To reduce its environmental impact and support long-term sustainability of the business, Novo Nordisk has set itself the target of powering its global production with 100% renewable energy by 2020. In order to achieve this target, the company must look for green solutions both near and far.
Tou Zhijian County in Taibus lies on Mongolia’s southern border in a region of China known as Inner Mongolia. This beautiful and tranquil location was home to Lizheng Leo Zhen for many years.
“This is the place I was born. The landscape is almost flat with broad grasslands and just a few hills. During my childhood there were not so many trees, houses or roads, but lots of crops. There were a small number of villages and the people who lived here were kind and honest. I enjoyed living in Taibus very much. I often recall my time there happily: climbing the hills, working the crops, enjoying the stars during the night and snow in winter.”
Leo moved to Tianjin after high school to follow his chosen career path and in 2008 began to work for Novo Nordisk, China, at its production site Tianjin, as a component engineer.
Living in the city is very different to rural Taibus. Most of the power in northern China comes from coal-fired power stations and smog caused by heavy air pollution can block out the sun. At the end of 2015, Tianjin issued its first red alert for air pollution, closing kindergartens, schools and effecting the operational hours of businesses. Anti-smog masks became a popular choice for Christmas gifts.
Harnessing wind power
Coal-fired power is not only a contributor to air pollution but also to carbon emissions. In 2015, Novo Nordisk’s production site in Tianjin rose to the challenge of moving away from coal based energy. The production site in Tianjin reached its goal of using 100% renewable power for all its production. This was made possible through the purchase of green energy from a new wind farm in Leo’s hometown.
“I am so proud that the place where I grew up is helping to achieve Novo Nordisk’s goal of protecting and improving the environment.”
The Taibus Banner Wind Project consists of 33 turbines, which deliver 200 GWh of electricity to the North China power grid annually. The wind farm produces clean electricity that is truly additional – meaning that the project wouldn’t have been created without financial support from the corporate sector – fulfils all environmental criteria, improves air quality and provides employment opportunities.
“I have seen the wind farm a few times during the drive back to my hometown. It is not so big from far away, but when you stand beside it, you are impressed with its size. It has brought job opportunities to local people, improved the roads and surrounding wasteland, and most importantly it is helping to protect our environment,” says Leo with a smile.
During 2015-16 Novo Nordisk will acquire 40,000 MWh from the wind farm. The savings equal roughly 14,500 tonnes of CO2 in 2015 and 30,000 tonnes in 2016. To put this in context, in 2014, 30,000 tonnes of CO2 was 25% of the total Novo Nordisk emissions from production sites globally. Put into layman terms, this equals roughly 30,000 return flights on economy class to Beijing from Europe.
The search for global green solutions
Acknowledging that climate change caused by carbon emissions poses a significant threat to human health and development, last year Novo Nordisk committed that all its production facilities worldwide would be run on renewable power by 2020.
“This 100% target is the logical next step in the company’s history of working to reduce its carbon footprint,” says Vibeke Burchard, Senior Global Project Manager in Novo Nordisk, who recently returned from a trip where she visited the Taibus Banner Wind Project. “But finding solutions for green energy at all production sites around the world is no easy task.”
Read the full story in TBL Quarterly "The carbon footprint issue".