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Bacteria Work Shows Profit in Openness

It was an experiment with bacteria that emboldened Novozymes A/S (NZYMB) into stepping up disclosures about its work to pressure groups. The openness paid off, and now the manufacturer is part of a growing club pushing transparency worldwide.

The maker of enzymes for chemical reactions was using microbes that show resistance to antibiotics. Greenpeace and WWF wanted changes, saying genes might escape the lab and make harmful bacteria such as salmonella immune to medicines. The Danish company relented and spent $17 million on a new process.

“We were forced to find an alternative,” Chief Executive Officer Steen Riisgaard said in an interview today. “That proved to be much better, so it turned out to be a good investment.”

Companies from beverage maker PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) (PEP) to sporting goods maker Puma SE (PUM) are finding that lowering their impact on the environment can also boost earnings. Their efforts mean lower fuel and water use and savings on waste disposal, or in the case of Novozymes, just doing things differently.

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