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Chemicals & Toxics

How BASF is moving towards greener, cleaner chemistry

April 13, 2015

If you're not living under a rock, chances are pretty good that you've interacted with a chemical compound manufactured by BASF as some point today. As BASF's Charlene Wall-Warren pointed out at GreenBiz Forum 2015, the company's products are in objects from compostable bags to batteries for hybrids and electric vehicles.

All those chemicals have to come from somewhere. Wall-Warren, BASF's sustainability director, is tasked with trying to make those sure those chemicals are as earth - and people - friendly as possible.

"One of the things I'm really working on within my organization... is fortifying the bridge between sustainability and business," Wall-Warren said during a main stage talk with GreenBiz's Heather Clancy. "When we announced [our] new strategy in 2011, we said 'we've been really working on sustainability in many ways for a long time,' but now we want to take it to the next level."

That's no easy task. Wall-Warren said that BASF is the world's largest chemical company, with 110,000 employees and €74 billion (that's $78.4 billion) of global sales, that's no bold claim. With as company as large as BASF, there are a lot of products to evaluate in terms of sustainability.

"We have looked at 50,000 product applications, and that is only 80 percent of our portfolio that had been assessed last fall," Wall-Warren said. 

BASF isn't just looking at environmental aspects either, although that's a big part of their goal. "Let's look across the life cycle and say: Is it environmentally a beneficial product, is is socially beneficial or responsible, and does it even help save costs across the value chain which really helps when it comes to affordability and viability of the technologies?" Wall-Warren said.

"I think there's been so much movement in the marketplace over the past few years, whether it's regulatory or market drivers that are coming up," she continued. "We said that we really want to show that we are not only looking at compliance and regulatory and the must haves, but we're really looking at and considering stakeholder perceptions."