Listen to Michael and Victoria’s Discussion Here:


Discover how BASF, a global frontrunner in the chemical industry, is transforming its commitment to sustainability into innovative practices and leadership. Michael Heinz, CEO of BASF North America and member of the ACC Board of Directors, joins host Victoria Meyer to discuss the significance of Responsible Care® and how BASF is spearheading sustainability efforts globally. 

Michael highlights what it means to integrate circularity and greenhouse gas reduction into business strategies and shares more about BASF’s ambitious goals.

This episode was recorded at American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care® and Sustainability Conference and it is the 2nd episode of this series.

 

Learn more about the following this week:

  • The Role of Responsible Care® at BASF
  • Aligning industry priorities for Sustainability
  • How BASF is adapting to economic, supply chain, and energy challenges 
  • Navigating global and regional business challenges
  • Success in Leadership

 

The conversation also explores Michael’s personal leadership philosophy and insights into career success, offering a perspective on driving industry change amidst economic and regulatory landscapes. Highlighting the interconnection between embracing sustainable practices and maintaining business innovation, this episode provides valuable insights on the chemical industry’s pathway toward a more sustainable future.

Killer Quote:You have to realize that once someone gives you a job where they tell you this: ‘You can do it easily’, you’re at the end of your career.” — Michael Heinz


Watch Michael and Victoria Talk about BASF’s Approach to Sustainability on Youtube Here:


BASF CEO Michael Heinz on Sustainability, Energy, and Leadership

This is Victoria Meyer. Welcome back to The Chemical Show. Today, I am speaking with Michael Heinz, who is the CEO of BASF North America, and a member of the Board of Directors there, as well as a member of the Board of Directors of ACC. We’re here at ACC Sustainability and Responsible Care® Conference. Mike, thanks for joining me today.

Thank you for having me.

Absolutely. Well, let’s start talking about Responsible Care® since that’s a center point of this conference. What’s the role of Responsible Care® at BASF?

Well Responsible Care® is a volunteer program that has been around for over 30 years, and BASF implemented it in 2007. It’s basically a set of rules and procedures to make sure that we continuously advance in the safety environment and also in health aspects. We apply that in all of our subsidiaries around the globe and in all the companies where we have a majority stake.

Awesome. So you’ve actually taken it and applied it elsewhere, even though it’s outside of the U.S.

Definitely. It’s a global program.

It is. Of course, it’s great principles as well. So when we think about sustainability, you’re chair of the Sustainability Committee for ACC, and I guess the question I have is really, how do you reach alignment? There’s such a diversity of companies, leaders, and interests that it’s challenging. We know it’s challenging when we’re inside the same company, but much less when we’re across companies, it can be challenging to reach alignment. What do you find to be critical?

Well, on one hand, yes, sometimes it’s challenging to find alignment, but we’re all working for the same industry. As we work for the same industry, we also also face the same challenges, but we also have the same opportunities because when you look at the chemical industry, that is basically the mother of all industries. 96% of all the products and goods that are being produced are enabled by chemistry. That’s what we have to focus on as a group in ACC by saying, what can our contribution be? What are some of the innovations that we can move forward in order to solve some of the challenges that we face as an industry and also as a society?

green sustainability. tree in globe held by hands.

So what are the priorities? What are the most important things that the committee is working on today?

I think there are two things, at least from a sustainability aspect, one is circularity and then the other thing is reducing greenhouse gases. So it’s really how can we make some of our products slightly different? How can we use some of our products different? Can we keep them in the loop longer? Then if they’re at the end of their life cycle, how can we better recycle those products?

So the full life cycle is really critical there. Turning to BASF, when you think about the company, what are BASF’s priorities as it relates to sustainability and even as it really interfaces with the business? Because it’s obviously a key element of business.

Our key priority is embedded in our purpose and our purpose is we create chemistry for a sustainable future. We want to be the preferred supplier of the chemical industry in order to enable the transformation of our customers. That’s what we are driven by and that’s what our 112,000 people around the globe are really passionate about.

Yeah, how is BASF adapting given the economic challenges, the supply chain challenges, the energy challenges that we’ve seen in the last couple of years?

