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Socially Responsible Investing
Beginning in 2020, we have once again underpinned the importance of sustainability as a pivotal element of our corporate strategy and business activities, and as an integral part of our actions. We have set ambitious targets that are intended to help achieve a sustainable future both with and through our business activities in the areas of health and nutrition – as clearly defined in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations for 2030.
We attach great importance to continuous and systematic dialogue with our stakeholders – and particularly investors. Within the scope of our expanded sustainability strategy, we aim to further intensify dialogue with capital market participants whose investment decisions are aligned to ecological and social criteria and responsible corporate governance.
Please contact the Corporate Sustainability department should you have questions on sustainability at Bayer:
We also inform our stakeholders about developments in nonfinancial data and performance indicators in our Sustainability Report.
We have significantly stepped up our sustainability efforts, and on December 10, 2019 announced a comprehensive set of sustainability measures and new commitments:
- The company aims to be carbon-neutral in its own operations by 2030
- Ambitious 2030 objectives for access to health and nutrition in low- and middle-income countries and underserved communities
- Measurable sustainability targets to be incorporated into management compensation
|Bayer 2030 Sustainable Development Objectives||Download PDF collect (2 MB)|
Please find below the links to more information on selective sustainability focus topics – for example on our new sustainability strategy, the demands made on good corporate governance, our product safety measures and our initiatives to ensure global access to health care.
|Compliance at BayerCorporate GovernanceRisk Management|
Access to Medicine
|Clinical Studies Bee Care InitiativesSmallholder FarmersClimate Protection Responsible Marketing|
Bayer has announced a set of comprehensive sustainability measures and new commitments to be achieved by 2030. In accordance with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, the company has set ambitious targets it will aim to achieve by 2030.
Today, the planet is confronted with the unparalleled challenge of ensuring that a growing and aging world population can live a self-sufficient life and benefit from progress while more carefully conserving natural resources.
Bayer will pursue and report on its sustainability targets with the same vigor as with its financial targets. The sustainability targets will be integrated into both the company’s decision-making processes and the compensation systems for the Board of Management and other executive levels. Bayer will also establish an independent Sustainability Advisory Council consisting of external experts. This body will advise the Board of Management, as well as monitor and challenge the further development of Bayer’s sustainability efforts.
The goal of Bayer’s redoubled efforts is to help more people live a better life and use natural resources as efficiently as possible. Bayer has therefore set itself the following detailed targets:
- The company aims to be carbon-neutral by 2030
- Bayer aims to facilitate access to innovation, knowledge and partnerships for 100 million smallholder farmers in low- and middle-income countries
- The company aims to give 100 million women in low- and medium-income countries access to responsible family planning
- In addition, Bayer intends to improve access to everyday health products for 100 million people living in underserved regions worldwide
Bayer’s sustainability engagement is aimed at making a substantial contribution that is in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The U.N. has committed to 17 SDGs with the goal of making the planet a better place for people and nature by 2030.
In addition to fighting hunger (SDG 2) and improving health care (SDG 3), Bayer’s efforts are geared toward making a substantial contribution to addressing climate change (SDG 13) and protecting ecosystems (SDG 15). Women play a key role not just on smallholder farms, but also in family planning and the provision of health care to families. Helping them to unlock their potential will contribute to gender equality (SDG 5) and generate significant socioeconomic benefits at the local level.
Our advanced sustainability strategy represents our greater focus on increasing the overall societal impact of our business activities. Sustainability is therefore a core element of our corporate strategy. The Chairman of the Board of Management is supported in his role as Chief Sustainability Officer by Public Affairs & Sustainability. On behalf of the Board of Management, this enabling function identifies fields of activity and develops strategies, targets, key performance indicators, management systems and corporate policies, in addition to producing the Sustainability Report. Operational implementation is effected in the divisions and throughout the value chain.
Bayer’s sustainability management continues to be based on the company’s commitment to the U.N. Global Compact and the Responsible Care™ initiative of the chemical industry, as well as our involvement in the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The establishment of a new Sustainability Advisory Council is planned in 2020. This body will be made up of prominent external experts in the areas of health, nutrition, agriculture and the environment who will provide a balanced diversity of opinion and represent different geographic areas and genders. The Sustainability Advisory Council will support Bayer in implementing its sustainability strategy, advise the company in strategic matters and, above all, contribute new perspectives and experiences.
