BASF

Background

BASF SE is one of the world’s largest chemical companies. BASF Agricultural Solutions is a division of BASF, representing around 13 percent of the Germany-based parent company’s US$67 billion in overall sales in 2019.1BASF Report 2019 – Economic, Environmental and Social Performance,” BASF. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

BASF’s overall sales in 2020 were approximately US$66.2 million USD.2BASF Group 2020 at a Glance,” BASF. Archived November 14, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/IrYb0 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, BASF was the largest beneficiary of the Bank of England’s emergency loan program, borrowing £1 billion.3Richard Partington. “Chemicals Firm BASF Biggest Beneficiary of UK Coronavirus Loan Scheme,” The Guardian, June 4, 2020. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/ibTBd

BASF AG is the third largest of the big five firms, the other four of which are Bayer, Syngenta, DowDuPont, and FMC Corporation. BASF AG’s sales are heavily concentrated in North America, followed by Europe, the combined South America-Africa-Middle East markets, and Asia Pacific.4Pesticides: Competitive Analysis & Leadership Report 2018 – Bayer Ranks Number One, Followed by Syngenta, BASF, DowDuPont, and FMC Corporation,” PR Newswire, February 3, 2020. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/3PDoU

Stance on Climate Change

On its website, BASF claims that it works “continuously to further reduce emissions from our production.” The firm claims a goal of maintaining “total greenhouse gas emissions from our production sites (excluding emissions from sale of energy to third parties) and our energy purchases at the 2018 level (21.9 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents) while increasing production.”5Our Climate Protection Goal,” BASF. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/0io8H

The company also supports the Paris Agreement and, according to its web pages on sustainability, has been a member of the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, which “calls for more corporate engagement to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.”6BASF Advocates Globally For More Climate Protection,” BASF. Archived November 12, 2020, Archive URL:  https://archive.fo/xFzuT

BASF lists examples of its “climate protection” products. Under agriculture, the company says it uses a nitrification inhibitor which “ensures that the ammonium contained in fertilizers is metabolized more slowly by bacteria in the soil, thus resulting in a reduction in nitrous oxide.” BASF also claims to support wind power.7Our Solutions: Products For Climate Protection,” BASF. Archived November 11, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/1aOSF

Reacting to the Paris Agreement in 2015, Brigitta Huckestein, BASF’s senior manager of energy and climate policy, said, “We support the United Nations’ goals for achieving a global, long-term and reliable agreement to reduce emissions — preferably with an internationally binding price for CO2.”8Executives From BASF & Others React to Paris Conference,” SBC Magazine, December 15, 2015. Archived November 11, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/uYNkN

In a 2019 Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) disclosure, BASF described itself as a company that creates “chemistry for a sustainable future,” writing that “we combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility.”9CDP Disclosure – 2019,” BASF. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. The company went on to disclose that from 2019 onwards it has pursued a new goal: “CO2-neutral growth until 2030.” CDP recognized BASF as a “global leader in corporate climate action and water security,” awarding the company an A rating in the 2018 Climate Change List.10Martin Menachery. “CDP Recognises BASF As Global Leader in Corporate Climate Action and Water Security,” Refining & Petrochemicals, January 24, 2019. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/GAyf3

In February 2020, BASF became the first “Carbon Literate Organization” in the UK chemical sector, after working with the Carbon Literacy Project to develop an “accredited, company-specific course which allows participants to be certified as ‘Carbon Literate’.”11Tony Heslop. “BASF in the UK Accredited as Carbon Literate,” Carbon Literacy, February 2020. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/lRNPO

U.S.-based nonprofit the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in 2019 described BASF as one of “a number of leading companies” that has reversed the trend of American businesses staying silent on climate policy, using its “influence to build momentum for Congressional action on climate change.”12Tom Murray. “The Businesses That Are – And Are Not – Leading on Climate Change,” Environmental Defense Fund, November 9, 2019. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/mBJL9

But a 2017 report by Influence Map, tracking 50 large corporations most influential in shaping climate policy globally, found that 35 of the firms were actively lobbying against climate policy. BASF was listed as the sixth worst in terms of “increasing opposition to Paris Aligned Climate Policy.” The company sat alongside other environmentally destructive and anti-climate policy corporations including Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Dow Chemical.13Corporate Carbon Policy Footprint,” InfluenceMap, September 2017. Archived November 12, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

