You’ve heard of the bottom line;
at Novo Nordisk, we have three.

By Brian Hilberdink |  Published 27 February 2019


I was speaking to a friend recently about a perception many have of pharmaceutical companies, and the impact of this industry on society. Incredulously, my friend rattled off a list of Novo Nordisk’s initiatives—striving for 100 per cent renewable production sites, investing in research, partnering with patient groups. My friend asked whether these pursuits, while valuable, are all just to support an end goal of selling medicines.

I told him, as I’ll write here, that our primary objective is to develop and market treatments. Treatments that help people live longer, fuller lives. Yes, we must be financially responsible to enable the research and development that brings about medicines that are better tolerated, have greater efficacy, and are easier to use. Yes, pharmaceutical companies must generate revenue to do this. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all for-profit industries saved lives, while also pursuing zero environmental impact and supporting non-profits to achieve their missions? As I’ve said before, it’s all connected.

Novo Nordisk is publicly owned, however, it has a unique shareholder structure. The majority of the voting rights are controlled by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The Foundation has two key objectives – to provide a stable basis for commercial and research activities and to support, through grants, scientific, social and humanitarian projects.

Ultimately, our measure of success at Novo Nordisk is threefold, and closely tied to our values. We are dedicated to widespread impact through our outputs—so dedicated, in fact, that these interests are entrenched in our operations through the Novo Nordisk Way, and within it, the Triple Bottom Line.

As I mentioned in my first blog post, the Novo Nordisk Way is the set of principles that guides our decisions as a company. The Triple Bottom Line, meanwhile, is our way of doing business: balancing financial, social and environmental considerations. Maintaining this balance ensures Novo Nordisk remains sustainable, able to make a lasting and material impact for patients.

The pillars of the Triple Bottom Line are correlated: together, these factors make our business stronger overall. To prove this, each year we publish an integrated report on our performance in the three areas. Our 2018 report is now available online, and details our past and future benchmarks as of today. 

Globally, we plan to use 100 per cent renewable power at all production sites by 2020, and aim to produce zero environmental impact by 2030. To achieve this, we just launched the Circular for Zero environmental strategy, which sets an ambition to design products that can be recovered and re-used, and minimize consumption and waste in our business practices.

Through our TakeAction initiative, employees can support social, environmental and health causes during working hours. Through our Cities Changing Diabetes program, we share knowledge about how diabetes impacts communities and resources to build a healthier future across the globe. We are dedicated to creating partnerships with organizations committed to social betterment and, of course, we continue to serve the communities of those with chronic diseases by always innovating.

In Canada, we host programs that inspire patients to live their lives to the fullest, raise awareness about the impact diabetes has on communities and provide spaces for those with the condition to come together. We form partnerships with groups who are raising the voice of people living with diabetes in Canada and serving the diabetes community. In June 2018, in partnership with University Hospital Foundation and the Government of Alberta, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, we established the Novo Nordisk Alberta Diabetes Fund, to support innovation and research to advance health outcomes in diabetes and obesity in Alberta’s life science sector.

Through TakeAction, our Canadian colleagues participate in activities like volunteering at the local Mississauga food bank; sponsoring a family’s Christmas; contributing to Toy Mountain during the holidays; participating and donating to the JDRF Revolution Ride; and taking part in the Mississauga Marathon and the Novo Nordisk ‘Hazel’ 5K.

We’re proud of the strides we’ve taken toward our business goals under the Triple Bottom Line. Looking forward, upholding these principles will pave the way for long-term sustainability. As I explained to my friend, each of our bottom lines makes it possible for us to remain sustainable and have a positive impact. While the pharmaceutical industry may face criticism for its social returns, Novo Nordisk continues to hold itself to a higher and higher standard. We’re committed to positive change for patients and the planet—and that’s our bottom line.