Automotive & Transportation

BASF Incorporates Sustainability into the Automotive Value Chain

You would be hard-pressed to find a conversation about the current state of mobility that doesn’t mention electric vehicles. With the rising concerns about the health of our planet and the impact the automotive industry has on the environment, electric vehicles are having a breakthrough moment.  According to BloombergNEF’s 2022 Electric Vehicle Outlook, global passenger electric vehicle sales grew 103 percent to almost 6.6 million vehicles in 2021 and now there are almost 20 million passenger EVs on the road.


Clean Mobility Solutions 

Battery-powered electric vehicles provide zero emission mobility, and BASF is a leading advanced cathode active materials supplier for lithium-ion batteries. The chemistry BASF is developing for lithium-ion batteries is an enabling factor for longer range, shorter charging time and reasonable cost, which ultimately helps make EVs more attractive to consumers. 

BASF also developed flame-retardant plastics that complement the EV battery. Building vehicles around batteries instead of internal combustion engines brings new safety concerns. Electric powertrains demand higher safety against electric malfunctions, which can increase the risk of an electric shock, the occurrence of electric arcs, and other potential sources of ignition. Since plastics are mainly combustible materials, special precautions must be taken to increase electric vehicle safety and to prevent the worst-case scenario: a battery cell fire. To combat this risk, BASF developed flame-retardant polymer compounds that play a direct role in preventing battery cells from catching on fire. 

Electric vehicles are instrumental in turning the automotive industry into a sustainable one, yet they are only one piece of the puzzle. While battery electric vehicles provide a more sustainable propulsion system than engines, EVs can indirectly give off harmful emissions if other parts of the vehicle aren’t built sustainably. BASF keeps sustainability as a top priority throughout all aspects of the value chain.

Sustainable Sourcing

Just like how BASF provides sustainable automotive solutions to its customers, we have that same relationship with companies we source materials from. BASF procures over $30 billion worth of products and services each year, such as raw materials, technical goods and logistic solutions. When sourcing such a vast amount of materials, it is crucial to hold suppliers to the same standards customers hold BASF to: reliable, sustainably sourced materials.

Greenhouse emissions associated with raw materials are a big part of BASF’s overall carbon footprint, and something that can be eliminated by reliably sourcing materials. In order to reduce emissions overall, BASF has committed to reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030 and aiming to reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

To meet these goals, all suppliers to BASF are encouraged to join the Supplier CO2 Management Program, which encourages knowledge-sharing and transparency in what companies are doing to reduce their Product Carbon Footprint before engaging in business with them.

One of the biggest strides BASF has made in reliable sourcing has been the use of renewable raw materials. In 2021, BASF purchased 1.3 million metric tons of renewable raw materials – derived from oils, sugars, grains, wood and more – saving cost, energy and creating more innovative solutions through the versatility of these materials. Not only does the increased life cycle of these materials reduce emissions, but it also provides our customers with longer-term, sustainable solutions that last longer than non-reliably sourced materials.

Roundabout in the middle of a forest in Belgium. Circular road surrounded by trees.

Precise Production

After reliably sourcing materials from our customers, the next step in the value chain is right in BASF’s wheelhouse: production. Operational excellence during the production stage is what sets BASF apart – global safety and security concepts are implemented in the production stage to protect our employees, contractors and neighbors while simultaneously preventing property and environmental damage. 

BASF has incorporated sustainable means of production into company values since 1992, when the Responsible Care Management System was introduced. BASF implemented a management system for all companies under the BASF umbrella that defines sustainability requirements across all aspects of the value chain.

The production aspect of the value chain is where BASF’s responsibly sourced materials come into play – we are able to create solutions that give off fewer emissions due to the quality of materials sourced before production. When creating customer solutions, protecting the climate is an essential part of our strategy, and ahead of the production stage, BASF is 100 percent transparent with customers about the potential environmental effects our products could have. 

As BASF continues to work towards achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, the company provides full transparency on the effects that BASF products can have on the environment. To that end, we’ve introduced Product Carbon Footprints (PCF) for all 45,000 of our sales products, which gives all customers full visibility into what impact each of our products has on the environment and customers can see how we’re using things like our biomass balance approach to continuously reduce emissions.

Research that Drives an Eco-Friendly Future

The last aspect that BASF considers as part of its sustainability efforts comes from outside of the physical value chain: research. A growing need for food, energy and water for the world while also protecting our climate and resources requires innovation, and BASF’s dedicated research team is continuously looking for ways to reduce environmental impact. Not only does BASF’s research improve solutions we provide to customers, it also allows us to evaluate and improve our internal sustainability practices while encouraging other companies to do the same.

One of the challenges facing sustainability is simply how to quantify it; products and services are often dubbed as “environmentally-friendly,” but there is a lack of transparency in terms of how exactly “environmentally-friendly” products promote sustainability. To address this, BASF provides Eco-Efficiency analysis on all of our products, while also giving a value-to-society assessment. As a part of the Value Balancing Alliance, BASF encourages all companies to take an introspective view on sustainability and responsibly report their environmental effects. 

When BASF develops a product, that’s only the beginning of its value – we continuously use our products as living experiments that should be researched, evaluated, and improved long after the product has begun its life cycle.

From the charging column to the cable and the plug, from the wiring to the battery inside the car – we create materials and technologies for future powertrain concepts.

A Strong Partner for Sustainability  

Automotive is a vast and complex industry; there are manufacturers, suppliers, dealers and more. If one company along that chain doesn’t prioritize sustainability, all of the other companies’ efforts could be for naught. Our goal is to increase the transparency of environmental effects in products across the entire value chain – it’s a standard our customers expect from us, and one we expect from our supplier partners.  

In addition to transparency about the environmental impact that products have, another goal is to keep developing solutions designed with sustainability in mind. Not only does BASF produce battery materials, but we produce automotive solutions that are just as important to an electric vehicle as the battery itself. These include lightweight composites and performance materials that contribute to viable eMobility applications. 

Achieving sustainability in the automotive industry requires collaboration across the full supply chain, and BASF will continue working to ensure our products, solutions and technologies add value to our partners and the planet.