Partnerships Are the New Black

Novo Nordisk Corporate Vice President, Charlotte Ersbøll, shares her view on the power of partnerships and why now is the time to act.
Jul 7, 2016 9:00 AM ET
Campaign: The TBL Quarterly
Charlotte Ersbøll, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Stakeholder Engagement at Novo Nordisk, in conversation with David Brindle, The Guardian at the 2015 Cities Changing Diabetes Summit in Copenhagen

This article was featured in the latest issue of Novo Nordisk’s sustainability …

The opportunities to create positive change are all around us and stronger alignment of purpose is bringing us closer together.

As a pharmaceutical company, we spend and invest significant resources every day on improving health for millions of people living with diabetes and other serious chronic diseases. But the cause of the diabetes epidemic, and the solutions required to make a change are multidimensional.

Neither Novo Nordisk, nor any other single actor or sector can succeed working in isolation to change diabetes. The same goes for tackling climate action, ending poverty or improving gender quality.

In September 2015, I attended the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. From around the world, governments, organisations and individuals pledged support to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, improve health and wellbeing, and tackle the environmental challenges of our time – particularly climate change.

This pledge has been formalised in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, which will guide policy, funding and action for the next 15 years.

Goal 17 stresses the need for strong commitment to global partnership and cooperation. The partnership goal is a testament to the fact that urgent action is needed to organise, redirect and unlock the transformative power of resources from private, public and non-governmental sectors. To deliver on sustainable development, we need to join together around shared purpose and complementary competences.

Putting Purpose First
Novo Nordisk’s history of working in partnerships has taught us that, unlike donor-receiver and customer-supplier relations, partnerships go beyond self-interest. To be successful, they must be based on the condition that all partners expect to gain from the engagement and the measurement of ‘gain’ is the positive impact on the societal challenge at hand.

Everybody talks about Public-Private-Partnerships. But aren't we limiting ourselves? How we come together in a purposeled collaboration should rather be defined, not by the type of partners, but on the insights, capabilities, mandates and resources required to best deliver impact and scale. The purpose offers us the sweet-spot where each stakeholder has most to contribute and most to gain.

There is an increasing amount of talk about partnerships and this needs to be met with increasing amount of practice. In this issue of TBL Quarterly, we highlight examples of purpose-driven partnerships. We share the stories of why partnerships were formed, the challenges that can arise in the process and how we learn to collaborate with new partners by putting our shared purpose first. The stories we bring in this issue show what can be achieved when we overcome mistrust and old habits and begin recognising common purpose. From patient partnering to new ways of partnering with payers, there is value to be created when we learn to collaborate.

Reading through the stories, it is clear that partnerships are not just another fad: they actually work. Progress on the Global Goals will be enhanced when action is backed by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilise and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources. In the new era of sustainable global development, partnerships are the new black. I hope you find inspiration in this issue of TBL Quarterly and unite around purpose. The time is now.

Charlotte Ersbøll, Corporate Vice President
Corporate Stakeholder Engagement, Novo Nordisk
Twitter: @C_Ersboll