Christian Schubert – the diplomat for Ludwigshafen

Christian Schubert heads Corporate Government Relations and BASF’s Berlin office.

Christian Schubert is quick to answer the question of whether the current gas crisis and war is the most difficult phase BASF has experienced. “Yes!” says the chief lobbyist of the Ludwigshafen-based chemical company. Both for the company, he says, the crises were difficult, but also for him personally. “I was born in 1963. There have been many crises since then, but none have been so fundamental.”

Schubert, who studied industrial engineering, started at the Federal Foreign Office in the economics department. However, there were different views on how to proceed, he says. Instead of diplomacy, he went into business: He first headed corporate strategy at Debis, a former services subsidiary of Daimler-Benz, and later became its press spokesman. In 2001, he joined BASF and has headed the Berlin office for seven years.

Germany at risk as a business location

For him, as a lobbyist, the current crisis means explaining even more. “That’s also my job in corporate communications. I’m a kind of translator between politics and business – in both directions.” He and his team have already had one success. The chemical industry, and therefore BASF, is seen by politicians as what they perceive themselves to be: the starting point of almost all industrial value chains because it produces many basic materials. If a cogwheel breaks down here, the entire chain comes to a standstill.

That’s why the gas shortage is so dangerous, he said, and not just for the chemical company. “It’s about more than BASF. It affects Germany as a whole as a business location.” The second danger is that the price of gas will continue to rise because that will also make production in Germany more expensive – another competitive disadvantage for the country.

The crisis is catching the chemical group at an inopportune time. After all, Martin Brudermüller has been in charge of BASF’s business since 2018 – he wanted to free the company from fossil raw materials in the medium term, switch production to green hydrogen or electrification, for example. Last year, it was announced that BASF, together with Vattenfall, plans to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm with a total capacity of 1.5 gigawatts off the coast of the Netherlands.

Climate neutrality challenge becomes even greater

These are all important steps toward climate neutrality, but one important factor was gas as a transition technology. That was also what the politicians had promised. “Phasing out fossil fuels is possible in the medium term, but the crisis is catching us in the short term,” says Schubert. Thus, the transformation will also become “significantly more challenging”.

Schubert heads a team of 25 people, eight of them in Berlin, including himself. He explains BASF to politicians, but also brings a lot of politics into the company. To do that, for example, the company organizes townhall meetings with employees. Schubert spends many lunch breaks with representatives of associations or from politics. “On a normal lobbying day, it lends itself to that because you have to eat at some point anyway and so you can talk on the side.” Tom Schmidtgen

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