A 2011 Greenpeace report titled “Who’s holding us back? How carbon-intensive industry is preventing effective climate legislation,” likewise revealed how “major polluting corporations” like BASF, Shell, Eksom, and Koch Industries were “influencing governments and the political process on climate legislation.” The report also noted that during the 2010 U.S. elections, “BASF strategically donated US$61,500 US dollars to ‘Senatorial candidates who have been outspoken in their opposition to comprehensive climate policy in the U.S., and candidates who actively deny the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is caused by people.’”14Who’s Holding Us Back?,” Greenpeace. Archived November 12, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In 2007, then-BASF CEO Jurgen Hambrecht said in an interview for Der Spiegel that he had “a problem with the term ‘climate change’,” adding that it was “laden with fear” and that the climate “has always changed.”15Kate Sheppard. “BASF CEO Questions Whether Climate Change is a Problem,” Grist, June 28, 2007. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/NSWKl

Regarding solutions within the agriculture sector that could help the industry adapt to climate change, BASF CEO Martin Brudermüller told Politico Europe in a sponsored piece that “innovative seed breeding is needed to develop crops that are resilient to climate change” and that achieving sustainable farming would only be possible if “policymaking and regulatory requirements support the necessary levels of investment” to “increase innovation in biological and chemical plant protection products with more sustainable profiles.”16Martin Brudermüller, “Success of the EU Green Deal will depend on tech,” Politico Europe, November 16, 2020. Archived October 23, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/5jrsY 

In response to a question about whether EU policies with climate implications for the agriculture sector, including the European Green Deal and the Farm-to-Fork Strategy, would threaten BASF’s crop protection business, Brudermüller said that the groups want to help transform European agriculture using innovation by “actively reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting biodiversity and minimizing the use of natural resources” but added that the success of those goals would depend on “realistic targets that are based on scientific evidence.”17Martin Brudermüller, “Success of the EU Green Deal will depend on tech,” Politico Europe, November 16, 2020. Archived October 23, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/5jrsY

Digital and precision agriculture

BASF promotes precision agriculture strategies, which proponents say will allow farms to use high-tech gear to increase their resilience to the impacts of a changing climate.18Precision Agriculture in the Digital Era,” BASF. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/BvupE On its website, BASF describes some of the activities involved in precision agriculture and compares its technical complexity to drilling for oil.19Precision Farming: Farming with maps, GPS and mobile devices,” BASF. Archived April 11, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/vBxwe 

Speaking at a forum on climate change and agriculture, Luke Bozeman, BASF’s director of North American crop protection, said that agriculture will need to change as the climate changes, referring to precision agriculture and digitization. “What we’re going to see is a lot more collaborations to share the costs and the risks of investing in some innovations for future potential changes,” he said.20John Hart. “Ag Must Adapt to Climate,” South East Farm Press, March 10, 2019. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/IcFlN

In early 2020, BASF announced an increased sales projection for its agricultural innovation products to more than €7.5 billion. The firm declared that by 2029, it would launch over 30 key projects in line with its agricultural strategy.21BASF’s New Focused Approach Boosts Agricultural Innovation Pipeline by 25%,” Seed World, February 28, 2020. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/Tndo4

In September 2020, BASF sponsored an article in Crop Production Magazine that promoted the transition towards regenerative agriculture as a path that “can take us to net zero without any loss in productivity.”22Tom Allen-Stevens. “Climate Change Champions – Each Plant is Important,” Crop Production Magazine, September 7, 2020. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/lPNL9

On a webpage titled “The future farm,” BASF wrote that “water stress, rocketing energy and production costs will drive innovation solutions,” claiming that farming in the future will “demand better soil” and “more advanced crop protection solutions.”23The Future Farm,” BASF. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/vEXKn

In 2019, BASF Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Director Geoff Mackey spoke on an Innovation Forum podcast about the importance of precision agriculture now and in the future. “We need to look at the benefits of having technology and bringing innovation,” he said, adding that “I think drone technology is a very interesting and developing area.” When asked about the future of precision agriculture, Mackey said, “Perhaps I could talk about the use of drone technology applying products, planting, harvest without the use of human feet. Perhaps we set technology loose and actually control it from a different view.”24BASF on Why Precision Agriculture is the Future,” Innovation Forum, February 20, 2019. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/scuaQ

