Q&A with Amita Sandhu of BASF Canada

Many ChemNews subscribers will know Amita (Amy) Sandhu for her collaboration with CIAC as Head of Sustainability and Government Relations at BASF Canada as well as being a member of the CIAC Plastics Division Leadership Council. This summer she accepted a role with BASF’s Corporate Government Relations, Europe Global team located in Brussels, Belgium. We spoke with Amy to ask her about her new role and how her experience in Canada will inform her new responsibilities.  

Q: Please describe your role in Canada and your new role. 

A: I started my career at BASF Canada as a Manager in Sustainability and Government Relations. I then was appointed as Head of Sustainability and Government Relations and joined the Canadian Leadership Team, reporting to the former President, Marcelo Lu and later to the current President Apala Mukherjee. In this role, I designed and executed BASF’s Corporate Sustainability and Government Relations strategy. I did this in close collaboration with the company’s business units, sites and in alignment with BASF’s regional and global headquarters. I also managed BASF Canada’s relationships with key government officials, engaging with them on several files relevant to the chemical industry, including collaborating on our mutual pursuit of low-carbon growth and a roadmap to zero waste. 

This new role is focused on the EU Green Deal Chemical Sustainability Strategy (CSS). I will be working with a pan-European team of policy, advocacy and product stewardship experts to monitor and analyse legislative initiatives and policy trends under the CSS. I will also work with the team to determine how to best engage EU officials in understanding the impacts of the proposed measures on the chemical industry and raise awareness of how the industry can further the CSS sustainability objectives. 

Q: What are you most proud of from your time at BASF Canada?  

A: It would be engaging internal business units and external stakeholders like government officials and members of the plastics value chain to lead innovative – and at times disruptive – solutions. For instance, with reciChain, we were aiming to shift a linear business model to something circular. It was a complex project involving multiple stakeholders and we had to get a pilot off the ground in a very short time period. I am proud that I work for a company that pushes the boundaries of innovation and contributes to sustainability. 

I’m also proud of our documentary, The Afterlife of Waste. Again this was an example of  bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders for a holistic vision on the topic of plastics – which is highly contentious at the moment. Through this documentary, we are trying to demonstrate that the topic of plastics should not be polarized and politicized but rather, Canada should try to convene multiple stakeholders to leverage the solutions and perspectives they all bring to the table.  

My role at BASF Canada involved a lot of collaboration with industry associations – like CIAC, with whom we have a strong partnership, and other sustainability partners – but also with my own team and colleagues. I couldn’t have done it on my own. Finally, having such visionary leaders was highly important to the work I did at BASF Canada. They cleared the path and empowered me.  

Q: What will you miss about your previous role and how will it inform your new position? 

A: What I will miss about Canada is the ability to easily engage individuals who are in positions to influence policy. Relatively speaking, in Canada we are largely a non-hierarchical society. I’ve lived in nine countries and I have yet to experience a country where business can collaborate so closely with government and other stakeholders. This provides Canadian business with a unique opportunity to learn from other sectors through collaboration. That experience will definitely inform the way I do business in other countries and it will give me a deeper appreciation of the landscape in which I was working here in Canada.  

Q: What are you looking forward to accomplishing in your new role? 

A: I am passionate about BASF and the solutions and innovations we offer the world. My objective is to add as much value as possible in our team’s efforts to shape the CSS, using the experience I have gained in Canada and other countries, while understanding it is a totally different context. As Europe aims to be a climate-neutral continent by 2050 by implementing the EU Green Deal, I am looking to position our industry front and centre with EU officials and member states, and ensure we are recognized as an innovation partner. 

On a personal level, I am committed to getting better at work-life balance. It’s important to me, and it is also important to BASF.  

I have been so fortunate with my time at BASF Canada. It has been an adventurous three years and my role was a dream come true. That comes down to great leadership. I will miss my colleagues, but I will be watching to see the amazing things they continue to do in Canada.