BASF Report 2021

Strategic Opportunities and Risks

Long-term demand development

We assume that growth in chemical production (excluding pharmaceuticals) will be about as strong as that of the global gross domestic product over the next five years and stronger than the five-year average prior to the coronavirus pandemic. 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 volume growth that slightly exceeds this market growth. Should global economic growth see unexpected, considerable deceleration because of prolonged restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, an ongoing weak period in the emerging markets, protectionist tendencies or 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 in consumer-oriented sectors. In addition, the proliferation of large-scale digital marketplaces for chemicals could impact existing customer and supplier relationships.

We expect a continuous rise in customer demand for sustainable solutions, for example, products with a low carbon footprint, made from recycled, circular, or bio-based raw materials that are biodegradable, or products with other measurable sustainability benefits. We are therefore addressing these topics in research and investment programs for the sustainable transformation of BASF. Companies with a proven track record of providing more sustainable solutions will be able to achieve higher growth and profitability as a result. The expansion of sharing economy business models could have a long-term impact on demand in individual customer industries. At the same time, higher demands on product features can also create opportunities for innovation.

To maintain our competitiveness, we are continuously improving our production processes, streamlining our administration and simplifying workflows and processes as part of our excellence programs. Our research and business focus is on highly innovative businesses and differentiation through sustainability advantages to make our customers and BASF more successful.


We expect to achieve continued regulatory and societal pressure, climate-neutral energy production, climate-neutral energy consumption, and a climate-neutral resource and raw material base. The political approaches to address these issues will vary greatly from region to region. However, based on Europe in particular, we expect measures with a high level of regulation and detail that will have the potential to significantly impact the competitiveness of BASF’s operations and product portfolio.

Furthermore, we see the risk of the current geopolitical shift in balance of power leading to the establishment of uncoordinated or divergent global legislative standards and regulatory systems, not just in relation to chemicals, but also to environmental, social and corporate governance criteria and the regulatory framework for digitalization.

We counter these risks as part of our corporate strategy. We explain our strategy in meetings with political decision-makers and social stakeholders. In doing so, we also inform ourselves of the changes we must undergo and advocate for a favorable and stable regulatory framework at both the national and international level. We consider BASF to be in a strong position to contribute solutions toward achieving U.N. development goals, particularly regarding climate neutrality, through new technologies, innovative products and processes and our broad product portfolio.


We expect the trend toward increased sustainability requirements in our customer industries to continue. Our aim is to leverage the resulting opportunities in a growing market with even more sustainable innovations. The key areas are products with a lower or even net zero carbon footprint, circular economy solutions, and safe and sustainable products. To be successful in these fields, we have launched specific research and investment programs for the sustainable transformation of BASF. Furthermore, we began applying the Sustainable Solution Steering method to the evaluation of innovation projects and integrated it at an early stage of our research and development processes. In this way, we are steering our innovation portfolio toward increased sustainability, which leads to higher profitability while reducing reputational and financial risks as well.

There are technical and commercial risks of failure associated with every single research and development project. We also address this by maintaining a balanced and comprehensive project portfolio as well as through professional, milestone-based project management.

Further risks may arise from increasing state protectionism and the demand for localization of intellectual property in order to achieve technological independence. Through our Know-how Verbund in research and development, we ensure that critical intellectual property is generated and protected in countries with high intellectualproperty standards.

We expect that the digital disruption of established processes will lead to a sharp increase in efficiency and effectiveness in some fields. BASF is therefore committed to taking a leading role in the digital transformation of the chemical industry. Possible applications of digital technologies and solutions are evaluated along the entire value chain and implemented throughout the company, for example, in production, logistics, research and development, business models and corporate governance.

Procurement, supply chain and infrastructure

Supply security for raw materials, energy and services is increasingly affected by trade disputes, protectionism and geopolitical conflict. In addition, supply chains are increasingly threatened by disruptions such as suppliers’ production bottlenecks, interrupted logistics chains, extreme weather events, and longer-lasting effects from the coronavirus pandemic. Climate change and extreme weather events are impacting the availability of renewable resources.