Our Sustainability Report provides a transparent and comprehensive insight into both our sustainability strategy and our activities in this area. With this detailed nonfinancial information, we aim to address the wide-ranging information needs of our stakeholders. In accordance with the CSR Directive Implementation Act, the Sustainability Report supplements the nonfinancial statement integrated into the combined management report of the 2019 Annual Report.
The Bayer Group’s sustainability reporting is aligned to the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact (UNGC). A comprehensive overview of the GRI data and an outline of the implementation of the 10 UNGC principles are available in the GRI/UNGC index of the report.
You can find more detailed information on the integration of sustainability into our business processes as well as financial and nonfinancial key data for prior years in our previous integrated annual reports and sustainable development reports..
Bayer continues to be included in important sustainability indices such as FTSE4Good, MSCI World Low Carbon Target Index, STOXX® Europe Sustainability Index, STOXX® Global ESG Impact and DAX® 50 ESG Index. In addition, in 2019 Bayer was again evaluated by the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) as one of the leading international pharmaceutical companies in the areas of climate protection and sustainable water management.
|FTSE4Good Environmental Leaders Europe 40||Europe|
|MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target Index||World|
|STOXX® Europe Sustainability||Europe|
|STOXX® Global ESG Impact||World|
Controversial Issues with Rating Agencies
In our discussions with stakeholders/raters, we repeatedly encounter allegations on certain topics. The scientific evidence we provide on many aspects of the topic has not always been fully reflected in some rating agencies’ assessments. This is why we would like to make our arguments public to foster an objective evaluation by the public and especially by investors.
Environmental concerns over (Genetically Modified Organism) GMO crops
Some rating agencies have claimed that GMOs are harmful to the environment and have classified this as a very severe controversy (= red flag). Here we will separate fact from fiction.
- Claim: Non-GMO crop fields are contaminated with strains of genetically modified crops which leads to the decline of local and indigenous crops.
Farmers of all types, conventional and organic, take measures to prevent unwanted cross pollination. The issue of pollen flow has been important to seed companies and scientists for years. Because corn – one of our most important products in our seed portfolio - is an open pollinating plant, it is important to our business to understand how far pollen travels and under what conditions. This knowledge translates into best management practices, such as planting at recommended separation distances or timing the planting so that pollination of the two fields occurs at different times1.
Studies that have been done to date (cotton in the United States and India, soybeans in the U.S.) find that the introduction of GM crops has not decreased crop diversity2.
Additionally, a report from the American Seed Trade Association explains that, "Building upon many generations of experience, coexistence involves agricultural best practices that bring the greatest benefit to all along the agricultural value chain from seed developers to farmers and from retailers to consumers — from field to fork." The report reminds us that, "The coexistence of various production methods is not a new concept to the agricultural community," and that, "Farmers are accustomed to producing different crops next to one another." Read the full report for more information on the set of tools used to facilitate coexistence in the seed industry3.
Development of effective control mechanisms to limit the contamination of non-GM fields with GM crops
Bayer has extensive measures to avoid any possibility of cross pollination. Additionally, Bayer is audited by Excellence Through Stewardship (ETS)i. As part of our quality program, we study the flow of pollen and how this could be translated into best management practices such as separation distances or timing of plantings.
The Technology Use Guide (TUG) provides a concise source of technical information about Bayer’s current portfolio of technology products and sets forth the requirements and guidelines for the use of these products.
1 Gmoanwsers.com / University of Ohio (https://agcrops.osu.edu/newsletter/corn-newsletter/2015-04/minimizing-pollen-contamination-non-gmo-corn / https://butler.osu.edu/news/managing-pollen-drift-minimize-contamination-non-gmo-corn ) and University of California, Davis (https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8192.pdf).
2 Graham Brookes & Peter Barfoot (2017) Environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996–2015: Impacts on pesticide use and carbon emissions, GM Crops & Food, 8:2, 117-147, DOI: 10.1080/21645698.2017.1309490
3 Gmoanwsers.com (https://gmoanswers.com/ask/what-steps-are-being-taken-prevent-gmo-crops-pollinating-organicwild-plants)
i Excellence Through Stewardship www.excellencethroughstewardship.org. ETS member organizations implement product stewardship (responsible management, handling, governance, oversight, traceability etc.) best practices by way of our technical resources which include guidance on quality management systems, gap analysis, checklists and other material.
