In Your Own Words: Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director

Lise Kingo supplemented two humanist bachelors with a Graduate Diploma from CBS and ended on the executive floor of Novo Nordisk as Executive Vice President for Corporate Relations. Today, she is the CEO and Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, working to develop, implement and disseminate responsible business practices in accordance with ten universally accepted UN principles for human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption – and CBS' newest Distinguished Alumna.


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Lise Kingo heads a morning meeting in the corner office on Manhattan - note the Danish pastries.

What were you like when you studied at CBS?

I was an incredibly committed student. My goal was to quickly gain the fundamental financial and commercial knowledge to supplement my humanistic background in classical civilisation and religious studies. It was an absolute prerequisite in order for me to do well in the jobs I held when I was studying for my diploma. 

In the first part of the diploma programme I worked in an advertising agency where I, among other things, was responsible for accounts, and I had just landed a job in the promotional department at Novozymes when I studied for the second part of the programme in Marketing Economics.

How did you land your first job after graduating from CBS?

As mentioned, I was already working at Novozymes, but with a Graduate Diploma in Marketing Economics there was ample room to pursue the many opportunities available in a large international company, which already back then was serious about being a responsible, sustainable, and long-term business. 

The combination of the humanistic and financial concepts turned out to be an especially great entry-point into the work that would become a 25-year long career in Novozymes and Novo Nordisk.

Which moments in your career have been defining — and how?

I have experienced many incredible moments in my career, but if I have to just mention a few, then being appointed as the company’s first female Executive Vice President in 2002 at Novo Nordisk was one of those moments. It marked the beginning of a unique journey of 13 years as a member of the executive management team. 

We were a ‘dream team’ that led the company to become one of the world’s most successful businesses — financially, environmentally, and socially. As a member of the executive management team, it was an absolute prerequisite that I mastered the financial and commercial tools, but it was also a strength that I could add the more humanistic value-based perspective.

Another defining moment in my career was to be appointed executive director of the UN Global Compact by the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. Entering the amazing UN General Assembly Hall, knowing that in just a moment my new position would be announced, was an unforgettable experience. It was like closing a circle for my entire career.

What is the most valuable experience you gained at CBS that you still use in your daily work?

Today, I am the CEO of the UN Global Compact, which we, to the degree possible, run as a global business. So, every day I am putting all my knowledge from the diploma programme to work in order to power our global strategy which focuses on creating balanced growth, optimizing our organisation in New York and across more than 70 local networks across the world, as well as strengthen our brand and participant satisfaction. 

During my years with Novozymes and Novo Nordisk, I also benefitted greatly from all the good marketing tools that one gains in a diploma programme. Stakeholder models, product life cycle curves, and learning curves have been essential to me when explaining why responsible business is good business and truly two sides of the same coin, both internally and externally.

Over the past couple of years, I have been using the AIDA model to explain to my global team how we launch the Sustainable Development Goals to companies across the world. First, we must create Awareness, then Interest, Desire, and Action. Our global campaign slogan is ‘Making Global Goals Local Business’, and last year, 75 percent of our companies reported that they were working towards the goals. Moreover, in 69 percent of these companies, the CEO is leading these efforts. So, while there is much more work to do, we are off to a great start.  

Have you maintained a relation to CBS since you graduated?

CBS is a central institution in both Denmark and internationally, and it is very well-renowned in my circles. Through the years, I have maintained a close relation to CBS-president Per Holten-Andersen, for instance, through participation in different boards of directors. I’ve also worked with several skilled professors on sustainable business operations — and with many students. 

I’m proud to say that CBS is a partner of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), an initiative of the UN Global Compact. And recently, a team of committed CBS students paid a visit to our New York office, so there are plenty of areas of collaboration between my current work and CBS.

The page was last edited by: Alumni // 10/20/2021