NOT CURRENT YEAR

Grade D+
ChemScore report card 2021

Bayer

Bayer produces and markets healthcare and agricultural products. In 2018, the German conglomerate bought the agribusiness giant Monsanto. Bayer manufactures products that include pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, and animal health products, as well as crop protection products, plastics, and polyurethanes.
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Total score
11 / 48

Grade summary

Bayer has a relatively large production of hazardous chemicals and data tells us that it is producing 13 highly hazardous chemicals this year, compared to nine last year. Out of these 13, two are persistent. These numbers may not seem all that bad, compared to some of the other companies in the ranking, but it is still a portfolio full of highly problematic substances and a big reason behind Bayer’s poor score. Another poor area is the Lack of Controversies category, where the German company scores zero points due to several contamination scandals and huge penalty fines. In the remaining categories, Bayer’s performance is weak across the board.

Opportunities for improvement

  1. Bayer currently has two substances in its product portfolio belonging to the group of chemicals dubbed “forever chemicals”, due to their extreme persistence. For investors, these chemicals pose a nightmare when the persistence and level of exposure is revealed, as demonstrated by the companies involved in the PFAS disaster, suffering massive financial implications. Investors risk stranded assets, as the environmental and human health impacts of exposure to “forever chemicals” can’t be stopped or easily reversed. For this reason – not to mention for the sake of human health and the environment – we strongly recommend that Bayer prioritises phasing out persistent chemicals from its product portfolio.
  2. The company should also reduce its hazardous portfolio overall, which currently consists of 13 banned, severely restricted or SIN-listed substances. Chemical pollution has a harmful impact on human health and the environment, and poses a growing threat. Two million people died due to exposure to hazardous chemicals in 2019, compared to 1.56 million in 2016, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Hazardous chemicals are also key drivers of biodiversity loss, putting entire ecosystems in jeopardy. A good place to start the reduction would be the two PIC substances that Bayer still offers. PIC, short for Prior Informed Consent, is one of the key provisions of the Rotterdam Convention, allowing the export of – often domestically restricted – hazardous chemicals to poorer countries with weaker chemical legislation, as long as the receiving country signs a consent that it understands what it is accepting and has a plan for how to handle it.
  3. When searching for “green” products on Bayer website, we find the “Bayer Green Solutions Team” – a team of experts on pesticides for golf greens. When we search for “circular” instead, we end up in the kids’ section of the site, receiving a surely delicious recipe for fluffy, “circular” chocolate pancakes, covered in maple syrup. Clearly, Bayer needs to accept its responsibility as one of the largest chemical manufacturers. We lack a well-defined commitment from the company, stating that they want to be part of a circular economy, with a dedicated strategy and SMART targets.

Category breakdown

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Product Portfolio
5 / 18

Bayer produces/uses 13 highly hazardous substances – 12 SIN List chemicals, 2 PICs, and 3 HHPs – 5 of which are included on the EU’s REACH Candidate List. 1 of these highly hazardous substances is either banned or severely restricted, with a set date when production needs to cease (1 Authorisation List substance, and no POPs). The company produces 2 persistent chemicals. Persistent chemicals are particularly problematic, since they do not break down, but instead accumulate in humans and the environment. Because of this, persistent chemicals should be of extra concern for investors; substances that are not considered a problem today could become huge liabilities in the future.

Please note that there is no available data for the 59 percent of the company’s production that takes place outside of the EU and US. Lower EU/US production means higher uncertainty with regard to the total production of hazardous chemicals, which will have a negative impact on the company’s score in this category.

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Development of Safer Chemicals
4 / 12

Bayer has a method in place to screen and assess the sustainability of its products and includes the intrinsic hazards of ingredients in the screening process. It does not, however, exclude substances with toxic properties from its new products. Bayer does not actively market safer alternatives on its own website or on ChemSec Marketplace. The company has no true circular product, process or innovation. Bayer does not use biobased resources. Nor does it source and treat recycled materials in a sustainable way, which is one of the key elements of a circular economy. However, Bayer is actively reducing the hazardous waste it generates.

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Management & Transparency
2 / 12

The German company does not produce only sustainable products. Nor does it have a phase-out strategy for hazardous substances that go beyond regulatory compliance. It does, however, share chemical safety information on its website and follows a credible code of conduct standard. Bayer did not respond to ChemSec’s attempts to communicate around its ChemScore ranking. Nor does it share any information about what kind of chemicals it produces in regions with low regulatory demands for transparency (e.g. Asia). Bayer does not have a circular economy program in place, thus lacking objective and measurable circular economy targets.

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Lack of Controversies
0 / 6

Bayer has been featured heavily in the news media in recent years and has lost many court cases due to cancer and other health-related injuries caused by the chemicals it manufactures, most notably its subsidiary Monsanto’s PCB products and glyphosate-based Roundup weed killer. The single largest US jury verdict to date against the company was passed on 13 May 2019, when a California jury awarded 2 billion USD in punitive damages and 55 million USD in compensatory damages to a couple who claimed Roundup caused their cancers. However, one year later, Bayer committed to pay more than 10 billion USD, primarily to settle about 95,000 out of a total of 125,000 lawsuits linking the plaintiffs’ cancers to Roundup. Between 2011 and 2020, Bayer and its subsidiaries paid almost 175 million USD in penalties for 29 environmental violations, according to the violation tracker project of Good Jobs First.

Download Controversies Bayer (PDF, 139 KB)
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Overall rank
35 / 50
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Total score
11 / 48
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Product Portfolio
5 / 18
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Development of Safer Chemicals
4 / 12
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Management & Transparency
2 / 12
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Lack of Controversies
0 / 6
Download report
Other years
Year Rank Total score
2023 23 / 50 14 / 48
2022 39 / 54 10 / 48
2021 35 / 50 11 / 48
2020 14 / 35 14 / 48