Novo Nordisk’s way to respect human rights

Uutinen   •   Tammi 13, 2016 08:00 EET

Kasumi Blessing works at Novo Nordisk where she is responsible for driving the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. She participated in the Human Rights related training organized by FIBS during which she shared her insight into the topic and shared her views on best practices. After the training FIBS met with Blessing to further discuss the topic.

What ’respecting human rights’ means to Novo Nordisk?

It means treating people with dignity and respect. Treating everyone with respect is part of Novo Nordisk’s company value, Novo Nordisk Way, which is the foundation for the company’s culture and DNA. In terms of management processes, Novo Nordisk is committed to meeting the responsibility to respect human rights, as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

What have been the biggest benefits you’ve gained due to assessing your human rights impacts?

Novo Nordisk has a long history of working with human rights as part of its Triple Bottom Line approach to business. The company conducted its first human rights impact assessment with reference to the International Bill of Human Rights in 1998. That has resulted in several dedicated programmes including access to health, equal opportunity and diversity, health and safety.

The impact assessment we have conducted in line with the UNGPs has enabled us to understand a number of our potential impacts on a wide range of human rights. This has led to several new concrete work streams across our value chain aimed at further strengthening our systems of preventing and mitigating potential impacts from occurring.

We have also conducted mapping and assessment of operational-level grievance mechanisms for the potential human rights impacts identified. Accordingly, we have also begun to develop or strengthen different grievance mechanisms at an operational level of the company.

Along with these concrete actions to strengthen our human rights management, the impact assessment has generated awareness, reflection and engagement over our responsibility to respect human rights.

Can you identify success factors, which have helped you in managing human rights related issues in your company?

I am doing this by learning, and lessons-learnt include:

  • Try to be business-savvy. A good understanding and appreciation of the company’s business is essential. This includes an understanding of organisational structures, drivers, operations, evolving business contexts and different cultures in various departments.
  • Draw upon existing systems and strengths, related to the above point. This helps develop relationships, embedding, ownership and capacity among stakeholders in the company.
  • Talk to both the hearts and minds, when engaging stakeholders in the company (eg when conducting due diligence).
  • Step-by-step and systematic approach. Sounds so simple, but implementing UNGPs is an assiduous process. Remember to celebrate progress.
  • Follow news and regularly touch base with peers to inspire ‘what about us’-imagination for ongoing due diligence. These days news are full of ‘business and human rights stories and dilemmas’, without necessary being labelled so.

Kasumi Blessing truly demonstrated that she implements the last point of her success factors list by participating and sharing her experiences during FISB training on human rights. She also further deepened Novo Nordisk approach to Human Rights by participating in a roundtable discussion organized to FIBS member companies. In these sessions, she shared her views and visions regarding the links between Human Rights and Business operations.

Interview: Helena Kekki, FIBS