BASF Report 2023

Material Topics in Focus: Biodiversity and Ecosystems

BASF is working with farms in the United Kingdom to show how agricultural use and the protection of biodiversity can be reconciled. Planting wildflower strips and creating habitats for birds and insects have led to a long-term improvement in biodiversity and soil health.

Biodiversity, which describes the variety of life forms on Earth, is under threat. As a chemical company, we use many valuable resources provided by nature such as water, air and soil. At the same time, our business activities have an impact on nature, through emissions into the environment or the purchase of renewable raw materials. Protecting biodiversity is therefore a key element of our commitment to climate protection and sustainability. We want to contribute to achieving the global goal to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.


Strategy and governance

To better understand BASF’s impact on nature, we are guided by the five drivers of biodiversity loss defined by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES): land-use change, pollution, climate change, overexploitation and invasive species. We do not consider the latter to be material for BASF.

We achieve positive effects on biodiversity primarily through the responsible use of natural resources and through our solutions and technologies, such as biodegradable plastics and chemical recycling, which help reduce waste, for example. Negative impacts might arise in our supply chain through our production activities and through the use of our products. We record opportunities and risks resulting from the loss of biodiversity as part of our general opportunity and risk management.

With specific measures along our entire value chain, we minimize the loss and strengthen the preservation of biodiversity. Our sustainability-related corporate goals for climate protection, circular economy, water management, responsible management of emissions, waste and remediation as well as the procurement of renewable raw materials contribute to the protection of biodiversity.

Based on the discussions in our Nature Advisory Council, we want to further improve our activities to protect biodiversity.

Dr. Christoph Jäkel
Corporate Sustainability

The United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity, with the new Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), serves as an important orientation and reference framework for BASF. It aims to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030. We also align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Life below water (SDG 14) and Life on land (SDG 15).

Biodiversity is an important aspect for many of our stakeholders, such as investors, customers, legislators, suppliers, insurers and nongovernmental organizations. We actively seek out partnerships with relevant interest groups and organizations worldwide, for example in the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), to expand our knowledge, to raise awareness about biodiversity and to drive necessary actions forward (see Stakeholder Engagement).

We align our biodiversity measures with the impact of our business activities along the value chain. Our focus here is on three areas: supply chains, sites and production, and product impacts. For this purpose, we are guided by the risk mitigation hierarchy: We try to avoid having an impact on nature. If this is not feasible, we want to reduce these impacts, support the restoration of nature or contribute to the transformation of value chains toward better environmental sustainability.

Currently, there is no standardized, globally accepted indicator for the loss of biodiversity (in contrast to greenhouse gas emissions as a key indicator of climate change). In addition, impacts must be considered primarily in a local context. We therefore use indicators such as nitrogen emissions to water to measure drivers of biodiversity loss and species occurrence to assess the status of ecosystems. For example, we regularly examine the fish population in the Rhine around the Ludwigshafen site using electrofishing. With this method, the animals are temporarily stunned with a weak electric field for documentation purposes and removed with a fishing net before being returned to the water. In 2023, species diversity was found to be the same as in 2021.

We use various methods to measure our sustainability performance that implicitly and explicitly consider relevant opportunities and risks for biodiversity. Examples of this include the BASF Eco-Efficiency Analysis as well as AgBalance® in the context of agricultural products and the corresponding biodiversity calculator.

Newly developed assessment methods help us to better understand influences on biodiversity. We regularly test various analysis tools available on the market. Taking into account the LEAP (Locate, Evaluate, Assess, Prepare) methodology developed by TNFD, we are systematizing our existing strategic approach. Based on this understanding, we seek dialog with partners and enter into strategic cooperations, through which we drive forward measures to protect biodiversity around the world (e.g., Wildlife Habitat Council).

An internal working group addresses strategic aspects and the identification of impacts, dependencies, opportunities and risks arising from biodiversity. In 2023, for instance, a survey of BASF’s divisions was conducted on the importance of biodiversity aspects and their perceived economic relevance. This revealed significant differences: High importance and economic relevance are particularly evident in units nits that provide solutions for agriculture or source renewable raw materials. Another result of this working group was the establishment of the new Nature Advisory Council.

Good to know

New Nature Advisory Council

In 2023, BASF founded a new advisory council for topics related to the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, the Nature Advisory Council (NAC), to obtain an independent societal perspective on our activities related to nature and biodiversity issues.

The aim is to obtain constructive feedback and specific advice on nature-related topics and our strategic approach as well as our contributions to a sustainable future.

The Nature Advisory Council is currently made up of four members from the fields of science, relevant value chains and multilateral organizations. The NAC met for the first time in November 2023 and discussed BASF’s approach to sustainability and the necessary adjustments around planetary boundaries and the biodiversity crisis using concrete examples from corporate practice, such as the extraction of important raw materials and BASF’s activities in the field of agriculture. Future meetings will address other important drivers of biodiversity loss and how they relate to BASF’s strategy.

