Green and pleasant innovation

ALONG the west bank of the Rhine, south of Frankfurt, cormorants and herons frolic as barges moor at Ludwigshafen. Here the world’s largest chemical park stretches out over ten square kilometres. Streets such as Chlor-, Ammoniak- and Methanolstrasse are shaded by 2,850 kilometres of pipes that connect everything like arteries; red is for steam, yellow for gas, green for water. The saying goes that most Westerners touch at least one product from a BASF site before leaving home.

It is the world’s largest chemical company, and one of Europe’s largest manufacturers. Because it sells chemicals and chemical products to other companies, such as BMW, Nestle and Procter & Gamble, BASF is little known to consumers. It isn’t one for blowing its own trumpet. “We will try our best to remain spectacularly unspectacular for the media,” said Kurt Bock, the CEO, at last year’s 150th anniversary. But BASF repays attention for two reasons: the sheer impact of what it does, given its size, and its systematic approach to innovation.

Big and bold

The two go together. Mr...Continue reading