Long-Term Opportunities and Risks

Long-term demand development

We assume that growth in chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) will roughly track global gross domestic product over the next five years and be slightly below the previous five-year average. Through our market-oriented and broad portfolio, which we will continue to strengthen in the years ahead through investments in new production capacities, research and development activities and acquisitions, we aim to achieve volumes growth that slightly exceeds this market growth. Should global economic growth see unexpected, considerable deceleration, due for example to an ongoing weak period in the emerging markets, protectionist tendencies or to geopolitical crises, the expected growth rates could prove too ambitious.

Development of competitive and customer landscape

We expect competitors from Asia and the Middle East in particular to gain increasing significance in the years ahead. Furthermore, we predict that many producers in countries rich in raw materials will expand their value chains. We counter this risk through active portfolio management.

We continuously improve our processes in order to remain competitive through our operational excellence. Our strategic Excellence Program serves the same purpose. This is expected to contribute €2 billion to EBITDA annually from the end of 2021 onward compared with baseline 2018.

In order to achieve lasting profitable growth, tap into new market segments and make our customers more successful, our research and business focus is on highly innovative business areas, some of which we enter into through strategic cooperative partnerships.


The central research areas Process Research & Chemical Engineering, Advanced Materials & Systems Research and Bioscience Research serve as global platforms headquartered in our regions: Europe, Asia Pacific and North America. Together with the development units in our operating divisions, they form the core of the global Know-How Verbund. Our strong regional presence opens up opportunities to participate in local innovation processes and gain access to local talent. We optimize the effectiveness and efficiency of our research activities through our global Know-How Verbund.

Research activities funded by the BASF Group promote the targeted development and enhancement of key technologies as well as the establishment of new business areas. Focus areas in research are determined based on their strategic relevance for BASF, above and beyond existing business areas.

We also address the risk of the technical or economic failure of research and development projects by maintaining a balanced and comprehensive project portfolio, as well as through professional, milestone-based project management.

Potential applications of digital technologies and solutions along the entire value chain are investigated in both the operational and functional divisions as well as by cross-divisional teams, and tested in dedicated pilot projects. They are supported here by the Digitalization & Information Services unit. We analyze the opportunities and risks of digitalization in Production, Logistics, Research & Development and for business models as well as in corporate functions such as Finance, Human Resources, Procurement & Supply Chain Services, Legal, Taxes, Insurance & Intellectual Property. The opportunities and risks of digitalization are steered by the operational and functional divisions.

The trust of customers and consumers is essential for the successful introduction of new technologies. That is why we enter into dialog with our stakeholders at an early stage of development. The trend toward increased sustainability requirements in our customer industries continues. Our aim is to leverage the resulting opportunities in a growing market even more effectively in the future with innovations. This is why we applied the Sustainable Solution Steering method, which is used to evaluate the sustainability of our product portfolio, to assessments of innovation projects, and integrated it into an early stage of our research and development processes as well as the development of our business strategies. In this way, we want to benefit from the higher profitability of our Accelerator solutions compared with the rest of our evaluated portfolio. At the same time, we reduce reputational and financial risks by phasing out products for which we have identified substantial sustainability concerns (“Challenged” products) within five years of initial classification as such at the latest. We develop action plans for these products at an early stage to minimize any potential financial risks. These can include research projects, reformulations or even replacing one product with another.

Portfolio development through investments

Our decisions on the type, scope and locations of our investment projects are based on assumptions related to the long-term development of markets, margins and costs, as well as raw material availability and country, currency and technology risks. Opportunities and risks arise from potential deviations in actual developments from our assumptions.

We expect the increase in chemical production in emerging markets in the coming years to remain above the global average. This will create opportunities that we want to exploit by expanding our local presence.


In the future, we will continue to expand and refine our portfolio through acquisitions that promise above-average profitable growth as part of the BASF Verbund, are innovation-driven or offer a technological differentiation, that help to reach a relevant market position, and make new, sustainable business models possible.

The evaluation of opportunities and risks plays a significant role during the assessment of acquisition targets. A detailed analysis and quantification is conducted as part of due diligence. Examples of risks include increased staff turnover, delayed realization of synergies, or the assumption of obligations that were not precisely quantifiable in advance. If our expectations in this regard are not fulfilled, risks could arise, such as the need to impair intangible assets; however, there could also be opportunities, for example, from additional synergies.

Recruitment and long-term retention of qualified employees

BASF anticipates growing challenges in attracting qualified employees in the medium and long term due to demographic change, especially in North America and Europe. As a result, there is an increased risk that job vacancies may not be filled with suitable applicants, or only after a delay. We address these risks with measures to integrate diversity, employee and leadership development, and intensified employer branding. At local level, demographic management includes succession planning, knowledge management and offerings to improve the balance between personal and professional life and promote healthy living. This increases BASF’s appeal as an employer and retains our employees in the long term.


Opportunities and risks that could arise from material sustainability topics can only rarely be measured in specific financial terms and have an impact on business activities, especially in the medium to long term.

As part of our general risk management process, we also identify and assess relevant risks arising from sustainability topics such as climate change. Our sustainability management helps to minimize risks and opens up new opportunities to market more sustainable products. We reduce potential risks in the areas of environmental protection, safety and security, health protection, product stewardship, compliance, supplier relationships and labor and social standards by setting ourselves globally uniform requirements. These often go beyond local legal requirements.

We verify compliance with these standards through internal monitoring systems such as global surveys or audits. In 2019, for example, suppliers were audited for sustainability at a number of sites. All employees, managers and Board members are required to adhere to our global Code of Conduct, which defines a binding framework for our activities. The monitoring systems are complemented by grievance mechanisms such as our compliance hotlines.

Risk management in the area of sustainability also includes climate-related risks and opportunities. We consider risks for companies in connection with the transition to a low-carbon economy (transition risks) as well as physical risks as defined by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). For BASF as an energy-intensive company, climate-related risks arise particularly from regulatory changes, such as in carbon prices through emissions trading systems, taxes or energy legislation. In addition, BASF’s emissions footprint and intensity could lead to a negative perception and reduced appeal among external stakeholders such as customers or investors. We counter these risks with our carbon management measures and by transparently disclosing our positions on and contributions to climate protection (such as political demands, progress in the implementation of our climate strategy and how our products help to protect the environment) in publicly accessible sources (such as this annual report or on the BASF website) and in direct dialog with external stakeholders. Physical risks to our production and our supply chain are addressed by our risk management in production and in procurement. Our broad product portfolio also includes solutions for the circular economy and climate protection (such as insulation foams for buildings, materials for electromobility and bio-based products). Increased social awareness offers additional market opportunities for these products. We are working with numerous scientific and public organizations and initiatives on solutions for sustainable agriculture that meet economic, ecological, and social demands over the long term.

Our decentralized specialists use a central decision tree to document reportable sustainability risks within the meaning of section 289b et seq. of the German Commercial Code. No reportable residual net risks within the meaning of section 289b et seq. of the German Commercial Code were identified for 2019.