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Organization Name

Novo Nordisk AS

Case Story Title

Ensuring equal opportunities and greater diversity

Case Story Date

2002/11/30

Issues Addressed

  • Principle 1 - Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights
  • Principle 2 - Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses
  • Principle 3 - Businesses should uphold freedom of association & effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining
  • Principle 4 - The elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour
  • Principle 5 - The effective abolition of child labour
  • Principle 6 - Eliminate discrimination in respect of employment and occupation

Case Story Category

Partnership Project

Countries of Impact

Case Description

How do we stimulate diversity and equal opportunities and yet maintain a corporate culture of shared values? was one of the seven strategic dilemmas presented in Novo Nordisk?s latest sustainability report. The backdrop for this question was a Human Rights Review, completed in February 2001. While it revealed no major violations, it did recommend that human rights should be addressed in a more systematic way. It sought to interpret for Novo Nordisk as a business the commitments made in the Declaration and, more specifically, to prioritise the human rights issues for Novo Nordisk.

A key conclusion of the review was that human rights standards, having universal status and broad coverage, could inform and guide our social responsibility initiatives ? globally and locally. However, rather than taking a strict rights- and compliance-based implementation, more proactive strategies were found to better add value. Hence, Novo Nordisk has chosen to address the right of Non-discrimination as ?equal opportunities and diversity?.

Seeing diversity as a strategic opportunity to better attract and motivate people, the creation of a corporate culture that supports diversity is vital. Targets were set for each affiliate and unit to develop an action plan for addressing these issues, and a web-based toolbox ? also accessible for external users ? was provided to encourage business units to engage in the debate. A strategy was developed to integrate equal opportunities in our daily business. Finally, it became a focus area for the internal facilitator teams, which assist the units in ensuring that policies and values are applied.Novo Nordisk actively promotes equal opportunities by trying to remove barriers and create an open organisational culture in which anyone feels welcome ? regardless of background. No one seeking employment, or employed with Novo Nordisk, shall be discriminated against because of background, and efforts are made to identify any barriers ? formal or informal - that may prevent specific groups from seeking opportunities provided by the company. Examples of informal barriers are work-life balance and the working language.

In 2002 Novo Nordisk formulated 15 action plans to address the specific issues of equal opportunities in each business area. Through a process of consultations all executives with responsibility for business areas have discussed the challenges and opportunities in their own areas. In Denmark, two topics have been identified as areas of priority: Attraction and retention of ethnic minorities and career opportunities for women. In the international part of the organisation a dual approach has been adopted: to secure non- discrimination everywhere while working actively with equal opportunities in a few selected countries.

To ensure cross-functional cooperation and coordination of initiatives, an equal opportunities task force with members from key corporate functions has been established: Stakeholder Relations, Legal Affairs, Training, Human Resources and Corporate Communications. The task force will drive the equal opportunities project throughout the organisation and carry out initiatives to support the implementation of equal opportunities in Novo Nordisk. The task force will be assisted by a resource group to enable business areas to share best practices and discuss issues.

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