BASF Report 2023

Material Topics in Focus: Responsibility for Human Rights, Labor and Social Standards

In the “Wage Improvements in Seed Hybrids” project, BASF, Syngenta and Arisa are jointly addressing the fight against child labor and the payment of an appropriate wage in India’s vegetable seed industry. The project team’s aim is to achieve significant changes in several key areas by 2025.

BASF acknowledges its responsibility to respect internationally recognized human rights. Through our business, we are connected to a large number of people worldwide who are directly or indirectly influenced by our activities. We accept the resulting obligations and opportunities along the supply chain in accordance with our scope of influence. For many years, we have engaged in constructive dialog on human rights with other companies, nongovernmental organizations, international organizations and multistakeholder initiatives to better understand different perspectives and address conflicting goals.


Strategy and organization

We see human rights due diligence as a continuous, all-encompassing task that we can only perform by working together as a team throughout the entire organization. That is why we have embedded our responsibility for human rights into BASF’s Code of Conduct and set this out in our Policy Statement on Human Rights. Our standards apply worldwide. All employees and leaders are responsible for ensuring that we act in accordance with our Code of Conduct and our Policy Statement on Human Rights. In everything we do, we are committed to complying with international labor and social standards.

We attach great importance to this topic and have set up our organization accordingly. The head of our legal and compliance organization also acts as Chief Human Rights Officer and oversees the overarching risk management. He regularly reports to the Board of Executive Directors on our human rights-related activities. Our compliance organization is responsible for the overarching governance of human rights due diligence at BASF. In addition, several specialist units are responsible for managing specific human rights topics.

Human dignity is nonnegotiable for us.

Matthew Lepore
Chief Compliance Officer and Chief Human Rights Officer

At the same time, we rely on a systematic, integrated, risk-based approach and established monitoring and management systems. We achieve positive effects through our commitment to compliance with international standards in our cooperation with partners and through our local societal engagement. Potential negative impacts on human rights and labor and social standards arise from our global business activities, including in countries with increased risk, and from our complex supply chains. We systematically record opportunities and risks as part of our general opportunity and risk management. Specialists in the areas of international labor and social standards, environmental protection, health and safety as well as site security work in a risk-based manner to ensure that we respect the relevant human rights in our own activities. Our procurement organization has established a global risk-based management system for the upstream supply chain in order to implement our human rights due diligence processes. BASF is a founding member of the U.N. Global Compact and a member of the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights (GBI). BASF is also active in initiatives such as Together for Sustainability (TfS) and Responsible Care®. We have also integrated human rights-related evaluations into our governance and decision-making processes, for example for investments, acquisitions and divestitures. In 2023, for example, we began working with partners, local authorities and nongovernmental organizations in Indonesia at an early stage, long before a potential investment decision, to analyze and evaluate in detail whether and how we could build a nickel-cobalt refining complex in a responsible manner, also taking into account the rights of indigenous peoples (see raw materials).

In our Human Rights Expert Working Group, steered by our compliance department, experts from various areas of our company work closely together to holistically assess and refine our approach to human rights due diligence. In this way, we want to ensure that we approach our human rights responsibility in a comprehensive way and that we can continually improve our performance. The expert working group includes employees from specialist departments – Corporate Compliance, Global Procurement, Corporate Legal, Corporate Human Resources, Corporate Environmental Protection, Health, Safety and Quality, Corporate Strategy & Sustainability, Site Security, Corporate Communications and Governmental Relations – and our operating divisions. It provides support and advice in challenging and critical situations, on the development of internal processes, and on the creation of information and training offerings, among other things. In 2023, for example, a mandatory guideline with additional due diligence steps was introduced to further protect the rights of third-party workers in higher-risk countries.

Good to know

Human Rights Advisory Council

We established a Human Rights Advisory Council in 2020 to integrate external expertise. Its members include independent international human rights experts. The trust-based dialog on human rights topics helps us to better understand different perspectives and to deal more openly with critical situations.

