Environmental strategies need to be bold

Aditi Valecha, Global Project Lead in the Diabetes Commercial Unit, shares her thoughts and why corporate environmental strategies ought to be bold to drive impact, shedding light on Novo Nordisk’s new long-term environmental strategy, Circular for Zero.

In 2018, Novo Nordisk committed to a bold and long-term environmental initiative ─ to achieve zero emissions from operations and transportation. The initiative, known as circular for zero, has meant taking stock of and working to halt CO2 emissions from production, global offices and laboratories, product distribution, business flights and company cars.
Aditi Valecha, Global Project Lead in the Diabetes Commercial Unit, is adamant that bold, company-wide environmental strategies, such as these, are critically important and will be increasingly so, as we move forward as a society. Aditi shares her thoughts, her path within Novo Nordisk and her expectations for the future in the Q&A below:

How and why did Novo Nordisk go about introducing Circular for Zero?

In 2017, Novo Nordisk decided to make electric cars the new black by adopting guidelines to increase the use of electric and hybrid company cars. In Denmark, a small fleet of leased electric cars has reduced the use of taxis for transportation. In addition, to encourage commuting by public transport, we started offering employees in Denmark participation in a scheme that gives a tax deduction of up to 50% of their total transportation cost.

But we didn’t stop there. By committing to Circular for Zero, we swore to start adopting a circular mindset in our entire business model. In the words of our CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, “Eliminating all CO2 emissions from our operations and one day becoming a zero-impact company are bold aspirations and, to be perfectly honest, we don’t yet know exactly how we’ll achieve them. But by setting the ambition we must now find the answers – exactly as we’ve been doing through our science for decades.” Achieving zero environmental impact will have its challenges, and many questions still need to be answered, but we have already set out on the journey. Today, all the electricity that we use in our production comes from renewable sources. But we are asking ourselves, "how can we do more?", particularly with the disposal of our products. We believe the answers will come as we transition our business from a linear mindset of ‘take-make-dispose’ to a circular mindset that keeps our products and materials in use.

Why is it important to you that Novo Nordisk adopts such a long-term strategy?

It makes me very happy that Novo Nordisk has the ambition of achieving a zero environmental footprint in the years to come. It makes me happy, because I feel like my personal values are aligned with my colleagues’ values, and more importantly with my employer’s values. Circular for zero was an inspiring idea shared with us internally and with the outside world. But as an employee, I had the chance of seeing it being implemented on the inside. A small example among many is that we stopped using plastic disposable items and straws at work. Such changes are very small, but when you think about the thousands of employees using them each day you realize it has a huge impact.

Can you tell us more about your personal journey with Novo Nordisk?

It’s been a very coincidental journey that Novo Nordisk and I personally took, I decided that I wanted an electric car. And two weeks after, Novo Nordisk decided to make provisions for employees to get electric company cars. I am happy because my workplace is taking the same journey as I am. It’s very motivating, says Aditi.

Novo Nordisk has been a learning journey for me since 2014. I’ve grown as a person. The environment has allowed me to grow the way I want to. I can be a ‘klimatosse’ (Danish translation for “environmental fanatic” – not to be taken literally) and my fellow colleagues may not have the same views, but they will respect it. At work, I can be myself. And the expression of yourself is very liberating. At Novo Nordisk you can be who you are.

What are your environmental expectations for the future?

I don’t have children myself, but I remember very well watching the speech that brought Greta Thunberg to the world's attention, the one where she asks us adults passionately – “What am I going to do when I’ll be a grand-mother? What will I tell my children?” This speech really made me ask the question ‘What kind of world do we want to leave for our future generations?’ We all have our legacies at work, in our lives - but what will our collective legacy be? I think we have a collective responsibility as part of the world, whether you’re a parent or not.

The future is green. And I’m very optimistic about achieving it, despite the challenges. Every step in the right direction is well-worth taking. I think that at Novo Nordisk, often it’s not a lack of willingness that leads people to act in a certain way, but rather a lack of knowledge on the existence of greener alternatives and what the step is. This is true on a societal level as well. There are alternatives for everything, though, we just need to be aware that they exist.

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