An SDG Pioneer for Innovative Solutions Driving Sustainable Water and Climate Action

Teressa Szelest is helping the chemical giant BASF SE truly listen to the desires of consumers for products and solutions that will make their homes, neighborhoods and the planet a safer place.

As President, Market & Business Development, North America, Szelest helps steer the German multinational toward steps that entwine customer needs, as well as external perspectives, into its innovation process.

This inclusive approach is behind BASF’s line of “Accelerator” solutions, more than 13,000 products used to help produce everything from safer dish detergent to less harmful cement mixtures. Directly connected to one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the “Accelerator” solutions also contribute to the company’s financial success and made up €15.5 billion of its global sales last year. The 2017 revenues of BASF totaled €64.7 billion.

An active member of the working groups that developed the Global Goals unveiled by the United Nations in 2015, BASF has successfully enveloped these targets within the company’s existing strategy: Creating chemistry for a sustainable future.

A chemical engineer who began her career with BASF in 1988 as an environmental specialist, Teressa believes chemistry can help temper people’s anxieties by finding solutions to contemporary challenges like climate change, limited resources and food scarcity.

Teressa recognizes the crucial role BASF stakeholders can play in expanding awareness of sustainable development. She encourages employees — more than 17,500 employees worked for BASF North America in 2016 — to use the SDGs as a lens to explore their day-to-day work. Trusting partnerships are developed with customers. Sustainable solutions that align with the SDGs are a key part of ongoing research at the BASF Sustainable Living Laboratory, which opened last year on the campus of Louisiana State University in Geismar, Louisiana. Through speaking engagements at industry events, Teressa elevates awareness of how chemical companies can advance sustainable development.

Appointed to her current position in May 2015, Teressa also is responsible for manufacturing operations at nearly 100 BASF sites throughout the United States and oversees environment, health and safety, engineering and maintenance, process optimization and sustainability.

BASF has been participating in the UN Global Compact since 2000 and responsible business practices lie at the core of the company, which was created in1865 and has its global headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

The Ten Principals of the UN Global Compact give the chemical manufacturer a guide for its business strategy and inspires the BASF Sustainability Roadmap. Teressa played a key role in developing the roadmap — a strategic framework that aims to integrate sustainability throughout the company’s entire value chain.

For example, by sourcing responsibly and treating people with respect, BASF follows the values surrounding human rights and labour outlined in Principles 1 through 6. Sourcing responsibly also aligns the company with the anti-corruption guidelines outlined in Principle 10. BASF follows Principle 7 by producing safely for people and the environment, and adheres to Principle 8 by producing efficiently.

BASF is in the process of joining the Global Compact Network USA and has worked with the Network as staff attend regional events and collaborate on conferences, such as GreenBiz and Sustainable Brands. BASF is active in Local Networks around the world, including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, Germany, India, Kenya, Poland and Singapore. In several of these Local Networks, BASF managers sit on the steering committees or boards.

Teressa holds a bachelor’s of science degree in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. She is married and has two daughters.

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