Even though BASF maintains a consistent C- grade in this year’s ChemScore, it is the second-lowest scoring among the European companies. The company continues to increase the number of harmful chemicals it produces, adding another two substances to its portfolio. The hazardous portfolio now totals 135 chemicals, making it the largest one in ChemScore history. 27 of these are persistent chemicals (up from 15 last year). The increase is mainly due to ChemSec expanding its database with new PFAS chemicals. Less than two-thirds of BASF’s chemical production is documented in EU/US markets, limiting transparency.
The company updated its assessment methodology this year, providing detailed information on the intrinsic hazards of product ingredients. It has also adopted a broader approach to harmful chemicals more in line with the EU Chemical Strategy for Sustainability. While the company is making progress in certain areas, details regarding the phase-out of hazardous chemicals are lacking. BASF has a well-established circular approach, complete with a dedicated website, staff, and programs. Its ambitious goal of doubling sales generated from circular solutions gets rewarded in the ranking.
Opportunities for improvement
- Map and phase out persistent chemicals
BASF produces or uses at least 27 persistent chemicals. These substances are known as “forever chemicals” due to the fact that they do not break down in nature. These chemicals — which are linked to many negative health effects — instead build up over time, creating consequences that are becoming increasingly detrimental. Not only for human health and the environment but also for investors. Companies reliant on such chemicals risk stranded assets now that the regulatory speed is accelerating. They are also exposed to significant liability risks since more chemical companies are being sued for contamination and bodily injury. BASF should therefore identify all uses, as well as publish the share of revenue and production volume of persistent chemicals (or products that contain them). The company should publish a time-bound phase-out plan for each persistent chemical and a realistic road map with clear KPIs to track progress.
- Reduce hazardous portfolio
Scientists agree that chemical pollution has crossed a planetary boundary and become an urgent global crisis, threatening both ecosystems and human health. Since BASF has 135 hazardous chemicals in its product portfolio, a key improvement point for the company is to reduce this number. BASF should therefore identify all uses, as well as publish the share of revenue and production volume of hazardous chemicals (or products that contain them). It should also publish a reduction road map of each hazardous chemical together with an annual progression report. Ideally, the company should commit to having a toxic-free product portfolio within the next decade. If the company decides to continue producing a hazardous substance, it needs to present a rationale for its essential use and prove that no feasible alternatives are available at present. In such a case, the company should also state the share of the R&D budget spent on finding a safer alternative for that particular substance.
- Market safer alternatives
BASF does not have any safer alternatives evaluated by independent third parties in its product portfolio. Safer alternatives replace the use of hazardous substances and are crucial in order to put an end to chemical pollution. The company should, therefore, start producing safer alternatives or market existing ones on an independent third-party platform. A good place to advertise is ChemSec’s Marketplace, where buyers and suppliers can find and market safer alternatives.