Re agenda item 3: Approval to the actions of the members of the Supervisory Board
Ethical Shareholders Germany requests that no formal approval should be given to the actions of the members of the Supervisory Board.
The Supervisory Board has performed its task as the controlling body of the Board of Executive Directors only inadequately. BASF’s actions to date are not sufficient to make an effective contribution to achieving the goals of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, the UN Global Compact and the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights of the federal German government, to which BASF has committed itself.
Lack of transparency in human rights due diligence obligations
In 2018, BASF commissioned an external service provider to conduct a total of 546 supplier audits to comply with its human rights duties of care regarding its own supply chains. BASF had 100 sites audited through the industry initiative “Together for Sustainability” (TfS). However, the results and whether a follow-up audit was initiated due to deficits are not disclosed in detail in the Annual Report.
The Supervisory Board urgently needs to demand more transparency here, as it is impossible for shareholders and the general public to assess BASF SE’s compliance with human rights due diligence obligations. Even in the case of follow-up audits, BASF is not bothered by serious deficiencies, as the example of platinum supplier Lonmin shows.
BASF continues to purchase platinum produced under inhumane conditions
At Lonmin’s platinum mines in South Africa, working and living conditions remain unacceptable. Due to poor ventilation underground, one third of the mine workers die of lung diseases. Insufficient pay, accidents at work, lack of labour rights for the many temporary workers and environmental pollution from production are added.
Lonmin is jointly responsible for the massacre of Marikana in South Africa on August 16,2012, in which 34 miners striking for better wages were shot by the South African police. Lonmin’s responsibility was confirmed by the Farlam Commission in June 2015. The majority of workers in Marikana live in slums without running water, sewers and electricity.
Lonmin is even legally obliged by the Social and Labour Plan (SLP) to provide better working and living conditions. Only a small part of the 6,000 homes and 2,638 rental and owner-occupied housing units for the miners promised in the Social and Labour Plan have been built. In 2018, BASF publicly admitted for the first time on ARD television that Lonmin was not keeping its promises for new houses. See: https://www.daserste.de/information/wirtschaftboerse/plusminus/sendung/swr/platinabbau-100.html
Instead of drawing conclusions or at least ensuring the publication of the Lonmin audits, BASF praises the introduction of a new grievance mechanism at Lonmin (p. 91). After all, BASF indirectly admits that nothing else has changed for the better.
Takeover of Lonmin by Sibanye-Stillwater
Lonmin is expected to be acquired by Sibanye-Stillwater, a company notorious for its terrible number of fatal accidents at work – there were 24 fatalities in 2018 alone. BASF must now demonstrate that it insists on compliance with legal obligations under the Social and Labour Plan, but also on responsibility towards the victims of the massacre. The long-promised but never fully implemented improvements in living conditions in Marikana must finally be implemented.
More information: basflonmin.com
Lessons learned from the 2016 explosion?
Five people died in an explosion at BASF’s Ludwigshafen site on October 17, 2016. 44people were injured, some of them seriously. Now an external employee is on trial who is said to have cut a wrong gas pipe during maintenance work and is now held solely responsible for the accident. The accused himself is no longer able to work due to psychological impairments caused by the incident. According to BASF itself, it has drawn conclusions from the case and wants to ensure better marking of the pipes, and only low-spark tools are to be used. It is fatal that these safety precautions were not taken earlier.
Here, too, the question arises as to the extent to which BASF’s information on due diligence and corporate responsibility can be taken seriously. Instead, BASF also publicly blames the accident solely on the misconduct of a single man. There are no apparent improvements in crisis and communication management. Kurt Bock, then Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, did not comment on the accident in public for days.
Re agenda item 4: Approval to the actions of the members of the Board of Executive Directors
Ethical Shareholders Germany requests that no formal approval should be given to the actions of the members of the Board of Executive Directors for the 2018 financial year.
The Board of Executive Directors of BASF pursues an environmentally and health damaging business model that does not contribute to the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the goals of the Paris Climate Protection Agreement. BASF itself states that its products contribute to achieving SDG 2, ending hunger and promoting sustainable agriculture, and to SDG 3 (healthy living for all). The argument: Only pesticides and genetic engineering can feed the world’s growing population. But BASF’s model of industrial agriculture has devastating consequences for people and the environment.
BASF endangers food sovereignty
Through the acquisition of parts of Bayer’s agricultural business, BASF now has not only agricultural poisons in its portfolio, but also seeds. Millions of small farmers around the world are dependent on high-performance seeds and genetically engineered seeds, which are now produced by only four companies: Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva – and BASF. They are increasingly determining what grows on the world’s fields. This makes it more difficult to produce food competitively without genetic engineering.
Agricultural poisons endanger health
With the acquisition of parts of the Bayer business, BASF expanded its portfolio to include genetically modified plants with a tolerance to the herbicidal active ingredient glufosinate and the business with weed killers contained in this active ingredient. Glufosinate is classified by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as toxic to reproduction in mammals, which means that glufosinate can also cause severe deformities in human fetuses.
The use of glufosinate has also been shown to harm animals such as spiders, beetles or lacewings. The cultivation system of genetically modified plants with herbicide tolerance and the corresponding weed killer has led to a massive increase in the resistance of the arable flora, especially in North and South America, and consequently to a massive increase in the use of pesticides.
Double standards in pesticide sales in Brazil
When the EU bans BASF products because of their high toxicity, the Board of Executive Directors simply focuses on mostly poorer countries, where the Group benefits from weaker health precautions. In Brazil, for example, sales of active ingredients in BASF pesticides, which are not approved at EU level according to the EU pesticides database, increased by44 percent to 13 active ingredients between 2016 and 2019.
The agricultural model promotes the extinction of species and damages insects, which are indispensable for the survival of all life. Monocultures leave no room for natural habitats, nitrogen is released from pesticides into the soil and prevents plants on which many insects depend from growing.
Incredible and inadequate climate targets
Even if BASF believes it is a pioneer in climate protection: The reality is different at the moment. CO2 emissions did not fall significantly last year compared with 2017, and that does not even include the businesses acquired from Bayer. This makes it completely unclear how BASF intends to achieve its self-imposed targets of 40 percent less CO2 by 2020. By 2030, BASF does not want to be strictly CO2-neutral with regard to its own emissions – as Siemens does, for example. Instead, the company only talks about “CO2-neutral growth.” So instead of complaining about the low water levels on the Rhine during the summer drought of 2018, the Board of Executive Directors should tackle much more ambitious climate targets and measures due to its own responsibility for the climate crisis.
Even if BASF now wants to outsource its oil and gas business, BASF remains responsible for this climate-damaging business model, especially as the future main shareholder of a merged Wintershall DEA. BASF is helping to ensure that the entire energy industry continues to focus on climate-damaging technologies instead of investing more heavily in renewable energies. This also applies to the controversial Nord Stream 2 and fracking projects in Argentina.
BASF’s climate-damaging agricultural business is also worthy of special mention: Industrial agriculture, which is promoted by BASF pesticides and seed technologies, contributes significantly to the emission of climate-damaging gases worldwide. This is mainly due to methane emissions from livestock farming, the application of agricultural fertilizers and nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils as a result of nitrogen fertilization. Soils needless pollution to still have a carbon storage function.