- Claim: Bayer has to settle with affected farmers which includes crop remediation measures to restore the biological integrity of indigenous crops.
We’re unaware of any open litigation claiming cross pollination/contamination involving sugarbeets or any other crops, as described in one report. In the U.S., previous legal cases involving cross pollination were actually more about allegations that the U.S. government needed to regulate or assess GM crops more closely, or allegations that related to intellectual property concerns rather than cross contamination.
This is why we cannot settle any litigation – as requested by rating agencies.
- Claim: the use of genetically modified crops leads to the decline of pollinators, in particular bees.
Some GM crops include a genetic trait, derived from a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (or Bt), that enables them to resist insect pests. Many critics of GM crops have argued that the insecticidal Bt trait is also harmful to bees, but there is almost no evidence to support this claim4.
The Bt proteins in insect-protected GM plants have been evaluated for potential toxicity to honey bees in numerous studies and none of them have provided any evidence of harm in either short- or long-term testing with both adult and larval honey bees. One study, in which bees were exposed to extremely high doses of the protein, found that bees fed less, and long-term memory may be impaired. However, when the high concentrations were compared to more realistic field exposures, the same authors concluded that negative effects on honey bee foraging behavior were unlikely to occur under natural conditions.
Based on the lack of activity of Bt proteins against honey bees and the results of multiple laboratory and field studies evaluating both lethal and sublethal effects, there is a sufficient weight of evidence to conclude that any risk from GM crops to honey bees is negligible.
4 Source: BEEINFOrmed N°8_2019, page 42
- Claim: the use of specialized herbicides in GMO cultivation destroys natural vegetation butterflies depend on.
We have been involved in various initiatives to better understand living conditions of butterflies and come to the conclusion that not only the reduction in the food supply due to the disappearance of the silk plant, but also climatic events affect the survival and reproduction of the monarch butterfly.
Monarch butterfly population has decreased by 10 percent in the last 20 years in the U.S. due to the eradication of milkweed5. But monarch butterflies face many challenges that have contributed to a decline in the overwintering population as compared to the 20-year average: loss of breeding and food habitats along their migration route, weather and climate change, predators, pathogens and parasites, and less overwintering habitat in Mexico.
In January 2019, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Mexican National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) reported a 144% increase in the annual eastern monarch population compared to the previous year.
We are committed to verifying the allegations in cooperation with other stakeholders and to review our level of knowledge. That is why we have programs in place to support the monarch butterfly and other pollinators. As an example, we have stepped forward to play a key role in the effort to restore milkweed populations outside of cultivated fields to help sustainably restore monarch populations.
For more information on outreach activities related to Monarch Butterflies click here.
5 1: Boyle JH, Dalgleish HJ, Puzey JR. Monarch butterfly and milkweed declines substantially predate the use of genetically modified crops. Proc Natl Acad Sci US A. 2019 Feb 19;116(8):3006-3011. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1811437116. Epub 2019 Feb 5. PubMed PMID: 30723147; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6386695.
- Claim: Genetically modified crops have been regulated in more than 60 countries and in some countries are banned outright.
The safety of biotech crops has been confirmed by numerous third-party organizations, including the American Medical Association, the Society of Toxicology, the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization, the French Academy of Medicine, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the European Union Commission. These conclusions have been based on years of research and assessments6.
In 2018, 26 countries planted, and 44 countries imported biotech crops. As of today, 58 GMOs are authorized in the EU for food and feed uses.
6 ISAAA. 2018. Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops in 2018. ISAAA Brief No. 54. ISAAA: Ithaca, NY
As a matter of fact, the health of honey bees has been a concern over the past few decades for a multitude of reasons. In 2008, a severe incident with a large number of honey bee colonies happened when seeds were treated with a neonicotinoid in a way incompliant with the labelling requirements. Since this event, numerous additional actions were taken to ensure that this would never happen again – with success. Claims that neonicotinoids are responsible for the impaired health of honey bees are not supported by the weight of the scientific evidence – and there’s plenty of evidence available.
Neonicotinoids are safe to honey bee colonies and populations of other pollinator species when applied correctly. This has been proven by numerous studies under realistic conditions which reflect agricultural practice. No systematic correlation between honey bee mortality or the decline of wild pollinators on one, and the exposure of neonicotinoids on the other hand has been found in any study which was conducted on agreed standards.