In a Friends of the Earth report which looked at whether digital farming can address the causes of agriculture’s environmental impacts, BASF was mentioned as among the “Big Four” agrochemical giants that want to “maintain their market share.”25Mute Schimpf. “Digital Farming,” Friends of the Earth Europe, February 2020. Archived November 12, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. The report referenced a separate report by the Konkurrenz Group stating that the agricultural race “will be to increase the farmers’ dependence on the Big Four’s digital platforms, where based on the data collected, farmers will rely more (rather than less) on the Big Four’s traits, seeds and pesticides for their increasingly automated precision farming.”26An Updated Antitrust Review of the Bayer-Monsanto Merger,” The Konkurrenz Group, March 6, 2018. Archived November 12, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.


Read more: Digital and Precision Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns


Role in Pesticides Controversy

Roughly a third of BASF AG’s 2019 sales were herbicides, 30 percent fungicides, and 10 percent insecticides. The remaining 27 percent were other agricultural products such as seeds.27BASF Report 2019 – Economic, Environmental and Social Performance,” BASF. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

A February 2020 investigation by Greenpeace’s Unearthed journalism project found that “close to half (41 percent) of the leading products of the agrochemical giants BASF, Bayer, Corteva, FMC and Syngenta contained at least one” highly-hazardous pesticide.” This included glufosinate, a chemical manufactured by BASF that can impair fertility and harm human fetuses.28Crispin Dowler. “Revealed: The pesticide giants making billions on toxic and bee-harming chemicals,” Unearthed, February 2, 2020. Archived August 20, 2020. Archive URL: http://archive.fo/lPZS5

BASF has been the target of lawsuits alleging that BASF and Bayer knew that their dicamba pesticides would spread from farms where they were sprayed, but predicted that other farmers would then be driven to buy dicamba-resistant seeds — allegations that the company has denied.29Jef Feeley, Tim Bross, Bloomberg. “Bayer Is Facing A New Wave of Herbicide Lawsuits – And This Time It’s Not Over Monsanto’s Roundup,” Fortune, February 17, 2020. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/l3erd “A federal jury determined that German agribusiness giants Bayer and BASF will have to pay US$250 million in punitive damages to Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in Missouri, for damage caused by their dicamba-related products,” Investigate Midwest reported in February 2020.30Johnathan Hettinger. “Jury Orders Monsanto, BASF To Pay Peach Farmer $250 Million in Punitive Damages,” Investigate Midwest, February 15, 2020. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/Xlvaa “Bader Farms is among thousands of farms, comprising millions of acres of crops, that have alleged dicamba damage since 2015,” the story said.31Virginia Gewin. “Beyond Damaging Crops, Dicamba is Dividing Communities,” Civil Eats, November 8, 2018. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/Hdy07

A 2020 investigation by the Guardian revealed that BASF and fellow agriculture giant Monsanto “were aware for years that their plan to introduce a new agricultural seed and chemical system would probably lead to damage on many U.S. farms,” with some internal emails showing BASF and Monsanto employees joking about hoping to stay “out of jail.”32Carey Gillam. “Revealed: Monsanto predicted crop system would damage US farms,” The Guardian, March 30, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/bJx9C

Lobbying

In 2018, BASF SE spent US$1,560,000 on U.S. lobbying according to OpenSecrets.org. Most of the budget, US$1,390,000 went to in-house staff, with the remaining funds going to two lobbyists with the firm McLarty Inbound.33BASF SE,” OpenSecrets. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/ZR13x

BASF spent €3,100,000 in 2019 on EU lobbying, according to LobbyFacts.EU data, on issues relating to: “EU Green Deal, Circular Economy, Sustainable Finance, Energy & Climate Policy, Innovation & Research, Trade Policy, Health & Environmental Policy, Chemicals Policy, Construction, Crop Protection Policy, Biotechnology, Internal Market, Competitiveness, Industrial Policy, Social and Employment Policy.”34BASF SE”, LobbyFactsEU. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/wNZxK

