Corporate Governance & Management
The fundamental elements of BASF SE’s corporate governance system are: its two-tier system, with a transparent and effective separation of company management and supervision between BASF’s Board of Executive Directors and the Supervisory Board; the equal representation of shareholders and employees on the Supervisory Board; and the shareholders’ rights of co-administration and supervision at the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting.
The Board of Executive Directors is responsible for the management of the company, and represents BASF SE in business undertakings with third parties. BASF’s Board of Executive Directors is strictly separated from the Supervisory Board, which monitors the Board of Executive Directors’ activities and decides on its composition. A member of the Board of Executive Directors cannot simultaneously be a member of the Supervisory Board. As the central duty of company management, the Board of Executive Directors agrees on the corporate goals and strategic direction of the BASF Group as well as its individual business areas; determines the company’s internal organization; and decides on the composition of management on the levels below the Board. It also manages and monitors BASF Group business by planning and setting the corporate budget, allocating resources and management capacities, monitoring and making decisions on significant individual measures, and supervising operational management.
The Board’s actions and decisions are geared toward the company’s best interests. It is committed to the goal of sustainably increasing the company’s value. Among the Board’s responsibilities is the preparation of the Consolidated and Separate Financial Statements of BASF SE and reporting on the company’s financial and nonfinancial performance. Furthermore, it must ensure that the company’s activities comply with the applicable legislation and regulatory requirements, as well as internal corporate directives. This includes the establishment of appropriate systems for control, compliance and risk management as well as establishing a company-wide compliance culture with undisputed standards.
Decisions that are reserved for the Board as a whole by law, through the Board of Executive Directors’ Rules of Procedure or through resolutions adopted by the Board, are made at regularly held Board meetings called by the Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors. Board decisions are based on detailed information and analyzes provided by the business areas and specialist units, and, if deemed necessary, by external consultants. Board decisions can generally be made via a simple majority. In the case of a tied vote, the casting vote is given by the Chairman of the Board. However, the Chairman of the Board does not have the right to veto the decisions of the Board of Executive Directors. Members of the Board of Executive Directors are authorized to make decisions individually in their assigned areas of responsibility.
The Board can set up Board committees to consult and decide on individual issues such as proposed material acquisitions or divestitures; these must include at least three members of the Board of Executive Directors. For the preparation of important decisions, such as those on acquisitions, divestitures, investments and personnel, the Board has various commissions at the level below the Board that carefully assess the planned measure and evaluate the associated opportunities and risks, and based on this information, report and make recommendations to the Board – independently of the affected business area.
The Board of Executive Directors informs the Supervisory Board regularly, without delay and comprehensively, of all issues important to the company with regard to planning, business development, risk situation, risk management and compliance. Furthermore, the Board of Executive Directors coordinates the company’s strategic orientation with the Supervisory Board.
The Statutes of BASF SE and the Supervisory Board have defined certain transactions that require the Board of Executive Directors to obtain the Supervisory Board’s approval prior to their conclusion. Such cases include the acquisition and disposal of enterprises and parts of enterprises, as well as the issue of bonds or comparable financial instruments. However, this is only necessary if the acquisition or disposal price or the amount of the issue in an individual case exceeds 3% of the equity reported in the last approved Consolidated Financial Statements of the BASF Group.
The Supervisory Board works hand in hand with the Board of Executive Directors to ensure long-term succession planning for the composition of the Board of Executive Directors. BASF aims to fill most Board positions with candidates from within the company. It is the task of the Board of Executive Directors to propose a sufficient number of suitable candidates to the Supervisory Board.
BASF’s long-term succession planning is guided by the corporate strategy. It is based on systematic management development characterized by the following:
The aim is to enable the Supervisory Board to ensure a reasonable level of diversity with respect to education and professional experience, cultural background, international representation, gender and age when appointing members of the Board of Executive Directors. Independent of these individual criteria, the Supervisory Board is convinced that ultimately, only a holistic approach can determine an individual’s suitability for appointment to the Board of Executive Directors of BASF SE. The overall aim is to ensure that the Board of Executive Directors as a whole has the following profile, which serves as a diversity concept:
The number of Board members is based on the insights gained by BASF as a company with an integrated leadership culture and is determined by the needs arising from cooperation within the Board of Executive Directors. In May 2018, this was reduced from eight to seven members in the course of the changes to the composition of the Board of Executive Directors, and again in January 2020 to six members as part of ongoing efficiency measures. The standard age limit for members of the Board of Executive Directors is 63.
The current composition of the Board of Executive Directors meets the competence profile and the requirements of the diversity concept in full.
The Supervisory Board appoints the members of the Board of Executive Directors and supervises and advises the Board of Executive Directors on management issues. As members of the Supervisory Board cannot simultaneously be on the Board of Executive Directors, a high level of autonomy is already structurally ensured with regard to the supervision of the Board of Executive Directors.
In addition to the SE Council Regulation, the relevant legal basis for the size and composition of the Supervisory Board is provided by the Statutes of BASF SE and the Agreement Concerning the Involvement of Employees in BASF SE (Employee Participation Agreement), which also includes the regulations applicable to BASF for implementing the statutory gender quota for the Supervisory Board. The German Codetermination Act does not apply to BASF as a European stock corporation (Societas Europaea, SE).
The Supervisory Board of BASF SE comprises 12 members. Six members are elected by the shareholders at the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting. The remaining six members are elected by the BASF Europa Betriebsrat (BASF Works Council Europe), the European employee representation body of the BASF Group. It is planned to reduce the period of appointment for the members of the Supervisory Board from five to four years. The aim is to ensure that the maximum membership duration up to which a Supervisory Board member can be classified as independent continues to correspond to a total of three election terms. The Supervisory Board reduced this duration from 15 to 12 years in accordance with the new version of the German Corporate Governance Code, which was revised in 2019 (2020 Code). A change to the Statutes to this effect will be proposed to the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting 2020.
The meetings of the Supervisory Board and its committees are called by their chairpersons and, independently, at the request of one of their members or the Board of Executive Directors. The shareholder and employee representatives of the Supervisory Board prepare for Supervisory Board meetings in separate preliminary discussions in each case. Resolutions of the Supervisory Board are passed by a simple majority vote of the participating members. In the event of a tie, the vote of the Chairman of the Supervisory Board, who must always be a shareholder representative, shall be the casting vote. This resolution process is also applicable for the appointment and dismissal of members of the Board of Executive Directors by the Supervisory Board. Resolutions can, as needed, also be made in writing or through other means of communication outside of the meetings, as long as no member objects to this form of passing a resolution.
The Board of Executive Directors regularly informs the Supervisory Board about matters such as the course of business and expected developments, the financial position and results of operations, corporate planning, the implementation of the corporate strategy, business opportunities and risks, and risk and compliance management. The Supervisory Board has embedded the main reporting requirements in an information policy. The Chairman of the Supervisory Board is in regular contact with the Board of Executive Directors, especially with its chairman, outside of meetings as well.
BASF SE’s Supervisory Board has established a total of four Supervisory Board Committees: the Personnel Committee, the Audit Committee, the Nomination Committee and the Strategy Committee.