BASF Sets High Standards for CSR Reporting in Germany

BASF Corporation, one of Europe’s leading CSR lights, recently published their latest integrated annual report. There aren’t many companies at all hitting their environmental targets, never mind hitting them nine years early, but BASF have done exactly that. There will of course be an argument hidden in the detail behind the headlines, to suggest that this may be more of weak or pessimistic goal setting than the superlative performance improvement we’re likely to believe on first glance. The “world’s leading chemical company” with 2011 global sales of € 73bn, have also been honoured this week as a leading sustainability reporting organisation in its home country of Germany (by the Institute for Ecological Economy Research). This is in addition to the already prestigious achievement of emerging top of the ET Global Carbon Ranking (via the UK’s Environmental Investment Organisation). The Report 2011 headlines a substantial 35% drop in greenhouse gas emissions (per metric tonne of sales product) amongst the expected array of traditional financial performance data. Power plants with power-heat technologies and other individual projects are cited in helping achieve this goal. “Since BASF operates in an energy-intensive industry, our success depends on securing a long-term, competitive supply of energy and raw materials,” says Margret Suckale, their Industrial Relations Director. BASF is one of those organisations that many won’t even know the name, even less will know what they actually produce (the name always reminds me of audio cassettes of years gone by – showing my age), but through their substantial yet diverse portfolio BASF could conceivable play a part in most of our lives every single day. With a very succinct, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin “We create chemistry for a sustainable future” corporate purpose statement, the organisation also offers a glimpse into the German based culture for attention to functional detail that verges on obsession. The impressive results in this integrated report are themselves attributed to this very process driven culture. Germany as a central economic and political powerhouse in the heart of the European Union is bound by the high levels of regulation imposed on all member states, and in particular the environmental side of the equation. There is also a strong cultural sense of social justice thanks in part to contributions of key historical influencers such as Martin Luther, Otto von Bismarck and Karl Marx. Germany also has a high incidence of family owned business with many of these remaining in the towns of the original operations.  Chris Milton suggests an interesting insight into German CSR culture in Corporate Eye, that organisations such as BASF, Siemens and Arcelor Mittal whilst enjoying the benefits of the increasingly methodical approach to CSR reporting could also be missing out on a cornerstone of CSR - dialogue and communication. The Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in Germany launched a National Strategy for CSR in 2010 stating "Tapping the potential of CSR requires the combined efforts of society as a whole. Neither the political sector nor business nor civil society is able to master the enormous challenges of our times single-handedly. In today's increasingly globalised world, the limits of individual action are quickly reached." Click here for a copy of Germany's full Action Plan for CSR.