At the UN Global Compact, Kingo Must Sustain Gains

When the United Nations Global Compact was launched 15 years ago at the New York Stock Exchange, Lise Kingo was entrenched on the corporate responsibility frontline in Europe.

At the time, she was working with human rights advocates and environmentalists as senior vice president of stakeholder relations at Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk. This September, Kingo made the 4,000-mile trip across the Atlantic to take the helm of Global Compact. The United Nations initiative aims to encourage businesses around the world to voluntarily align their strategies and operations with the Compact’s 10 principles on human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption.

Kingo had been involved with Global Compact from the initiative’s earliest days. In her roles as chief of staff, executive vice president and executive management team member at Novo Nordisk, she helped lead the healthcare giant to the top of the pack on corporate social responsibility. Novo Nordisk has been putting out sustainability performance reports since 1994 and was one of the first companies to issue an environmental report. Many others have followed. Global Compact now has more than 8,000 company signatories to its voluntary initiatives. Indeed, it has become standard practice for companies to integrate the cost of environmental, social and governance issues—from reputational damage from a product recall to the environmental cost of an oil spill—into their financial statements.

Over the past 15 years, corporate social responsibility and sustainable development have become regular items on the agenda of corporate boards. They are also hot topics of conversation in executive suites and in the investment community.

As chief of staff at Novo Nordisk, besides handling human resources and corporate communications, Kingo headed Novo’s “corporate stakeholder engagement” program, which includes sustainability initiatives, ethics oversight and corporate image-making. Bagsværd, Denmark-based Novo Nordisk has nearly 40,000 employees and production facilities in seven countries, with affiliates or offices in 75 countries

United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon appointed Kingo to the Global Compact post in late June to replace Georg Kell, who helped create the initiative in 2000.

Kingo is also deputy chair of the Danish Nature Foundation and member of the boards of Grieg Star Group A/S and C3 Collaborating for Health.