Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sustainability with Passion

The Novus International 2012 Sustainability Report, the fifth annual report of this billion $ privately-owned company was published recently online. 

Novus International, Inc. is a provider of health and nutrition solutions for livestock, poultry, pets and people, headquartered in St. Charles, Missouri, U.S.A., employing more than 800 people in over 50 countries and serving more than 3,000 customers worldwide in over 100 countries. Novus operates facilities including corporate offices, research and development laboratories and manufacturing operations, as well as smaller offices with field staff in most local markets. Working from a strong base of scientific understanding and technological innovation, Novus has brought more than 100 new products to market over the past decade, contributing consistently to sustainable animal agriculture production and global food security while growing revenues and global presence. The Novus pledge is a Triple S Bottom Line – Solutions, Service and Sustainability.
I am particularly happy to blog about Novus, because (here it comes... disclosure >>>) Novus has been my client for some years now and I have been involved in developing and writing the 2012 report, as well as prior reports for 2011 and 2010. In preparation for the report, I interviewed around 50 Novus executives (including the CEO who is directly involved and passionate about Novus's sustainability journey) and many staff all over the world, and some external stakeholders, and collected data from over 10 manufacturing, offices and research sites. The thing that always impresses me each year about working with Novus is the absolute clarity that all the people in the organization have about their company's mission and purpose, and the passion with which they talk about their role in advancing the mission. When I asked Thad Simons, the President and CEO of Novus, about his major achievements as CEO over the past few years, without hesitation, he talked about creating an organizational culture that supports the sustainability mission - "building Novus with a sense of purpose and passion and a service culture". A CEO who leads a sustainable culture is a CEO who creates a sustainable business. Novus has grown year on year and makes a significant contribution to advancing sustainable food and improving food security in many ways. This approach is paying off!
The highlights of the Novus 2012 Sustainability report are to be found in the approach to reporting as well as in the data and information presented. For the first time, Novus includes a description of the organization's value chain, which shows where and how Novus generates triple bottom line impacts. Also for the first time, each section of this report is presented personally by the managers and staff who lead the organization. In each section, a Novus person tells her or his story, in her or his own words. For example, the Human Resources VP and Director talk about how they are advancing this prized organizational culture, and different managers talk about their experience in nurturing partnerships to advance sustainable solutions, while EHS Managers talk about sustainable design of offices and working spaces (Novus has a LEED Platinum certified HQ which has won several awards). The insights shared by Novus people  - the narrative is what they actually said,  not professionally copy-written texts  - are what makes up the Novus story: information and data combined with the personal contribution, leadership and drive of all the individuals. Supplementing the written narrative are several short videos, prepared specially for the report, which give you, report-users and stakeholders, a chance to see the faces behind the names and experience the passion beyond the written word. 
At GRI B level, GRI-checked Sustainability Report, Novus is not short on transparency either, and this report includes evidence of good performance. For example, energy consumption in production operations reduced by 5.7% in 2012, and safety performance continues to be well above industry averages with an injury rate of 0.48 per 100 employees (compared to a rate of 3.8 in all sectors in the U.S.).

One of the highlights in helping prepare the report for me is the Novus employee wellness program - see insights from Judith Thelwell who manages the program. For years, Novus has been demonstrating leading practice with one of the most comprehensive and highly engaging employee wellness programs around, that offers practical benefits for employees, and financial benefits for both employees and the company. This is a vibrant program which enables employees to engage in health and fitness related activities and earn benefits for doing so, beyond the personal benefit to their own health. In my discussions, I chatted with Andy Critchell, who works in IT Systems at Novus, (read his insights, too, in the same section), and his story was very moving. Diagnosed with diabetes, Andy had to make some serious life changes. The accessibility of Novus wellness benefits helped Andy take control and actually terminate medication for his condition. Without me even having to ask, he confirmed that this actually makes him a more productive employee. This conversation brought home to me, once again, the massive impact companies have on the lives of individuals, and the force for good that companies can become.

Another inspiring part of this report is the section on Valuing Partnerships. Novus works in partnership in almost every area the company is involved in. In fact, partnership development is a core competency of Novus, whether this means global partnerships to effect major transformation - such as the collaboration with the International Egg Commission (IEC) to advance the consumption of eggs as a low-cost, highly accessible source of nutrition (read Joanne Ivy's insights - she's President of the IEC), or specific local partnerships, such as a multi-stakeholder public-private partnership in Chad, to help build a $50 million industrial poultry production facility which will provide around 30 percent of the country's poultry needs and contribute substantially to food security in that country. This partnership includes the Chad government as well as a Novus customer, Globoaves, and a financing partner, working together to provide affordable, wholesome food for the Chad population and improve the quality of their lives. Read insights from Luis Azevedo about how all this came about. Partnerships are at the heart of sustainability. Companies who know how to collaborate in the true spirit of partnership are the ones that will be around for many years to come.

Please take a look at the Novus report and as always, give feedback.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

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