Assuming responsibility

Our general approach towards all our suppliers is that we act responsibly and rely on our partners to act responsibly, too. Furthermore, we offer our support to partners in their efforts to meet their respective responsibilities. We conduct reviews based on sustainability risk assessments. 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 may choose to 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 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. Unions were well established and well-protected by the new South African constitution and implementing law. Over the years, unions engagement, negotiations and related tensions had become a regular feature of relationships. No party had been cautious enough to think 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 overchallenged police forces, 34 mineworkers died, many were injured, inflicting deep tragedy and grief on people.     

The South African government launched an investigation into this incident shortly afterwards, mandating the so-called “Farlam Commission of Inquiry” to lead an investigative process. 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 root causes of the incident on their side, Lonmin changed the leadership team, implemented lessons learned, and tried to address root causes. Lonmin immediately set up a fund to support the families and children of the killed mineworkers, whose school and studies were from now 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, has immediately after the takeover continued this tradition in 2019, and assessed ways to respond to victims’ families’ situations and to those of the Marikana communities more broadly.    


Marikana: BASF’s involvement and response

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, such as BASF, that need platinum group metal (PGM) for technology and innovation, e.g. for the automotive industry to reduce emissions. Through the IPA but also through close supplier relationships with South African mining houses, such as Lonmin, BASF has always intensively exchanged on challenges around mining operations, including strikes. 

BASF was shocked by the incident and violence in Marikana and expressed its deepest sympathy to all those that were and are suffering from these events. Building up on the Farlam Commission’s findings, BASF investigated on possible shortcomings in management responsibilities. BASF initiated a series of information gathering meetings between BASF managers from its procurement and corporate sustainability departments and Lonmin executives to understand the actions that had been taken, to discuss Lonmin’s sustainability management and the Farlam Commission findings. 

The NGO consortium “Plough back the fruits” had been blaming BASF to be accomplice to the massacre and to violate 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 were to be taken. As a result, BASF got more deeply involved to duly observe its due diligence regarding Lonmin with special regard to:

  • Assure Lonmin’s compliance and good practices regarding all laws and obligations with respect to international good industry practice regarding environmental, social/human rights and governance (ESG) standards and related South African legal requirements.
  • Find out which role BASF as a customer and representative of an industry can play to facilitate progress regarding local conditions and challenges related to human rights. 

To this end, BASF established:

  • A continuous audit process that started in 2015 based on BASF’s sustainability in procurement management process (Supplier Code of Conduct and Due Diligence), using the Chemical Industry’s “Together for Sustainability” (TfS) sustainability audit scheme [more details on the audit and results below] 
  • A stakeholder dialogue to take advice from civil society and NGOs how BASF could facilitate progress regarding local conditions and challenges related to human rights [more details on the stakeholder dialogue 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 dialogue and related activities below]

Take-over by Sibanye-Stillwater in 2019

The Sibanye-Stillwater Lonmin merger was completed on 10th June 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 sources of platinum group metals (PGM). Since then, the merger has been implemented. Since 2018 BASF has been exchanging 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 dialogues 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 separation schemes and retirements. Employees affected by retrenchment are offered the opportunity to acquire new skills such as farming, plumbing, motor mechanic, painting, brick laying, etc.