We are a very energy intensive type of industry. Just to give you a number, BASF’s energy demand is as high as the country of Greece or the country of Portugal. So energy for us is something that is very, very important. What we have done is we are shifting more and more to green energy. So 60% of our energy supply by 2030 will come from green energy. What we have done primarily in Europe, because there it was possible, was to get access to an equity stakes into wind parks to produce our own green energy, but we also have it in our new Verbund site in Zhanjiang in the southern part of China, where it will be enabled by wind power and also by solar power. Also the United States, we have a lot of agreements with solar companies and also wind companies for PPAs or virtual PPAs.

That makes sense, and I saw that recent announcement about the equity acquirement of wind farms, which is really exciting.

I would have never thought that we would become owners of a wind park for sure.

Horizontal axis wind turbine with blue sky and white clouds near green tree. Wind energy in eco wind farm. Green energy concept. Renewal energy. Alternative electricity source. Sustainable resources. Sustainability

No. In fact, often I think as business leaders and strategists, we think, what’s really our core capability? And you focus in on your core capability, which you would not assume to be wind other than being good talkers.

True, but one of our core capabilities, believe it or not, is actually producing energy because we were producing energy for the last, let’s say a hundred years. So 50% of the energy requirement that I spoke about we always produced ourselves. Now we just produce it via wind power.

Right. So it’s a new version of a co-gen unit.

If you want so, yes.

Awesome. So when you think about the challenges of navigating across multiple landscapes, we’ve already touched on the fact that you’re taking some slightly different energy approaches in the sense of equity ownership of energy in different regions. How do you think about leveraging sustainability and navigating just the different challenges, regulations, opportunities by region, because there’s obviously differences.

There are differences and some regions obviously have different types of timelines or different types of priorities, but as we operate in all regions around the globe, we just have to adhere to whatever the regulation is and ultimately I think down the road some of those regulations will converge. We set out certain goals and when it comes, for example, to CO2 reduction there we don’t have regional goals we have a global goal. Yes there are certain regulatory requirements which are different but we are using also ACC, for example, in order to lobby a price on carbon and that is something that we advocate for on a global basis.

Absolutely, and I think that’s right. You’ve talked about it. ACC talks about it. I hear people across the industry talking about the need for alignment of some of these regulations, and it also being science-based and being really logical, and making sure that we’re not being confined by what makes sense today, but maybe won’t make sense in the future.

It’s for sure a journey. It’s something that you have to keep doing for a long, long time.

Banner for biological technology study and research, generative ai sustainability

Well, Mike, let’s turn and talk about leadership a little bit. So you have obviously led a really great and successful career in the industry and at BASF. You moved into a senior level from quite an early age or time in your career, and have been on the board of directors for 13 years. To what do you attribute that success and being able to take on those really big responsibilities from an early part of your career.

I think I always had a couple of, let’s say, models in my life. I was always very ambitious, that comes from sports because I was playing semi professional sports. But I had a lot of ambitions without being too ambitious and that might sound a little strange to you, but what it means was that I was always giving 125% at what I was doing. I was always curious and I was always trying to give it my best. I was not necessarily looking for my next job, but just putting a lot of rubber on the road and giving it 125%. I don’t really mean working 12 hours instead of 10. It just means, when the coach says you really got to accelerate, you accelerate and when the coach says you should rest, you also take some rest But you really try to give it your best at what you do and that has caused others to see something in me and provide me with opportunities in the company and jobs that were always one size too large for me. Then I started to grow into it, because you have to realize that once someone gives you a job where they tell you that you can do this easily, you’re at the end of your career.

That is really true. I may just leave it at that, it’s a good closing remark Well, Mike, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate your time.

Thanks for having me.


About Michael Heinz:

Michael Heinz was born in Mannheim, Germany, in 1964. From 1984 onwards, he studied Business Administration at the College of Applied Sciences in Ludwigshafen, Germany, and graduated there in 1987. In 2000, he received his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Duke University, North Carolina, United States.

He is responsible for the divisions Agricultural Solutions; Nutrition & Health; Care Chemicals; Region North America; Region South America.