‘Sustainability – how can we inspire and learn from each other?’ That was the theme when Chief Sustainability Advisor and Vice President in Novo Nordisk, Susanne Stormer, and Director Tommy Kjelsgaard, Danish Regions met for a dialogue at Molecule Consultancy’s digital breakfast event this week.

Partnerships are key

Novo Nordisk and Danish Region share a core mission of health, healthcare, innovation, and development, yet also accumulating and attracting expertise in climate action & sustainability. Because action is needed to become a sustainable stakeholder of a world seeking to become sustainable. Stormer and Kjelsgaard were obviously curious on each other’s take, actions, and experiences. Many aspects of sustainability were covered in their dialogue for example data, how to engage, procurements and total cost of ownership.  

They shared experiences on the incremental improvements by using existing knowledge and technologies. Kjelsgaard stressed the need of radical innovation to succeed. Both highlighted partnerships as key to results. Results they took pride in yet being humble due to the hard work still ahead.

An open source tool

Kjelsgaard took the opportunity to extract knowledge and experience from Stormer on “Future Fit”, a tool used by Novo Nordisk in their sustainability efforts.

Stormer emphasised the advantages of the tool, the most important being that it is built on science and international standards, and it enables an organisation to diagnose its current state towards achievement of clear, objective goals. It has two dimensions: One is to define what the organisation must do to eliminate its negative impacts on people, communities, and the environment. The other is to guide the organisation on how it can maximise its positive impact in the pursuit of its objectives. Stormer noted that while the tool is still new, it has promising potential and, most important of all, it is practical. Future Fit is an open source tool, and she encouraged all to go explore.

Sustainable business in a sustainable world

Stormer pointed out, that the private sector bears a huge responsibility in achieving an economy fit for purpose, and in achieving the goal of a sustainable business in a sustainable world. It does require a huge and continuing effort. Kjelsgaard agreed but he also noted that the public budget restraints sometimes pose restrictions in achieving sustainable solutions.

Danish Regions was highlighted by their goal of 75% CO2 reduction by 2030, which exceeds the mandatory goal of 70% (Danish Climate Agreement for Energy and Industry 2020). Kjelsgaard promised more initiatives to come from Danish Regions, and he emphasised the huge role of the 5 regional initiatives, stipulated in their regional development plans.

Supply chain challenges

Kjelsgaard stressed that changing their own organisation was the minor task of the huge healthcare eco system, since there is also a huge footprint from other regional activities and in the supply chain, e. g.  production of equipment & medicine.

Kjelsgaard continued by asking Stormer about the nudge or requirements of Novo Nordisk’s supply chain. This question was prompted by Novo Nordisk’s recent announcement that as of 2030, all Novo Nordisk’s suppliers will have to rely solely on renewable energy sources.

Stormer acknowledged this supply chain challenge and gave two important insights. Firstly, Novo Nordisk has included clear expectations for sustainability in their supplier contracts. Secondly, she said, having shown that it is possible to make this change, to succeed in a global transformation, is an asset.  It makes a strong argument to be able to lead by example, which motivates suppliers. [Novo Nordisk is now relying solely on renewable energy for power supplies in their production all over the world.]

Ambitious top-down goals create bottom-up engagement

Stormer and Kjelsgaard had the same experience: Setting ambitious targets top-down, magically grew a stunning bottom-up engagement, local initiatives and innovative ideas all adding to the speed of results. They had both come to the same conclusion: Climate change and sustainability do play an important role to many clinicians, facility service and employees. This was not necessarily obvious or out-spoken before there came a explicit top-down sustainability approach. When the top sketches a cathedral, cathedrals are built all over the organisation. Somehow, cathedrals are contagious and inspire partnerships across the organisation, across professions, sectors, and countries – and, hopefully, also across democrats and republicans.

Thank you Stormer and Kjelsgaard for sharing. We were inspired. Some of us also became more ambitious in our own sustainability goals. You made us believe that a sustainable world is within reach, but it requires hard work and partnerships.