After being on a downward slope for some years, Bayer is back where it started in ChemScore with 14 points which equates to a C-. Bayer produces 23 SIN List substances, out of which 13 are persistent (up from two persistent chemicals last year). Bayer is one of five companies to declare “intermediate” status publicly on its website for some of its hazardous portfolio. Only half of the company’s sold production is documented in EU/US markets, impacting transparency. In Category 2, Bayer more than doubles its score due to it having sustainable, circular, and bio-based products as well as demonstrating a decrease in hazardous waste.
The company has been riddled with controversies during the last few years, most of them coming from the acquisition of Monsanto. In particular, many lawsuits involve pollution of the environment with toxic PCB chemicals or damages caused by glyphosate-based herbicides produced by the company.
Opportunities for improvement
- Map and phase out persistent chemicals
Bayer produces or uses at least 13 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. Bayer 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 Bayer has 23 hazardous chemicals in its product portfolio, a key improvement point for the company is to reduce this number. Bayer 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
Bayer contends that circular economy principles don’t apply to pharmaceutical and pesticide products. But pharmaceuticals can be produced in a biodegradable manner and persistent and bioaccumulative products can be substituted. Additionally, take-back schemes could be established. The company should 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.