Every year we use large amounts of energy to manufacture medicines, and the expectation is that production will continue to increase, hence so will our overall energy consumption. Reducing non-renewable energy consumption and ensuring that we transition to renewable energy are top priorities. 

As part of our environmental strategy, Circular for Zero, we have set the target, that all offices and laboratories will source renewable power by 2030.

In 2023, Novo Nordisk continued working with energy-saving, optimisation and stabilisation projects. This included utilising more renewable natural gas and steam, reducing propane, diesel and heavy fuel usage, and implementing new dehumidification systems. Energy-saving projects implemented in 2023 within production sites resulted in annual energy savings of 64 thousand GJ. These efforts could not fully mitigate the increased production volumes, ramp-up activities and impact from adverse local weather conditions, and consequently energy consumption for production increased by 4%.

Energy consumption in office buildings and laboratories decreased by 3% due to reduced use of facilities and implementation of energy-saving measures.

Since 2020, Novo Nordisk has transitioned to sourcing 100% renewable power for production through a mix of solutions, primarily Renewable Electricity Certificates (REC), Power Purchase Agreements (PPA), Guarantees of Origin (GO) as well as on-site renewable solutions.

Every year we use billions of litres of water. All our production sites are certified according to ISO14001. This means we are committed to continuous improvements, which also includes optimising water use. Each production facility has the opportunity to submit water innovation projects for approval, leading to an overall decrease in water use. It is our goal to achieve ‘no waste of water’ by optimising production, using existing production capacity better and by reusing water whenever possible.

We continuously monitor and report on water use at all production sites globally. Water is included as one of the three prioritised areas in our environmental strategy, Circular for Zero, with a focus on reducing water use and reusing water whenever possible at our production sites.

Annual targets for relevant business units are in place to increase water use efficiency and the reuse of water. We acknowledge that water use should ideally decrease, however as a consequence of expansion in operations and increased produced volumes within our portfolio, water consumption is forecasted to increase. This emphasises the importance of finding optimisation potentials in the production of our portfolio. 

For information about our position on water, click here.

In 2023, production sites consumed 4,150 thousand cubic metres of water, an increase of 6% compared to 2022 due to increase in production volumes and ramp up activities for capacity expansion at production sites. Other contributing factors were warmer months in 2023, hence additional water was used for cooling purposes. Additionally, a higher number of employees led to increased on-site activities and extra shifts.

Production sites in France, Brazil, China, US, Iran and Algeria are located in areas of high water stress or with high seasonal variations (please refer to the CDP Water Security 2023 Reporting Guidance). These sites consume 18% of the total water for global production. Despite a significant increase in production volumes, water consumption at these facilities was kept at a 2% increase as the implementation of water conservation projects in water-stressed areas led to savings of 14 thousand cubic metres of water.

We aim to have zero environmental impact across our value chain. This work is organised across the company and in our environmental management system.

Our Executive Management is responsible for the overall environmental policy and for setting strategic direction for environmental areas. Our Corporate Environmental Strategy team is responsible for the environmental policy and strategy. In addition, there is a dedicated department, NN Environment, which is responsible for the environmental management system and ensuring environmental compliance in Novo Nordisk.

All our production facilities are certified according to ISO 14001, environmental management. The ISO 14001 certified Environmental Management system ensures continuous improvements through a systematic approach. The production of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) in Kalundborg, Denmark, is also certified according to ISO 50001, energy management.

We have on-site Environmental coordinators at all production facilities. The coordinators monitor environmental progress and environmental compliance at our sites worldwide.

For information about our Circular for Zero strategy, click here.

For information about our environmental policy, click here.

In 2023 there were 12 breaches compared to 8 in 2022. None of the breaches resulted in any correlated material negative impact on the environment. For all breaches, mitigation actions are in progress.

According to the World Health Organization, climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. We recognise that caring for our patients also means caring for our planet, and with the healthcare sector as a whole accounting for approximately 5% of global emissions, we take our environmental impact seriously. We are determined to play our part in creating a sustainable, healthy environment for the long term, and our ambition is bold and simple: to have zero environmental impact.

To achieve this, one of our key tasks is to decouple the growth in our business from our CO2 equivalent (CO2e) emissions; otherwise, our carbon footprint will continue to climb as we serve increasing numbers of patients.

On this front, we have made significant progress in curbing our company’s emissions. Since 2020, all our production sites have sourced 100% renewable power and we aim to reach zero CO2e emissions from operations and transportation by 2030.