LobbyFacts.EU lists that BASF has had 36 meetings since 2014 with the European Commission,35BASF SE”, LobbyFactsEU. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/wNZxK while Transparency International’s Integrity Watch lists 34 meetings in the same time period.36BASF Meetings – Juncker Commission (2014 – 2019),” Integrity Watch, Transparency International. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 37BASF Meetings – Von der Leyen Commission (2019 – 2024),” Integrity Watch, Transparency International. Archived November 12, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

According to the EU Transparency Register, BASF SE spent between €3,000,000 – €3,249,999 on lobbying in 2020.38BASF SE,” European Transparency Register. Archived December 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/jkNv4 

An archive of lobbying disclosures compiled by ProPublica shows that BASF has lobbied on climate change. “BASF supports legislation on climate change that ensures that reduction targets are economically feasible and technologically reasonable,” BASF’s lobbying disclosure reads. “Policies must allow energy-intensive and trade-exposed (EITE) companies to remain globally competitive (carbon leakage protection).”39BASF Corporation,” ProPublica. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/ZR13x

Among the lobbying on bills disclosed by BASF’s lobbyists is “Environmental Justice and Role of Sustainable Chemistry, S. 3296”.40BASF Corporation – 1/21/2019,” Lobbying Disclosure Act Database. Archived November 12, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. That bill, according to the American Chemistry Council, “would direct the president to establish an interagency sustainable chemistry entity to promote and coordinate federal sustainable chemistry research, development, demonstration, technology transfer, commercialization, education and training activities.”41ACC Announces Support for Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act,” American Chemistry Council, July 31, 2018. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/yPMCW The bill failed to progress in 2018. It was reintroduced for the 2019-2020 session as S. 999.42S.999 – Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019,” Congress.Gov. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/8ig0w According to Gov Track, provisions of the bill were incorporated into H.R. 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.43S. 999 (116th): Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019,” GovTrack. Archived December 8, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/NL0DQ 

A 2010 report by the Climate Action Network Europe (CAN-E) revealed that a number of large companies, including BASF, Bayer, and BP, had disproportionately donated funds to U.S. Senate candidates who were either “known climate change deniers,” or to senators who voted against the Obama administration’s cap-and-trade legislation, seen by activists as a major contribution to the fight against climate change.”44Michael Lawton. “European Companies Back Climate Skeptics in US Senate Race, Report Says,” Deutsche Welle, October 26, 2010. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/q4bc0

BASF was given an overall “C” grade by NGO Transparency International in its 2018 Corporate Political Engagement Index, with the company given a “D” for its “responsible lobbying” practices.45Corporate Political Engagement Index 2018,” Transparency International UK. Archived November 12, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In August 2020, Norway’s largest private asset manager, Storebrand, divested its US$2.7 million stake in BASF, as well as its stakes in ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Rio Tinto, “citing their lobbying practices regarding climate.” Storebrand CEO Jan Erik Saugestad told Reuters that “If you have corporates that are spending a lot of resources and energy to try to avoid that regulation that is required, that is clearly not supportive and not in the long-term interest of anybody, if you want to reach the climate goals or the [United Nations] sustainable development goals.”46Gwladys Fouche, Simon Jessop. “Storebrand Divests Out of Exxon, Others Over Climate Lobbying,” Market Screener, August 24, 2020. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/wXxIL

In May 2019, BASF responded to investor pressure and committed to undertaking a review of its climate lobbying activities.47We, BASF Commit To Review Climate Lobbying After Investor Pressure,” Energy Central, May 3, 2019. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/gKhqB It was also one of 13 U.S. companies to launch the “CEO Climate Dialogue” in May 2019,  an initiative that was created with the aim of lobbying President Trump and the United States Congress to pass new legislation that would address climate change by introducing a price on carbon, with the goal of reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Other founding members of the “CEO Climate Dialogue” included DuPont, Shell, BP, Unilever, and Dominion Energy.48BASF And DuPont Call On US Congress To Enact Business-Led Climate Change Legislation,” Global Insulation, May 17, 2019. Archived November 12, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/gKhqB

