Assuming responsibility

Our general approach towards all our suppliers is that we act responsibly and expect the same from our partners. If needed, we support them in their efforts to assume their responsibilities. Based on a risk evaluation of our suppliers, we conduct sustainability risk assessments by means of independent auditors or service providers. Whenever we become aware of violations, we urge to end these. Where appropriate, we support our partners, civil society, or cross-industry initiatives for tackling related challenges together, on a broader basis of stakeholders. In other cases, we explore business alternatives and reserve the right to terminate business relations.


The Marikana incident

In August 2012, there was a strike at Lonmin platinum operations in Marikana, South Africa. An escalation of tensions culminated in violent confrontations between mineworkers and armed South African police. This violence led to the deaths of 44 people over the course of one week.

Rivalries and violence between competing unions (AMCU, NUM), tensions with the employing platinum mining industry and frustration about poor living conditions have been a historical fact in the South African platinum belt since apartheid ended. No party foreseen that those tensions could escalate in a degree of violence that was called the “Marikana massacre” later, when, on August 16, 2012, striking mineworkers were directly shot by police forces, 34 mineworkers died, many were injured, inflicting deep tragedy and grief.     

The South African government launched an investigation shortly afterwards, mandating the so-called “Farlam Commission of Inquiry” to lead an investigation procedure. In June 2015, the Farlam Commission issued its report. While it was found that actions of South African police forces and striking miners were primary causes of violence, Lonmin was also identified as not having used its best de-escalating endeavors to prevent the tragedy.

After having intensively assessed the causes of the incident on their side, Lonmin changed their leadership team, implemented lessons learned, and tried to get to the roots of the problem. Lonmin immediately set up a fund to support the families and children of the killed mineworkers, whose schooling as well as studies were from then on taken care of by Lonmin. Every year on August 16, a memorial-day is organized by the company to commemorate the victims and to never forget about the lessons learned on that day. The new owner, Sibanye-Stillwater, continued this tradition immediately after the takeover in 2019, and assessed ways to respond to victims’ families’ situations and to those of the Marikana communities more broadly.    


Marikana: BASF’s involvement

At the time of the Marikana incident, BASF was one of the most important platinum customers of Lonmin. As a member of the International Platinum Group Metals Association (IPA), BASF has a long-standing business relationship with the South African platinum industry. The IPA brings together South Africa’s platinum mines and fabricators of platinum group metal (PGM) that use these resources for innovative technologies, e.g. for emission reducing automobile catalysts. Through the IPA but also through close supplier relationships with South African mining houses, such as Lonmin, BASF has always participated in an intensive exchange on challenges around mining operations, including the strikes. 

BASF was shocked by the incident and violence in Marikana and expressed its deepest sympathy to all those that were and still are suffering from these events. Building up on the Farlam Commission’s findings, BASF investigated on possible deficits in the responsibilities of Lonmin’s management. The NGO consortium “Plough back the fruits” had been blaming BASF as an accomplice to the massacre and a violator of its human rights obligations. BASF was advised by human rights experts, some of whom had been part of the team of the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, John Ruggie. At that time the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights had recently been published. 

For BASF, the main questions with respect to the Marikana incident were if BASF had violated due diligence responsibilities as a customer of Lonmin, which lessons had to be learned, and which measures had to be taken. BASF implemented the following recommendations of the human rights experts to comply with its due diligence regarding Lonmin:

  • Assure Lonmin’s compliance with local laws with respect to international good industry practice regarding established international environmental, social/human rights and governance (ESG) standards.
  • Clarify how BASF can participate as a customer and representative of an industry at the same time, to improve local living conditions. 

Based on the recommendations of the human rights experts, BASF established the following processes:

  • A continuous audit process that started in 2015 based on the Chemical Industry’s “Together for Sustainability” (TfS) sustainability audit scheme [more details on the audit and results below].
  • A stakeholder dialog to take in and examine advice from civil society [more details on the stakeholder dialog and related activities below].
  • An industry initiative under the IPA Sustainability Committee establishing a sustainability audit assurance scheme under which IPA platinum mines committed to carry out audits on their operations, and an exchange on success factors in addressing challenges [more details on the stakeholder dialog and related activities below]. 

Take-over by Sibanye-Stillwater in 2019

The Sibanye-Stillwater Lonmin merger was completed on June 10, 2019, after Sibanye-Stillwater and Lonmin shareholders voted in favor of the deal with a large majority. With the merger, Sibanye-Stillwater has become one of the world’s leading manufacturer of platinum group metals (PGM). In the meantime, the merger was implemented. Since 2018 BASF has been participating in an exchange on sustainability topics with Sibanye-Stillwater. Sibanye-Stillwater agreed to do a full mining-specific re-audit according to the chemical industry’s Initiative “Together for Sustainability” (TfS) in January 2020. Sibanye-Stillwater is a member and supporter of the IPA sustainability initiative.

In early July 2019, shortly after the take-over, Sibanye-Stillwater invited BASF to present the company’s sustainability approach, seeking exchange and cooperation on challenging sustainability topics. Sibanye-Stillwater and BASF agreed to cooperate with respect to their stakeholder dialogs and foster collaboration between stakeholders for the common good. Sibanye-Stillwater and BASF participated in the 2019 Courageous Conversations Dialogue, invited by the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town to exchange on challenges and success factors of community projects. Tensions related to wage negotiations and retrenchments due to re-structuring measures have been settled over 2019. From early announcements to retrench approximately 12,500 jobs post-merger in November 2018, the latest numbers in January 2020 indicate 1,142 job losses due to re-structuring at Marikana operations. Sibanye-Stillwater adopted measures to reduce the number of job losses through transfer and voluntary compensation schemes and retirements. Employees affected by retrenchment are offered the opportunity to acquire new skills such as farming, plumbing, automobile mechanics, painting, brick laying, etc.