These risks, as well as the introduction of new environmental regulations (for example, carbon fees), can have an impact on purchasing prices. Transportation costs are significantly affected by capacity constraints (for example, a lack of truck drivers, traffic jams due to inadequate logistics infrastructure).

We are seeing an ongoing expansion of the regulatory framework affecting us and our suppliers. Potential non-compliance by our suppliers may lead to a reduced supplier base. Moreover, the availability of renewable energies depends largely on favorable prices and framework conditions.

These risks are continuously analyzed and appropriate strategies and measures developed to minimize the impact on BASF.

To assess the changing risks for our sites from climate change, climate data based on the latest scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were compiled for our sites in cooperation with an external partner. This enables the sites to assess the potential impact of climate change in the coming decades. Here, we focus on a climate protection scenario, supplemented by two scenarios with medium and high levels of global warming.1 The most common potential impact is an increase in heat and drought. The findings can be considered in the development of site strategies.

The availability of our infrastructure, production plants and supply chains can be negatively affected by system downtime, confidentiality breaches, or manipulation of data in critical IT systems and applications. The threat environment has changed in recent years, as attackers have become better organized, use more sophisticated technology, and have far more resources available.

Portfolio development through investments

We expect growth in chemical production in emerging markets to remain above the global average in the years to come. This will create opportunities that we want to exploit by expanding our local presence. In addition, regional value chains help mitigate risks from trade conflicts and barriers that pose a challenge to global markets and supply chains.

Decisions on the type, scope and location of our investment projects are made on the basis of established comprehensive assessment processes. They take into account long-term forecasts for market, margin and cost development, raw material availability as well as country, currency, sustainability and technology risks. Opportunities and risks arise from potential deviations in actual developments from our assumptions.

Investments in more sustainable technologies represent a long-term opportunity, even though they may not be competitive or profitable in the short term, depending on the market and the prevailing regulatory framework.

Acquisitions, divestitures and cooperations

In the future, we will continue to expand and refine our portfolio through acquisitions that promise above-average profitable growth, are innovation-driven or offer a technological differentiation and help achieve 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 met, risks could arise, such as the need to impair intangible assets; however, there could also be opportunities, for example, from additional synergies.

Divestitures also play a key role in the development of our portfolio. Risks could arise from divestitures as a result of potential warranty claims or other contractual obligations, such as long-term supply agreements.

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, 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.

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 sometimes go beyond local legal requirements. Our globally applicable Code of Conduct defines a binding framework for the activities of all BASF employees, leaders and members of the Board of Executive Directors. To ensure compliance with our internal standards, we have global management systems in place and monitor their implementation internally by means such as global surveys and audits. Expectations of suppliers are laid down in our global Supplier Code of Conduct. We have suppliers with a high potential sustainability risk evaluated by third parties, either through sustainability evaluations or on-site audits. The monitoring systems are complemented by grievance mechanisms such as our compliance hotlines.

Furthermore, ongoing climate change poses both opportunities and risks 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.

In addition to climate-related risks, there are also opportunities. Our broad product portfolio includes, among other things, 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, environmental, 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 2021.

1 The assessment model was based on the IPCC climate change scenario SSP1-2.6, supplemented by SSP2-4.5 (medium global warming scenario) and SSP5-8.5 (high global warming scenario).

Value chain
A value chain describes the successive steps in a production process: from raw materials through various intermediate steps, such as transportation and production, to the finished product.
In the BASF Verbund, plants are intelligently connected. In this system, chemical processes consume less energy, produce higher product yields and conserve resources. The by-products of one plant serve as feedstock elsewhere, creating efficient value chains – from basic chemicals to high value-added solutions such as coatings or crop protection products. Our Verbund concept – realized in production, technologies, the market and digitalization – enables innovative solutions for a sustainable future.