By Monique Carter, Executive vice president, People & Organisation

Cultivating a sustainable workplace is key to the future of our company and the patients we serve. Therefore, we have set an aspiration to be a sustainable employer but what do we mean and why do we attach such importance to it?

Novo Nordisk has prioritised sustainability for many years, long before I joined the company in 2018. Our environmental strategies span decades and we have a long list of programmes under our social responsibility umbrella – for instance, it has been almost 20 years since we established the World Diabetes Foundation for vulnerable populations. While such initiatives remain cornerstones of our efforts to be a sustainable business, we also believe internal initiatives are crucial.

Above all else, we want Novo Nordisk to be genuinely inclusive so that everyone has a sense of belonging, an equal opportunity to contribute and can be themselves at work every day. We require that colleagues treat one another with respect, not least our people leaders whom we expect to role model inclusive behaviours in an intentional and sincere way.

The lines between our work and personal lives have become increasingly blurred by the rise of remote working and it has never been so apparent that each of us has a unique set of changing circumstances that we are constantly seeking to balance. The better we can recognise and embrace this as a company and support flexible approaches to working, the more inclusive we will be for current and future employees. 

Nurturing a sustainable workplace requires that we look beyond our own walls, in order to understand societal trends and issues before we act. Pride Month, which celebrates the enormous progress made within LGBTQ+ rights whilst raising awareness of work still to be done, is one such opportunity. As part of the celebrations this year, we have announced a new global parental leave policy giving non-birthing parents a minimum of 8 weeks paid leave within the first year of becoming a parent.

We hope this offering will make a difference for all new parents in Novo Nordisk, including among our LGBTQ+ colleagues, adopting parents and families of all circumstances and descriptions. We also hope that in the longer-term, the offer of more comprehensive and equitable parental leave will contribute to our aspiration to have greater diversity across our senior management – an area in which we must do better as a company.

Such a policy is only one step on our inclusion and diversity journey and we should not make the mistake of believing that policy alone can make Novo Nordisk a sustainable employer. Persecution and discrimination mean that for many minorities, proudly being their authentic selves is simply beyond their reach. We as a company must continue to advocate for the rights of all such communities and constructively challenge traditional societal conventions and attitudes that make it difficult for people to be themselves and to achieve balance in their lives.

Another critical enabler of a sustainable workplace is our collective and individual ability to deliberately and diligently listen to one another. In Novo Nordisk, we’re finding new ways to provide under-represented colleagues with platforms to describe and discuss their lived experiences with both senior leaders and our 45,000 employees. Conversations about inclusion, diversity, equity and belonging can sometimes be challenging and can make participants and listeners feel uncomfortable. But if we don’t share and reflect upon such perspectives and discuss ideas for how we can evolve our culture and workplace, we’ll not be able to offer life-changing careers now and in the future.

Listening to understand is also a key component if we want to be an ally to colleagues from marginalised or minority groups. ‘Allyship’ is an emerging and increasingly relevant quality that I would love to see colleagues aspire towards. For my part, I try to give voice to marginalised perspectives and I seek to positively influence others to listen. Ultimately, if we are not willing to listen, then we will never understand.

If we fail to understand, then we fail to be inclusive and if we are not inclusive, how can we hope to create a workforce as diverse as the millions of people living with serious chronic diseases we serve each year?