Embedding Sustainability at Novo Nordisk: The Compassion Vs Competitiveness Dilemma




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Introduction

The Danish pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, was named as the ‘most sustainable company in the world’ by the business magazine Corporate Knights for the year 2012. Another Novo group company, Novozymes A/S was also ranked fourth in the list of global 100 most sustainable corporations in the world (See Exhibit I for the top twenty companies in the list). Novo Nordisk received the recognition for a number of sustainability related initiatives that it had taken over the years since it had first faced a controversy regarding its business practices in the late 1960s.

It started two important initiatives, viz. the Novo Nordisk Way of Management and the Triple Bottom Line philosophy to evolve as an organization with a key focus on sustainability.Over the years, Novo Nordisk’s business grew substantially and it emerged as a leader in the global insulin market. In the new millennium, Novo Nordisk’s new sustainability strategy placed global health at the center of its sustainability initiatives. According to Novo Nordisk’s vision statement, the company strove to find the right balance between compassion and competitiveness. From then on, Novo Nordisk started selling its products at a subsidized price in some of the poorest countries around the world.

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Despite all the efforts that it took to protect the interests of all its stakeholders, in 2010, Novo Nordisk was severely criticized by patients and NGOs when it stopped selling its drugs in Greece when the crisis ridden government there ordered a 25 percent cut in the prices of all medicines sold in the country. Novo Nordisk was accused of putting profits above corporate social responsibility. Though the issue was settled later with the resumption of the sale of all its products in Greece, the episode badly dented the image of Novo Nordisk as a company with a focus on sustainability....

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