate communications before becoming Covestro's chief sustainability officer.
At Covestro, he was heavily involved in the company's support of Solar Impulse, a solar powered plane that circled the globe. He also believed that the industry should become more efficient and committed the firm to cutting CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2025.
"The chemical and plastics industry contributes to resource conservation and energy efficiency with its products and solutions, but it also requires a lot of energy," Northcote said in a 2016 statement about the CO2 reduction project. "And that is why we can—and want to—do our part toward fulfilling the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
"To reduce your own energy use by half—or to double your energy productivity—may seem impossible to some companies today. But initiatives ... motivate us, and hopefully many others, to apply intelligent solutions and indeed make possible what is now considered impossible."
He was a regular contributor to Urethanes Technology International and a speaker at many Crain Communications polyurethane conferences, most recently in Amsterdam in 2016.
Northcote was a strong defender of good journalism, and the rights of journalists to publish information that companies may try to hide.
While he was the editor of The Engineer, he supported Bill Goodwin, a journalist who took the United Kingdom to the European Court of Human Rights. The case revolved around whether Goodwin had to reveal his source in a report on a company. The European Court found in Goodwin's favor, and the U.K.'s laws on contempt of court were changed.
As an ex-journalist, Northcote was a very conversational person. He revealed to a group of journalists that he received the telephone call from Patrick Thomas, the former CEO of Covestro, appointing him to the job as chief sustainability officer while he was about to watch a rugby match. At the time, Northcote explained, he had been enjoying pre-match hospitality at the event, and the call meant he had to move out of his surroundings into the fresh air and adopt a more business-like tone than he had previously been using.
While unable to give more details on Nothcote's passing, a senior Covestro spokesman said: "He had so many great plans. His death is truly shocking, the whole world will miss him."