Responsibility to our sites and production

Our risk management regularly examines the risks to our business activities from the loss of biodiversity. Moreover, when making decisions about investing in the construction of new sites or expanding existing ones, we conduct systematic assessments of sustainability aspects, such as the potential impact on forests and biodiversity.

We use the WWF Biodiversity Risk Filter, a tool developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and partners with global coverage of sites and value chains, to identify dependencies on ecosystem services (e.g., risk of water availability) and assess the impact of biodiversity loss on our business in addition to the impact of our activities on ecosystems (e.g., risk of environmental pollution).

When managing our sites and plants, we aim to ensure the preservation of biodiversity by minimizing negative impacts on the environment (biodiversity loss drivers: pollution, overexploitation). We therefore keep emissions from our production to air, water and soil as low as possible, avoid and reduce waste and manage contaminated sites carefully. BASF is committed to the goals of Operation Clean Sweep® and is constantly working on measures to prevent plastic production waste from entering the environment. We use databases such as the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) to examine the proximity of production sites to internationally recognized protected areas. We have been documenting the results in our environmental database since 2021. This allows us to raise awareness of biodiversity at a local level, assess and, if necessary, reduce potential impacts of our sites on these areas. In 2023, 5% of our production sites were adjacent to a Ramsar site1 and 1% were adjacent to a category I, II or III protected area as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.2 None of our production sites were adjacent to a UNESCO protected area. In addition, we used the STAR tool (Species, Threat, Abatement and Restoration), based on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, to analyze how many of our production sites are located adjacent to endangered species (amphibians, birds, mammals). The results show that some of our production sites are located in areas with high or very high STAR values. We took a closer look at the drivers at these locations (e.g., tourism, fishing, invasive species or the occurrence of diseases). These were generally not related to chemical production.

We are implementing local measures to protect biodiversity at a number of sites. In Breuil-le-Sec, France, for example, a team has been working on increasing the site’s biodiversity since 2014. Fallow land and an orchard were planted, nesting boxes were built for swallows and animal and plant species were regularly counted and monitored. The site has been certified by the local nongovernmental organization CPIE (Centre Permanent d’Initiative pour l’Environnement) for its measures to protect biodiversity. It serves as a reference site for BASF in France. Furthermore, we use recooling plants at our sites. This allows us to reuse water several times as cooling water and reduce our water consumption. Recooling also reduces thermal emissions when we return the cooling water to the waterways. This ensures that our activities have a minimal impact on the habitats of plants and animals. We are constantly working to optimize our energy consumption and the amount of water we use, and to adapt to the needs of our business and the environment.

We are committed to complying with the provisions of the international Nagoya Protocol when using biological resources. This supplementary agreement to the U.N.’s Convention on Biological Diversity regulates access to genetic resources and benefit sharing. It sets out obligations (for example, compensation payments) for the users of genetic resources such as plant­based raw materials. We use internal control mechanisms to monitor compliance with these standards.

1 “Wetlands of international importance” in accordance with the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention)

2 We have defined “adjacent” as the area within a 3 km radius.

Management of our product impact

BASF offers products and solutions for a wide range of industries. We want to ensure that our products meet our customers’ standards in terms of 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. It is important to consider the potential impacts of product use on biodiversity, for example, with regard to the biodiversity loss driver of pollution.

We evaluate our products and solutions in crop protection and seeds, for example, 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 impacts to the ecosystems in which they are used. We have initiated various projects and offer trainings to prevent misuse of our products (see In Focus: Product Stewardship).

All types of land development, such as agriculture and forestry, play a role in changing biodiversity (driver of biodiversity loss: land-use change). Activities such as tillage, drainage, fertilization and the use of crop protection products can affect flora and fauna, for example, by influencing food sources. Minimizing these impacts while ensuring the necessary productivity is one of the biggest challenges farmers are facing.

Our Agricultural Solutions division focuses on four areas to help farmers to find the right balance between productivity and sustainability. The focus areas are more climate-smart farming, more sustainable solutions, digital farming and smart stewardship (see box in Business Models of the Segments). 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 agricultural landscape. For example, we advise them on soil cultivation practices 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 modern seed solutions and crop protection products also enable better yield on existing farmlands and thus help protect natural habitats.

With our AgBalance® method, we can measure and compare the impacts of different agricultural practices on the environment according to the principle of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Using the corresponding biodiversity calculator, we can assess the impact on biodiversity. Based on these assessments, we issue recommendations for measures with scientifically proven effectiveness (according to the analyses of Conservation Evidence, a project team at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom), such as planting hedges and flower strips or establishing nesting places to benefit pollinators such as wild bees and farmland birds.

Axalion® is one example of BASF’s more environmentally friendly crop protection products. The insecticidal active ingredient received its first approval in Australia at the end of 2022 and has been sold there under the name Efficon® since April 2023. Approval was also granted in South Korea in 2023. Axalion® enables farmers to control a wide range of piercing and sucking pests that are harmful to crops. At the same time, it is highly compatible with beneficial insects such as pollinators. The active ingredient thus supports farmers in managing the challenges they face around productivity and environmental protection.

