Case Study | Novo Nordisk

Future-Fit helping Novo Nordisk lead the way

As the first global company to have completed a Future-Fit self-assessment and to have the results independently assured, Novo Nordisk share invaluable information regarding their experience of using the Future-Fit Business Benchmark.

Cora Olsen, Novo Nordisk’s Global Lead on Integrated Reporting, had been looking for innovative sustainability metrics for some time, but had only come across approaches which measured backward-looking performance data or compared behaviour against current best practice. She first heard about the Future-Fit Business Benchmark in its draft form at the New Metrics conference in 2013, where Bob Willard was talking about a “Gold Standard Benchmark for Truly Sustainable Business”. Cora instantly saw that Future-Fit provided a framework that clearly identified the destination we as a society need to get to – and the role companies must play as part of that. We’ve been working closely ever since.

Why Future-Fit?

Novo Nordisk had long wondered what “good” looks like, but until the Benchmark came along it had no way of knowing its real impact or what it really needed to achieve. Measuring company performance against the Future-Fit Progress Indicators gave the company the ability to define real progress, identifying its strengths and weaknesses and thus the areas where improvement was needed. For instance, before the assessment the company didn’t know that 7% of its water use is occurring in water-stressed area; now it can work with local experts to reduce the footprint. The Benchmark therefore facilitates enlightened decision making – and that really resonated with colleagues across the business.

Ultimately, the beauty of the Future-Fit approach is that it helps companies transform qualitative information into quantitative indicators, so that you really know where to focus and how to improve performance. The Benchmark is highly intuitive from a corporate perspective.

Cora Olsen, Global Lead on Integrated Reporting, Novo Nordisk

How did Novo Nordisk approach measuring and verifying the Break-Even goals?

Novo Nordisk has been working for some time to introduce the Benchmark to colleagues across different business functions. Many of them had long been frustrated by the questionnaires and indicators that comprise much of traditional sustainability reporting, with metrics that claim to be ESG-oriented not proving useful in helping the company understand how it can progress toward true sustainability. Demonstrating how the Benchmark turned this around completely was therefore critical in achieving buy-in from content-relevant experts inside Novo Nordisk, and thus to calculating the company’s Progress Indicators.

Further to demonstrating the value of the Benchmark to colleagues, being the first global company to complete the calculations also made the process hugely exciting. Conversations around interpretation and nuance for each of the goals, which were worked through both internally and alongside Novo Nordisk’s collaborating consultant (DNV GL), lead to deeper learning and stronger collegiate collaboration.

The final step in the process was for Grant Thornton to assure the assessment results. Due diligence is very important to Novo Nordisk and the company wanted to ensure that its results were beyond refute, particularly in instances where it was scoring 100% on a given Progress Indicator.

Having completed the calculations, the sustainability team is now planning to meet with the various content-specific colleagues to agree next steps.

Achieving sustained performance will only work if the business is involved – it’s not about my team owning and directing the agenda. Success creates kings and queens, and I want to have as many monarchs as possible.

Cora Olsen, Global Lead on Integrated Reporting, Novo Nordisk

What surprises came as a result of the assessment?

Overall Novo Nordisk has a good spread between “red” and “green” indicators, so a combination of “needing improvement” and “performing well”. On the environmental side, the company is cognisant that it takes more natural resources than it gives back – the negative impacts that were flagged by the assessment were therefore not surprising, but they have helped to start to shape strategy moving forward. On the social side, there were a lot more “green” indicators, particularly in terms of employee welfare and treatment. However, the goals that include operations and local communities are trickier, hence again Novo Nordisk is using the Benchmark results to help set new targets and goals.

Getting started with the Benchmark

Given its pioneering role in using the Benchmark, Novo Nordisk has some sage advice for companies that are just getting started. Cora Olsen says, “Start by sitting down and taking a hard look at the 23 Progress Indicators. Perhaps pick five indicators which cover a mix of issues you know your company struggles with and areas where you know you’re performing well. When trying to convince others within the company about the Future-Fit approach, start with the people you know well. You need to leverage your knowledge of the company in a way that will maximize your success. But the best way to convince people is with the fact that you can’t reduce impact without calculation, and the Benchmark provides a solution to just that.”

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