5 Minutes With… Christian Krueger from BASF
“Stakeholders need to work together more intensively to set the ground for push through innovations in order to develop more sustainable chemicals.”
1865. That was when Germany-headquartered chemicals company BASF was established. It has seen a lot of changes from then until now and has grown into the world’s biggest chemical company. If you are the biggest player in your field, you need to take on greater responsibilities. In light of this, BASF has embarked on a massive sustainability drive to make the best use of available resources and meet global sustainability challenges. The company’s purpose is “we create chemistry for a sustainable future”.
Here, Liz Gyekye, senior content manager at Bio-Based World News catches up with Dr. Christian Krueger, corporate sustainability strategy expert at BASF, to find out more about the company’s environmental opportunities and challenges.
Liz Gyekye (LG): Welcome to 5 Minutes With. Can you begin with a description about BASF and what it is the company does?
Christian Krueger (CK): BASF SE (@BASF) is a Germany-based chemical company and the largest chemical producer in the world. The BASF Group comprises subsidiaries and joint ventures in more than 80 countries and operates six integrated production sites and other production sites in all regions. BASF has customers in more than 190 countries and supplies products to a wide variety of industries. At the end of 2017, the company employed around 115,000 people. In 2017, BASF posted sales of €64.5 billion and income from operations before special items of about €8.3 billion. The company is currently expanding its international activities with a particular focus on Asia.
LG: What strategy does BASF have on sustainable chemistry?
CK: For the past five to ten years, BASF has pursued an ambitious strategy to produce sustainable chemistry. We set ourselves ambitious environmental key performance indicators (KPIs). We are constantly looking at ways to create value for the environment, for society and business. We are one of the largest chemical companies in the world, so we need to take responsibility in what we do in order to help society. Therefore, we have included sustainability into our company’s purpose – we are creating chemistry for our sustainable future.
In our new corporate strategy, we have set ambitious sustainability targets. First, we intend to grow carbon-neutral until 2030. This is quite ambitious as we have already reduced our carbon footprint by 50% since 1990. To achieve carbon-neutral growth, BASF will improve the management, efficiency and integration of its plants and, wherever possible, will purchase a greater share of electricity from renewable energy sources. In addition, BASF wants to generate around €22 billion in sales with ‘Accelerator’ products in 2025. These are products that make a substantial sustainability contribution in the value chain. We will also improve sustainability performance in our supply chain, and we want to better engage our employees.
LG: What challenges does your company face?
CK: You need the right market and regulatory environment in order to grow. Regulatory environments can help to boost new products with better sustainability performance. For example, our company evaluates chemical recycling to use plastic waste as feedstock to produce new chemicals. But this is not yet recognised as contribution to fulfil recycling quotas. We also need a market environment, so that our customers can be more successful with sustainable products. In the packaging industry, customers are already demanding solutions which are recyclable or are of renewable origin. The biggest hurdle is often the price and performance of the product. Therefore, BASF has developed its biomass balance approach, where products made from renewable resources exhibit the same performance as its counterparts made from fossil feedstock. The availability of sustainable bio-based feedstock is still a challenge. We need more investment in new technologies to convert waste or residues to chemicals. Those investments might be rewarded and therefore it could make sense to incentivise the use of such new sustainable technologies in the ecodesign of final products. Stakeholders need to work together more intensively to set the ground for push through innovations in order to develop more sustainable chemicals.
LG: What next for BASF?
CK: In order to substantiate credibility for bio-based and biomass balanced products we will further support the development and proliferation of sustainability certifications. Recently, REDcert published a new standard in cooperation with BASF and TÜV SÜD, which sets the rules for biomass balanced products in the chemical industry. We hope that this certification system will develop successfully, so that credible sustainability claims will be more used in the downstream industries. Furthermore, we believe that we need to increase our efforts to promote more cost-efficient and sustainable bio-based feedstock. It needs more momentum to develop 2nd and 3rd generation renewables for the market.
LG: What is your favourite sustainability product?
CK: I like the use of our biomass-balanced polyamide in the SIGNature packaging, where sustainability claims are displayed directly on the packaging. The sustainability concept is explained transparently by profound background information.