However, focusing solely on our own activities is not enough. We must also ensure our 60,000-plus suppliers play their part in this transformation, since their activities account for the majority of our total CO2e emissions – amounting to 98% in 2023. Our target is that all goods and services from suppliers will be based on 100% sourced renewable power by 2030.

We are engaging with suppliers in high-impact areas to understand how we can collectively reduce emissions using novel approaches to decarbonisation. This involves working on innovative Power-to-X solutions that use renewable electricity to produce green fuels and low-carbon chemicals or using organic waste materials to produce biofuels.

Recent examples include our membership of the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance (SABA) to support the expansion of sustainable aviation fuel facilities, and our partnership with global logistics firm Maersk on low-emission fuels for ocean freight. Both these investments are contributing to the global uptake of innovative green technologies.

For more information about our position on climate, click here.

For more information about our alignment with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), click here.

Click the links for more information about the carbon footprint of our products: Awiqli® | FlexPen® | FlexTouch® | NovoPen® 4 | NovoPen® 5 & 6 | NovoPen Echo® & Echo® Plus

See previous product carbon footprint reports

In 2023, Novo Nordisk experienced increased production volumes, ramp-up activities and impact from adverse local weather conditions; however, due to energy-saving projects and renewable power initiatives, scope 1 and 2 emissions remained broadly unchanged from 2022.

Scope 3 emissions increased by 55% due to substantial investments in production capacity and increase in supply chain activities to support company growth. The two categories Purchased goods and services and Capital goods account for 90% of the scope 3 emissions, and they account for 98% of the overall scope 3 emissions' increase. For the latest reporting on CO2 emissions, please refer to the quarterly company announcements in the section Financial results and events.

For the latest reporting on CO2 emissions, please refer to the quarterly company announcements in the section Financial results and events.

Operational waste management
We are committed to reducing waste and have a target of sending zero production waste to landfill by 2030. The next step is to transform our business processes to eliminate the negative environmental footprint from all our operations and driving a circular transition across the company.

End of life challenge management
Minimising the use of plastic derived from fossil fuels is a priority for Novo Nordisk – and a significant challenge given the rapid growth in demand for our medical injection devices. We currently manufacture more than 800 million pre-filled plastic pens every year, equivalent to some 14,000 tonnes of plastic. As the number of patients we serve continues to grow, those numbers will rise markedly unless we take decisive action.

We are tackling our plastic challenge on multiple fronts, with a threefold ‘reduce-change-avoid’ approach. This includes reducing overall plastic consumption by converting to re-usable devices, changing to the use of non-virgin-fossil plastics in our device production and harnessing recycling to avoid plastic ending up in landfill.

The task is not simple. When it comes to recycling, for example, used injection pens cannot be dealt with in the same way as other household recycling because they are classified as medical waste, which most countries are not equipped to handle. To address this challenge, we have expanded a series of pioneering take-back programmes across Denmark, the UK, France and Brazil, and in 2023 we established the world’s first industry solution for recycling injection pens in Denmark. Pharmaceutical companies Lilly, Sanofi and Merck have all joined the initiative, and we now share a goal of recycling 25% of the pens distributed by all four companies in Denmark within the first 12 months.

Another important initiative involves rethinking medicine delivery by switching from disposable to reusable devices – some with an expected lifespan of up to 5 years. Over the past year, we have converted selected products in a number of countries and we expect to switch more in 2024. We are also steadily building device durability into the development of new medicines and expect that a trend from daily to once-weekly administration for many products will contribute to reduced plastic use per patient in the long term.

In addition, we are exploring more sustainable ways to produce plastic. A good example is a new agreement signed by Novo Nordisk, alongside the LEGO Group, to buy e-methanol from European Energy when the world’s first large-scale production plant for the commodity starts up in Denmark in 2024. The e-methanol – made from renewable electricity, water and captured biogenic CO2 – will help us to create lower-carbon plastics for use in our medical devices.

In 2023, waste from production sites decreased by 11% compared to 2022 due to waste reduction initiatives, and an increased focus on energy recovery, reuse of waste and implementation of zero landfill waste strategies.

The amount of waste recycled decreased by 22% from 179,003 to 147,135 tonnes, primarily due to focus on waste fractions, reduction in metal and paper waste, and a transition from recycling to resource recovery.

The amount of waste sent for energy recovery decreased by 5% from 22,920 to 21,911 tonnes, primarily due to optimisation projects and changes in the composition of waste, which led to a decrease in the amount of waste being sent to incineration. Less than 0.3% of total waste was sent to landfill. In 2023, 20% of the waste was categorised as hazardous waste.