Responsibility to our supply chains

Some of the business activities of our raw materials suppliers involve land uses that can influence biodiversity (driver of biodiversity loss: land-use change). We have laid down our expectations of our suppliers with regard to environmental, labor and social standards in the supply chain as well as our commitment to preserving biodiversity in the Supplier Code of Conduct.

BASF procures various renewable raw materials. Just as for fossil raw materials, we consider how renewable resources impact aspects of sustainability along the value chain. Alongside positive effects like avoiding greenhouse gas emissions (driver of biodiversity loss: climate change), these can also have negative effects, for example, through the drivers of biodiversity loss overexploitation and land-use change, depending on the raw material. Through our sourcing practices, we aim to preserve ecosystems and enable sustainable land development that supports the livelihoods of the people who depend on them.

There is a high risk especially for palm and palm kernel oil that forest areas are cleared to create farmland. To anchor sustainability topics more firmly in procurement we established the BASF Palm Commitment in 2011, which was updated in 2015, and is implemented through our Palm Sourcing Policy. Third-party certification with standards such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standard enables us to take biodiversity criteria into account when purchasing raw materials.

We are committed to the environmental sustainability of other supply chains through our own initiatives. One example is our rambutan program. It was launched in 2014 in close collaboration with partners in Vietnam to source botanical ingredients for cosmetic products from certified organic rambutan gardens. In cooperation with local farmers and NGOs, BASF’s program promotes the preservation of biodiverse habitats, as well as good agricultural practices, gender equity and fair working conditions.

Our position on forest protection sets out our commitment to preserving biodiversity in areas of High Conservation Value such as High Carbon Stock forest areas and peatlands in the procurement of renewable raw materials. In 2023, BASF again participated in the “Forests” assessment conducted by the international organization CDP and achieved a score of A–, once more giving it Leadership status. The assessment is conducted based on detailed insights into the palm value chain and activities that impact ecosystems and natural habitats.

Partnerships for biodiversity

Engaging in ongoing dialog with a variety of stakeholders is important to BASF. On the one hand, we want to share our knowledge and on the other hand, learn from other to improve our own practices. To this end, we established a Nature Advisory Council (NAC) in 2023.

We cooperate with several organizations including the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the Sustainable Palm Oil Forum, the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture and the High Carbon Stock Approach Steering Group. BASF is a member in the forum of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) initiative, which provides recommendations for reporting on nature-related risks and activities. We are an active advisory member of the working group for chemical sector guidelines that TNFD established at the beginning of 2023. Our involvement in organizations such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and the Alliance for Water Stewardship helps to preserve biodiversity in bodies of water.

Together with international partners and based on the dialog with stakeholders in the food value chain, we are driving forward measures to promote sustainable agriculture. In the United States, for example, BASF is a member of the Honey Bee Health Coalition, which aims to preserve healthy honey bee populations and support healthy populations of native and managed pollinators in productive agricultural systems and thriving ecosystems. BASF France SAS is part of the Entreprises pour l’Environnement network, which launched the Act4nature campaign with the main objective of protecting and enhancing biodiversity.

We have been working with farms in the United Kingdom on pilot projects since 2002 to demonstrate how the protection of biodiversity can be reconciled with the complex challenges farmers face. Local farmers grow a variety of annual crops to establish demonstration plots. Practices within the field, such as mixtures of cover crops, as well as measures at the edge and outside the field, such as planting wildflower strips and creating habitats for birds and insects, have demonstrably led to a long-term improvement in biodiversity and soil health. Data collected and analyzed on one of the farms between 2009 and 2019 by a team of local agronomists and ornithologists on behalf of BASF shows that farmland bird species considered threatened by U.K. experts (26 on the Red List and 19 on the Amber List) benefit greatly from sustainable agriculture combined with high-quality ecological habitats.

For more than 10 years, we have been working with different farmers and experts from the BASF FarmNetwork Sustainability, an association of farms in Europe, to integrate more connected biodiversity areas into agricultural production. By creating and maintaining new habitats and linking habitats for living, breeding and feeding, biodiversity can be sustainably promoted in modern, conventional agriculture. External scientists accompany the project and examine the effectiveness of the biodiversity measures. The results are published annually in a report. Based on the insights gained from working together, an advisory board of experts from agriculture, nature conservation and environmental protection developed a biodiversity checklist and published it in 2021. This summarizes 10 ecologically effective measures to promote biodiversity. Since 2021, BASF has supported farmers participating in its #wirzahlenBiodiversität (“We pay biodiversity”) program financially and with professional advice.

BASF also offers various e-learning modules on biodiversity and agriculture to support farmers in implementing the necessary and effective measures in practice. The interactive training sessions are available to all interested farmers free of charge.

More information on product stewardship:

Responsible Care®
Registered trademark of the European Chemical Industry Council
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.

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