Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2021), Top Employers for Canadians Over 40 (2021) and Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2021):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 12, 2020)
Here are some of the reasons why BASF Canada Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2021), Top Employers for Canadians Over 40 (2021) and Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2021):
- BASF Canada helps employees prepare for the future with retirement planning assistance and employer contributions to a defined contribution pension plan
- BASF Canada offers three weeks of starting vacation allowance, moving to six weeks for longstanding employees -- and also consider previous experience when setting individual vacation entitlements
- BASF Canada worked quickly at the beginning of the pandemic to implement a "Giving Back" strategy that focused on supporting its employees and the wider community through a number of initiatives, from continuance pay for quarantined employees, to telemedicine services, to support for food banks and donations of personal protective equipment for health care providers
- As part of an extensive engagement focus to capture feedback from employees, BASF Canada conducts regular in-house and outside consultant surveys and recently set "employee engagement" as a new non-financial target as part of building a successful business
How BASF Canada shifted gears to fight COVID-19
When COVID-19 put the brakes on many businesses, BASF Canada put the pedal to the metal to retool its Windsor, Ont., plant, switching from making automotive coatings to producing desperately needed hand sanitizer to help battle the pandemic. Thanks to the company shifting gears, frontline workers, educators, Indigenous communities and others received 10,000 litres of free sanitizer when supplies were running low.
For Thilo Birkenheier, it was a natural response from a company with a core mission to create a better, more sustainable society.
“We demonstrated to communities and many other stakeholders that we’re a good partner to have in difficult times,” says Birkenheier, head of business services BASF Canada.
“It’s part of our corporate culture that our people stand behind our mission to create chemistry for a sustainable future. Sustainability is central.”
BASF Canada, headquartered in Mississauga, Ont., is the Canadian affiliate of German-based BASF SE, the world’s leading chemical company. BASF Canada’s 1,129 employees produce a vast array of chemical goods, many used in cleaning and sanitation products helping in the fight against COVID-19.
But the company is doing just as much outside its facilities as inside. In addition to hand sanitizer, BASF Canada donated as much personal protective equipment (PPE) as it could to frontline workers like those at Windsor Regional Hospital’s Metropolitan campus. Erika Harris, a BASF Canada environment, health & safety and responsible care specialist, helped deliver one shipment.
“We showed up with three minivans full of surface disinfectant, hand soap, sanitizer and PPE, and the look on the first responders’ faces were so appreciative and excited,” says Harris.
“It was so nice to be able to do something to give back and see how happy the people who work on the front lines were.”
BASF Canada and its employees also launched a virtual Food Bank drive, raising $64,000 to help feed struggling Canadians. When they donated a large quantity of hand sanitizer to CN, the railway responded by donating an additional $10,000 to Food Banks of Canada on BASF’s behalf.
Employees have also donated blood, found safe ways to participate in charities like CIBC Run for the Cure and other community activities to show their commitment to getting Canada collectively through the pandemic.
The company has also been looking after employees’ health and mental well-being. In addition to shifting work to home offices and offering training in distance technologies, employees and their families were given safety kits that included masks, hand sanitizer and “COVID keys” – metal tools for hands-free door-opening or button tapping that fit on a key chain.
Employees who needed it also received financial support if they couldn’t come to work. Screening and disinfectant protocols were put in place, shifts were changed and other measures taken to safeguard employees.
“I’m proud that despite all the challenges caused by the pandemic we did not experience a supply or production interruption and we have been able to continue provide our customers with the industry supplies that are essential to supporting the needs of the public. Furthermore, we kept our employees safe,” said Birkenheier.
“I would say based on those facts, what we did has worked.”
The engine that keeps BASF’s wheels turning during the pandemic is constant communication between employees, managers and executives. Virtual town hall meetings and other opportunities encourage feedback and response – something Harris appreciates.
“For our employees, it’s great. We also do a lot of employee spotlights when they’ve done something impactful just to highlight them and give them the motivation to keep going. They’re willing to go the extra mile and do what needs to be done,” Harris says.
Thinking big helps BASF Canada fight COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis has taught Lorena Lujan not to sweat the small stuff. That’s because the company she works for, BASF Canada, has done so many big things during the pandemic.
“It’s been amazing to see how my colleagues have rallied and put all their efforts into making things happen super-fast,” says Lujan, a communications specialist.
“I’ve had the opportunity to see what we’re doing as a company and what my colleagues are doing on an individual level and it’s been amazing.”
Headquartered in Mississauga, BASF Canada is an affiliate of German-based BASF SE, the world’s leading chemical company. BASF Canada’s approximately 1,200 employees produce a huge range of chemical products, many used in cleaning and sanitation products helping to fight the pandemic.
BASF Canada took immediate steps to protect employees when the COVID-19 crisis hit. Employees were given help in setting up their home offices, training in distance technologies and financial support if they couldn’t come to work. For employees working at the company’s facilities, screening and disinfecting protocols were put in place, shifts were changed and other additional safety measures implemented.
Those were some of the big internal changes, but BASF Canada doubled down when it came to helping the larger community. The company turbo-charged efforts to convert its Windsor plant from an automotive coatings facility to produce desperately needed hand sanitizer when supplies were running critically low. Frontline health workers, educators, Indigenous communities and others received 10,000 litres of free sanitizer, along with other personal protective equipment (PPE) items.
“We saw the clear need and we responded to it. We also donated all the personal protective equipment that we didn’t need,” says Thilo Birkenheier, chief financial officer and director of business services.
“Many of the products we produce go into cleaning services and sanitation, so we are an essential business and worked hard to ensure we could meet the increased demand.”
BASF Canada and its employees have also donated blood, found safe ways to participate in charities like CIBC Run for the Cure and carried out other community activities to show their commitment to helping Canadians make it through the COVID-19 crisis.
Despite the pandemic, the company continues its tradition of charitable works. It launched a virtual Food Bank drive, raising $64,000 to help feed struggling Canadians. When the company donated a large quantity of hand sanitizer to CN, the railway company responded by donating an additional $10,000 to Food Banks of Canada on BASF Canada’s behalf.
BASF Canada went even further by working with other chemical companies to set up the Rapid Response Platform, which helps distribute PPE to communities and stakeholders that need it most.
“We wanted to create a platform where the whole industry could exchange information to serve these stakeholders. It was teamwork with other industry partners and it was inspiring to see how competitors put their heads together and pulled in one direction to benefit Canadians,” says Birkenheier.
A strong corporate culture that puts safety first and emphasizes constant communication is one reason why BASF Canada has been able to respond so positively to the problems posed by the pandemic and will continue to apply in the “new normal,” says Lujan.
“What’s been key during the pandemic is to keep employees informed and engaged. Moving forward we’ll continue to do what has been working for us,” says Lujan.
“We don’t have all the answers of how the new normal is going to work, but we are going to continue being transparent and honest while communicating as frequently as we can to our employees.”