In February 2021, Corporate Europe Observatory reported that BASF had invited Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to an online wine-tasting to discuss the Farm to Fork strategy.49BASF wining MEPs in COVID times,” Corporate Europe Observatory, February 22, 2021. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/UiIGO BASF reportedly offered to send MEPs “six small bottles” of wine to “celebrate Portugal’s unique wines.” Corporate Europe Observatory scrutinized BASF for the event over concerns that transparency rules were not being properly applied. Politico Europe reported that a BASF spokesperson said the event was “in accordance with the spirit and the letter of the European Parliament’s lobbying rules.”50Lili Bayer. “Brussels lobbying business picks up despite pandemic,” Politico Europe, March 10, 2021. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/0ZTCX

In June 2021, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a network of over 140 European environmental NGOs, reported that BASF had been among ten companies lobbying to water down draft legislation on the regulation of polymers, the main ingredient in plastic, resin and paint and an ingredient of many products.51First laws to tackle serious polymer health threat being crippled,” European Environmental Bureau, June 21, 2021. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/UxUOY 

BASF engages in media partnerships with Brussels-based media outlets, mainly Politico Europe and EURACTIV, where it promotes and supports content,52How is chemistry helping cars shift gears and reach the EU’s 2050 goals?,” Politico, September 27, 2021. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/Qbf2n organizes events and sponsors newsletters targeted towards EU policy makers and stakeholders.53Florian Eder. “POLITICO Brussels Playbook, presented by Cefic: No Trump for Warsaw — Battle for Brandenburg — Save the saunas,” Politico. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/bAsKX 

BASF has been a client of several public affairs consultancies registered within the European Union. In 2020, BASF spent less than €9,999 on the services of FIPRA International SRL,54FIPRA International SRL,” Transparency Register. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/1byOV and between €24,000 – €49,999 on the services of EPPA S.A.55EPPA SA”  European Transparency Register.Archived November 25,  2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wip/FBpaB

Affiliations

BASF is a member of CropLife International, which the firm describes in its 2019 sustainability report as “a global trade association of agrochemical companies representing the plant science industry.” CropLife International has six member companies: FMC, BASF, Bayer, Corteva Agriscience, Syngenta and Sumitomo Chemical.56Members,” CropLife International. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/PSOBu

Bayer, BASF, Corteva and Syngenta are the four members of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), which claims to “provide factual information and education about the agricultural use of GM technology in the UK.”57About ABC,” Agricultural Biotechnology Council. Archived January 21, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/qB0XO 

In a 2019 “Industry Associations Review,” BASF acknowledged that the American Chemistry Council’s position on climate policies was “ aligned” with BASF’s view.58Industry Associations Review – 2019,” BASF. Archived November 12, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In 2019, Politico reported that four of Europe’s biggest agrochemical companies — Corteva, Bayer, Syngenta and BASF — were ending their involvement in EuropaBio, a trade group which represents companies involved in biotechnology.59Cristina Gonzalez. “POLITICO EU Influence, presented by Deutsche Börse: The vape debate — Top job vacancy — Hungarian transparency flap,” Politico, December 13, 2019. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/8TDiF However, as of December 2021, a representative of BASF was still listed as a “regular member” of EuropaBio on the group’s website.60About us,” EuropaBio. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/g4F7u

BASF is also a member of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), an industry membership organization that promotes the interests of European chemical businesses. Cefic has 670 members and affiliates within the chemical business community.61List of Corporate Members,European Chemical Industry Council, November 2021. Archived December 4, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Resources

Related Profiles

APCO Worldwide Background APCO has been described as “one of the world's most powerful PR firms.” [1], [2] According to its agency profile at O'Dwyers, “APCO Worldwide is a...
Hugh W. Ellsaesser Credentials Ph.D., Meteorology. [1] Background Hugh W. Ellsaesser, born in 1920, is a meteorologist by training and retired “guest scientist” at the Lawren...
Alfred (Al) Pekarek Credentials Ph.D., University of Wyoming (1974). [1]B.A. University of Minnesota-Twin (1965). [1] Background Alfred (Al) Pekarek is a former ass...
Benny Josef Peiser Credentials Ph.D. , University of Frankfurt (1993). Peiser studied political science, English, and sports science. [1], [2] Background Benny Peiser is a sports ...