The meetings held in 2023 were once again attended by representatives from the Corporate Compliance and Corporate Strategy & Sustainability departments as well as other experts from the operating divisions.

The Council provided an external perspective, for example, on our internal guidelines on the responsible procurement of battery materials, on due diligence in challenging circumstances, on responsibly taking the rights of indigenous peoples into consideration and on the limits of corporate due diligence.

International labor and social standards

Our aim of acting responsibly toward our employees is embedded in our global Code of Conduct and our Policy Statement on Human Rights through our voluntary commitment to respecting international labor and social standards. This voluntary commitment encompasses internationally recognized labor norms as stipulated in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy of the International Labour Organization (ILO). In order to meet the requirement to comply with these standards worldwide, we mainly approach our adherence to international labor and social standards using three elements: the Compliance Program (including compliance hotlines), close dialog with our stakeholders (such as with employee representatives or international organizations) and the BASF guideline on compliance with international labor norms, which applies Group-wide. This guideline concretizes the topics in our global Code of Conduct under “Human rights, labor and social standards” as these relate to our employees and leaders worldwide. An additional guideline specifies that these topics must also be considered and applied when working with agency workers and freelancers. Regular training courses on these topics are held for the managing directors and employees of the BASF Group.

This forms the basis for our global, risk-based management process: We regularly monitor changes to the national law of all the countries in which BASF operates and evaluate our adherence to international labor and social standards. If the national law contains no or lower requirements, action plans are drawn up to close these gaps. If conflicts with national law or practices arise, we strive to act in accordance with our values and internationally recognized principles without violating the law of the country concerned. As part of the management process, we regularly follow up on and document the results of the comparison between national law and our guideline, as well as measures to implement the guideline. This is part of our central due diligence system.

We monitor our voluntary commitment to international labor and social standards as part of our management process. Individual elements of the guideline are also reviewed as part of internal control processes such as Responsible Care audits at BASF Group companies. In addition to these quality assurance measures, compliance with international labor and social standards is an integral part of the standard questionnaire in the compliance management audits conducted by the Corporate Audit department.

Our labor and social standards also include respect in the workplace. To promote awareness of respectful behavior at work, we launched an initiative against sexual harassment and discrimination in September 2023, initially at the Ludwigshafen site. Its aim is to draw attention to the issue in order to better investigate and prevent incidents and ensure that all employees are treated with respect. BASF strengthens cooperation between the specialist departments and with the internal advice centers.

Human rights aspects of safety, health and environmental protection

Our measures and criteria for monitoring and respecting human rights are integrated into our global monitoring systems for environmental protection, occupational safety, health protection and product stewardship (see Environmental and Social). We set up a specific risk management to ensure BASF’s compliance with the specific environmental treaties covered by the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (Minamata, Stockholm, Basel). In addition, aspects of human rights topics are part of the global qualification requirements for security personnel and are incorporated into standard agreements with contractors.

As part of our Responsible Care Management, we aim to ensure that we also fulfill our duty of care towards local residents and that their human rights, such as the right to access clean water, are respected. To this end, we enter into dialog with residents at our sites through community advisory panels in order to promote trust in BASF’s activities. Globally binding requirements for these panels are based on the grievance mechanism standards in the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Cooperation along our value chains

As an international company, we are a part of society in the countries in which we operate and have business relationships with partners around the world. In our supply chains, we are confronted with risks in the areas of working conditions, environmental protection, health and safety, particularly in countries with an increased human rights risk and when purchasing higher-risk product categories.

We have trustful working relationships with our partners (suppliers, contractors, joint venture partners and customers), expect them to comply with internationally recognized human rights standards and to expect the same of their partners further along the value chain. We work to ensure that our partners meet their respective responsibilities.

