Biodiversity describes the variety of life forms on Earth. Animals and plants fulfill a variety of functions and guarantee the ability of their ecosystem to withstand alterations such as climate change. As a chemical company, we depend on ecosystem services like the availability of renewable resources and air, water and soil quality, while also influencing them. Protecting biodiversity is therefore a key element of our commitment to sustainability.

The graphic depicts the different stations along the value chain. The topics in each chapter address the station shown in light blue. (here: Suppliers, BASF, Customers) (graphic)

Thanks to responsible procurement practices, the efficient use of raw materials, our product solutions and involvement in numerous initiatives, our business conduct is consistent with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and we reduce our negative impact on biodiversity. It is currently extremely difficult to measure impacts on biodiversity and thus BASF’s impacts in full. At the same time, we help to measure significant impacts on land use in individual steps of the value chain, for example with our Value to Society method. We also initiated a pilot project in 2020 to improve methodological measurement of the impacts of individual product applications on biodiversity.

Our responsibility to our supply chains

The business activities of our raw materials suppliers often involve land use and the associated impact on biodiversity, whether it is in natural gas and crude oil production, mineral extraction or cultivation of crops such as oil palms and castor-oil plants. Our expectations with regard to environmental, labor and social standards in the supply chain are laid down in the Supplier Code of Conduct.

We published our Position on Forest Protection in June 2020. In it, we commit to the preservation of areas of High Conservation Value, High Carbon Stock forest areas and peatlands when procuring renewable raw materials. Our aim is to prevent these areas from being developed for intensive economic use. Furthermore, we want any land use development activity to respect the rights of indigenous and local communities. We are working with partners to increase supply chain sustainability, for instance with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in our supply chain for palm-based raw materials.

BASF procures a variety of renewable raw materials. Particularly palm and palm kernel oil, soy oil and its derivatives as well as lignosulphonates, which are extracted from wood, have been determined to have a high deforestation risk. Based on purchasing volume, palm oil products are the most relevant renewable raw materials for BASF. To achieve greater sustainability in this supply chain, a detailed Palm Commitment went into effect in 2011 and was extended in 2015. It was put into practice through our Palm Sourcing Policy. Furthermore, we are involved in a range of projects in other supply chains promoting responsible use of natural resources and biodiversity. BASF was rated for the first time in 2020 in the nonprofit organization CDP’s forest assessment (grade: A–). It evaluates companies’ management of environmental risks and opportunities. It is based on detailed insights into our palm value chain and the impact of our activities on ecosystems and habitats.

In cooperation with partners, we are also developing innovative solutions to reduce pressure for economic use of forests. For example, the Nutrition & Health division and Isobionics® launched Isobionics® Santalol in 2020, which is a biotechnologically produced fragrance and a convincing alternative to natural sandalwood oil. This oil is extracted from the wood and roots of the sandalwood tree, which is on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because it is highly endangered by overexploitation. Our newly developed fragrance addresses customer demand for reliability in the supply of raw materials while conserving natural resources.

Our responsibility to our sites and our production

Preservation of biodiversity is also taken into consideration in the management of our sites. We respect natural resources at all our production sites and have committed to the following measures: We operate our facilities in a responsible manner and minimize negative effects on the environment, including forests, by keeping air, water and soil emissions as low as possible and reducing and avoiding waste. Moreover, we conduct systematic assessments of sustainability aspects when making decisions about investments in the construction of new sites or expansion of existing ones, including the potential impact on forests and biodiversity. Our water management and our involvement in organizations such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) contribute to the preservation of biodiversity in bodies of water.

Our management of our product impact

We want to ensure that our products meet our customers’ standards in quality and, through appropriate use, pose no risk to humans, animals or the environment. Our commitment to the objectives set forth by the Responsible Care® charter of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) obligates us to continuously minimize the negative effects of our products on the environment, health and safety and to optimize our products on an ongoing basis. For example, we evaluate our products and solutions in crop protection and seeds throughout the entire research, development and registration process. After they have been approved for the market, we continue assessing them regularly for potential risks and impact to the ecosystems in which they are used. We have initiated various projects and offer training to prevent inappropriate application of our products.

All types of land development, such as agriculture and forestry, play a role in changing biodiversity. Activities such as tillage, drainage, fertilization and the use of crop protection products can affect flora and fauna by influencing their food sources.

We strengthened our commitment to sustainable agriculture in 2020. We focus on four areas to help farmers to find the right balance: climate-smart farming, sustainable solutions, digital farming and smart stewardship. In this context, we work with farmers to create balanced agricultural systems which enable productive and efficient farming of high-quality food products and at the same time promote biodiversity in the field. For example, we advise them on soil cultivation and look for suitable ways to improve biodiversity in farmlands. Our many years of experience in sustainability measurement and evaluation in agriculture are particularly useful here. Our AgBalance® method and the biodiversity calculator, which has been available since 2020, enable a scientifically sound assessment of the impact of agricultural practices on biodiversity. Based on these assessments, we issue recommendations for measures such as planting flower strips or establishing nesting places to benefit pollinators, like wild bees, and farmland birds. Our modern seed solutions also enable better yield on existing farmlands and thus help protect natural habitats.

Our biodiversity initiatives

Engaging in an ongoing dialog with a variety of stakeholders is of utmost importance to BASF. For this reason, we will continue to pursue an exchange with partners in the value chain, in government and in civil society to preserve the natural habitats of plants and wild animals and thus play our part in protecting biodiversity. We work with a number of organizations including the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the Sustainable Palm Oil Forum, the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture and the High Carbon Stock Approach Steering Group. We seek to collaborate with additional relevant stakeholders and organizations to raise and increase awareness and drive the necessary market transformation to make an impact on the ground. To promote biodiversity, we are pursuing various initiatives such as the BASF FarmNetwork Sustainability, the Mata Viva® Initiative and the “Lark’s Bread” project (see box below).

The BASF FarmNetwork Sustainability was established in 2013 with the goal of developing feasible measures to increase biodiversity across intensively farmed land. The network is composed of farms in Europe, including in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Poland. Independent external experts on nature conservation and environmental protection assess the development of biodiversity at some of these farms.

The Mata Viva® Initiative in Brazil is a collaboration between BASF and the Fundação Espaço ECO® organization as well as partners from many facets of society. It was established in 1984 to preserve water quality and soil and create a natural habitat for indigenous animal and plant species. To date, a total of 730 hectares of land have been reforested and 1.2 million seedlings have been planted. A program started in 2020 restores forests in the Mata do Barreiro Rico green reserve. The reserve is one of the last sanctuaries of the southern muriqui monkey (Brachyteles arachnoides), which is classified by the IUCN as critically endangered.

The “Lark’s Bread” project to foster biodiversity

With this project, BASF is showing in Germany that striking a balance between productive agriculture and biodiversity is possible. In a pilot project with a local bakery chain and a mill, four farmers from the BASF FarmNetwork Sustainability have created “lark windows” on a total of 40 hectares of winter wheat fields. These “lark windows” are open spaces in fields with an area of about 20 m2, which skylarks use as “runways” when they brood in the fields and search for food. The harvested wheat is processed into “lark’s bread” and sold at a markup that compensates farmers for their efforts and yield loss as well as supports further biodiversity measures.

The “Lark’s Bread” project to foster biodiversity (Photo)