With Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO, Novozymes

Much like the enzymes it works with, Peder Holk Nielsen believes that Novozymes can act as an agent of acceleration, catalysing the future of sustainability through its unique position in society.

Enzymes are biological catalysts, uniquely shaped to increase the speed of reactions in the biological world. Continuously adapting to changing conditions around them, they are natural wonders that form a crucial and interconnected component of the microbial landscape. Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of global biotech firm Novozymes, believes that it too can act as an agent of acceleration, shaping the future of sustainability through the business’ unique position in society today.

“We have an important role to play in the climate dialogue at political, business and societal levels, and we want to showcase the power of biology to help solve this global challenge” says Peder, and he truly sees their business as a changemaker in the efforts to remain under 1.5°C of global warming. With the right mindset, strategies, and solutions, there are several ways that Peder believes Novozymes can support and accelerate change at each of these levels.

The business level

Novozymes has been on a mission since 2005 to decouple growth from emissions, and so far it has made good progress. “In the last eight years absolute emissions from our operations have risen by only 6%, while revenue has increased by 48%” says Peder — “this has been achieved with our engineers, production site teams, and experts helping to shape the best decision making possible for our own investments”. The company now aims to halve absolute emissions from operations by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050.

Peder singles out these long-term commitments, as well as target setting as two important strategies required for a sustainable transformation, “we were among the first companies to commit to and support efforts aligning with a 1.5°C scenario. Making such a commitment of course puts pressure on us and sets expectations, but it also enables us to make better decisions in the longer-term”. He cites science-based targets as a key driver in building momentum for companies to reduce emissions in their operations and across the supply chain.

The societal level

“As a business-to-business company, explaining the wider climate and sustainability benefits of our solutions can be challenging”, he continues. To address this, Novozymes has documented and demonstrated the potential of its solutions to enable customers to reduce emissions across multiple industries and geographies from agriculture, food production and processing, to advanced bioenergy and biorefining.

The political level

At a political level, Peder takes inspiration from the UNFCCC and the work of its Secretariat — “this organisation has been led by two outstanding female leaders in recent years. It has made an invaluable effort to support diversity of stakeholder views, including business, into the discussions, helping drive climate action at all levels”. In a similar manner to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), Novozymes will be setting out its climate goals, plans and investments, and milestones that it will report back on. Peder says “we will continue to meet with key decision makers and will further assess our climate advocacy activities later this year, considering the outcomes of the Climate Action Summit and COP 25”. These kinds of public-private interactions are important milestones that can help support raising levels of ambition”, he noted.

Ultimately, Peder recognises that a company operates within society, and at its best should be a force for good. As Novozymes seeks to create better business with biology, it can also play an important role in reinforcing the positive benefits of climate action.

Read more from the 1.5°C Business Leadership report