We have defined these expectations as binding in our Supplier Code of Conduct, which is also part of our purchasing conditions. We are in close contact with our business partners, especially in higher-risk areas and regions, and monitor the implementation of relevant standards and necessary measures for improvement. We use recognized assessment methods and audits to verify this. If this or other sources (e.g., media reports, compliance hotline) lead to anomalies or violations, we take this very seriously, respond and require our suppliers to implement corrective measures immediately and put an end to the violations.

For example, in March 2023, authorities in Uruguaiana, Brazil, recorded a case of unacceptable working conditions and underage labor in our supply chain. The affected workers were temporarily employed by subcontractors of BASF contractors in the fields of two rice farms that produced seeds for BASF. We deeply regret the way in which the workers of our contractors’ subcontractors were treated and strongly condemn all practices that violate human rights. We immediately approached the relevant authorities and evaluated the processes. The work was stopped immediately and the contract with one of the contractual partners was terminated, as it became clear that it was not possible to work constructively on the incidents with this partner. BASF has also taken additional preventive and training measures to avoid such incidents even more effectively in the future.

At the beginning of 2023, an internal audit of our joint venture operations in Korla, China, was carried out to verify compliance with the BASF Code of Conduct and the requirements embedded in it to respect human rights as well as key labor and social standards. This investigation, as well as past audits, did not reveal any evidence of human rights violations in the two joint ventures. We have obtained written confirmation from key suppliers, including our joint venture partners, that they accept our Supplier Code of Conduct. Nevertheless, reports from spring 2024 on the joint venture partner in Korla contain serious allegations that indicate activities that are not compatible with BASF’s values. Consequently, we will accelerate the process already started at the end of 2023 to divest our shares in the two joint ventures in Korla for strategic reasons, subject to negotiations and the required approvals from the relevant authorities.

In 2023, we continued our work with our upstream supply chain, where we usually have no direct contractual relationships, less transparency and less influence. Here, we seek to increase our influence through collaboration with partners and stakeholders, and place importance on certifications such as the LBMA certificate for gold, the LPPM certificate for platinum group metals, and the Responsible Minerals Initiative’s Responsible Minerals Assurance Process.

We work together with partners and civil society and we are active in cross-sector initiatives. These include the Global Battery Alliance and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Projects often start on the ground to build specific expertise for sustainable and responsible supply chains. The local initiatives also include the Sustainable Castor Initiative – Pragati in India, the Responsible Lithium Partnership Initiative in Chile, the Responsible Mica Initiative in India and the Cobalt for Development pilot mining project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2022, BASF, Syngenta and Arisa also worked together on a multistakeholder initiative in the vegetable seeds business in India. The initiative, WISH (Wage Improvements in Seed Hybrids), addresses the fight against child labor and the payment of an appropriate wage in the Indian vegetable seed industry. The first phase of the project examined where to start in order to improve local conditions. In the next step, the project partners will use various instruments such as training and further education, networking, the involvement of interest groups, advocacy work at local and international level and the dissemination of best practices. The project team’s aim is to achieve significant changes in several key areas by 2025.

Information and awareness-raising measures, grievance mechanisms

Promoting awareness of human rights was once again a focus topic in 2023. Information offers on this were held in our operating divisions. In addition, managing directors of BASF’s Group companies and employees in all regions were informed about and sensitized to human rights topics through presentations and discussion formats tailored to specific target groups. In Brazil, the Compliance Week was held on the theme of “Everyone for the Protection of Human Rights.” The topic of human rights was also integrated even more strongly into the existing compliance training program.

Our grievance mechanisms, including our globally standardized hotline and reporting system, were also used intensively in 2023 (see Compliance). All complaints were reviewed and forwarded to the relevant departments for in-depth investigation. If justified, appropriate measures were taken. We have not received any reports of human rights violations within the meaning of the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act through our grievance mechanisms. We report on our global targets, monitoring systems and measures to integrate human rights topics into our business activities in publications such as this report and online.

More information on our production standards:

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.

Topic filter

Results for