Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk, a leading force in the battle against diabetes, has long been admired for taking the high road on issues related to sustainability. This week the company released its 2014 integrated Annual Report, which, as has become company tradition since 2004, focuses on the triple bottom line.
The authors kept their eyes on the prize: The report bears the title, Cities Need to Fight Diabetes — But How?
The report is set up like a magazine, with a picture of a bustling modern city on the cover and three sub-headings that beckon the reader to other key issues that will be discussed inside. The company’s business strategy, along with its quest to cure Type 1 diabetes and help people manage their weight, are discussed in the report. It also includes messages from top executives and the results of operations from the previous year.
Despite early setbacks in the U.S. market, the company did well financially, with revenues growing by 13 percent over the previous year, largely as the result of two new diabetes drugs, Levemir and Victoza that were launched last year.
Equating a healthy business with a healthy planet, the company also did well with its CO2 reduction target, achieving a 45 percent reduction against their 2004 baseline, while growing their business by 200 percent. The company also reduced energy consumption by 1 percent compared to last year.
But the most interesting part of the report, at least for those of us specifically interested in sustainable business, was the section on business strategy, where they talked about staying focused on the long term.
Its strategy consists of three primary elements:
- Staying focused on four therapeutic areas (diabetes, hemophilia, obesity and growth disorders)
- Continuing to develop its core capabilities of: protein-based treatments, disease understanding, protein production, new product launches and building emerging market positions.
- Values-based management system: aka the Novo Nordisk way
The ‘Novo Nordisk way’ is the company’s commitment to triple-bottom-line principles and to being open, honest, ambitious and accountable, while treating everyone with respect. This commitment has led the company to be “more adaptive to changes in its business environment and offers opportunities for competitive advantage,” the reports authors wrote.
“Novo Nordisk proactively engages with stakeholders to address global and systemic challenges that could affect the company’s success in the long term. One example is an active engagement in the framing of a new set of global sustainable development goals by the United Nations.”
The company revisits its strategy every year and works with a 10-year planning horizon.
The headline topic, which connects the diabetes epidemic to cities, also has implications to numerous sustainability initiatives. With half the world’s population living in cities and that proportion expected to grow to 70 percent by 2050, the fact that city-dwellers have a two to five times higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is significant. Among the causes are: rising income, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, and increased consumption of rich, unhealthy foods.
Novo Nordisk has launched a partnership program called Cities Changing Diabetes to help address this issue. Participating cites include Mexico City; Copenhagen, Denmark; Houston; and Tianjin and Shanghai, China.
Details of the program are still developing. But it seems clear from where I sit that there are obvious opportunities: making cities more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, establishing community and rooftop gardening, and promoting the overall initiative to a more plant-based diet. Improvements in air quality stemming from a shift to lower carbon-emitting forms of transportation can also make a difference, given that recent studies have revealed a link between air pollution and diabetes. These preventative measures seem likely, when combined with improved diagnostic screening and early treatment, to have a significant impact on the problem.
Image courtesy of NovoNordisk
RP Siegel, PE, is an author, inventor and consultant. He has written for numerous publications ranging from Huffington Post to Mechanical Engineering. He and Roger Saillant co-wrote the successful eco-thriller Vapor Trails. RP, who is a regular contributor to Triple Pundit and Justmeans, sees it as his mission to help articulate and clarify the problems and challenges confronting our planet at this time, as well as the steadily emerging list of proposed solutions. His uniquely combined engineering and humanities background help to bring both global perspective and analytical detail to bear on the questions at hand. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he attended the World Future Energy Summit as the winner of the Abu Dhabi blogging competition.
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