There are various studies of academic researchers that have been published in the last years which describe adverse effects of neonicotinoids to pollinators; however, most of these studies have been conducted with very high doses of the substances which do not represent realistic exposure conditions, so that they are not reflecting what is happening in the field.
In 2013 and later in 2018, three neonicotinoids (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin) were largely banned in the EU on the basis of evaluations of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). These evaluations had been conducted using a new, proposed risk assessment guidance document which is still controversially debated as it requires experimental study designs which are almost impossible to fulfill (e.g. 450 km2 field size for 1 honey bee field study). Therefore, this new risk assessment approach is, six years after its publication, still not officially implemented in the EU, and the authorities of various member states are refusing its implementation. Therefore, recently, the EU Commission has mandated a revision of the proposed guidance document.
Although the new guidance document has not been approved by the EU Member States and has not been officially implemented, the neonicotinoids have been regulated according to this approach (in contrast to most other products being registered in the EU).
When the neonicotinoids were introduced in the early 1990s, they were considered as a significant improvement as they helped to replace older classes of insecticides (organophosphates, carbamates) which exhibited a very high toxicity to humans and the environment and have no more place in the portfolio of Bayer.
For a reference please see the conclusion of the Australian government: https://apvma.gov.au/sites/default/files/publication/18541-neonicotinoids_overview_report_february_2014.pdf
No other country out of Europe has so far adapted the EU restrictions for the use of neonicotinoids; in most countries around the world, neonicotinoids are still registered and in use without major restrictions, partly after recent re-evaluations. However, regulatory review is ongoing in several countries and regions.
The Precautionary Principle is supposed to be applied in cases where data are deficient; however, the neonicotinoids with their bee safety are probably the best-studied insecticides worldwide. Moving forward, Bayer aims to further improve the ration of beneficial effects (e.g. pest control) and undesired side effects. That is why pollinator safety testing has been integrated in the very early Research phases already.
See our brochure: BEEINFOrmed N°8_2019
- Claim: Former Monsanto has been criticized for its business practices, esp. its claims against smallholder farmers.
Today, Bayer is operating at the edge of innovation in healthcare and agriculture. We are aware of the responsibility resulting from this position and strive to proactively deliver on it. We recognize that our impact is measured not only by what we have to offer but also by how we engage with society and communities around the world.
The Bayer Societal Engagement (BASE) Principles guide our interactions with everyone – our employees, patients, customers, consumers, business partners, public policy stakeholders, scientists, critics and our shareholders worldwide. We seek to listen, understand, take concerns seriously, and respectfully engage in dialogue, especially where dialogue is hard or inconvenient. We strive to create shared value and achieve win-win situations in everything we do. To achieve that, we make sure our engagement with society accompanies the transformational potential of our portfolio and our talented people.
We do monitor the intellectual property rights to our innovations. However, we have not and do not enforce these against smallholder farmers who grow exclusively to meet their own needs and the needs of their families. We are committed to ensuring that access to our intellectual property is broad and license fees are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.
For more than 40 years, farmers – as well as governments, gardeners, and other users – have depended on glyphosate as an efficient and cost-effective tool that can be used safely as directed to control weeds. Glyphosate-based herbicides help farmers deliver crops to markets while promoting sustainable farming by reducing soil tillage, soil erosion and carbon emissions.
There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and Monsanto/Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 100 studies the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considered relevant to its cancer risk analysis and more than 800 safety studies overall submitted to regulators, concluding that Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides can be used safely as directed and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
The conclusions of leading health authorities around the world, including EPA, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), German BfR, and Australian, Canadian, Korean, New Zealand and Japanese regulatory authorities, as well as the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR), continue to support the safety of glyphosate‐based products when used as directed and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. In January 2020, the EPA’s latest interim registration review decision on glyphosate reaffirmed that it "did not identify any human health risks from exposure to glyphosate."
- Claim: Allegations regarding compliance to the Global Compact Principle 7, “Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges”.
The respective rating agencies interpret the principles of the UN Global Compact following their own methodology.
Bayer respects all ten principles of the UN Global Compact. We believe in the rigors of science and ensure all our products meet the relevant safety and environmental standards required by the regulatory approval process.
Bayer, as the industry leader in crop protection and seeds, is committed to Product Stewardship as an integral part of our activities, ensuring that our products, services and technologies are safe and sustainable, and their use is environmentally responsible while meeting customer expectations and needs.