How can business most effectively support women’s economic empowerment, through their value chains and beyond?

The issue of women’s access to economic opportunities has attracted renewed international attention this year with the launch in January of the UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

 

The UK Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening is a Panel member and has initiated an extensive UK-based consultation to gather views from across civil society, business and other sectors on how best to promote and support women’s economic empowerment.

 

As part of this consultation process, Business Fights Poverty and CARE International UK are bringing together businesses and their NGO partners to focus on how business can most effectively support women’s economic empowerment through their value chains and beyond. The online discussions on 19 May 2016 are the first of a series of events organised as part of this Challenge.

 

Questions for discussion

 

This online discussion will address the Challenge question: How can business most effectively support women’s economic empowerment, through their value chains and beyond?

 

Specifically, we would like to explore the following questions:

 

1. How can business best support women’s economic empowerment working through their value chains?

 

2. How can companies’ internal policies and practices contribute to greater economic empowerment for women?

 

3. How can business use external marketing and customer engagement to support women’s economic empowerment?

 

4. Which actions should companies take  (possibly in partnership with governments/donors/civil society) to tackle wider systemic constraints to women’s empowerment, such as access to finance?


We would like to hear from you about the most effective ways in which business can help empower women: is it action in one of the four areas listed here, or perhaps another kind of intervention altogether? Share your experience and examples, tell us what work and where further action is needed.  

 

Editor's Note:

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We are working with CARE in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire to improve financial access by establishing Village Savings and Loans Associations in cocoa farming communities - about 70 percent of participants in VSLAs are women. Our decision to align Cocoa Life with our cocoa sourcing means that progress with improving gender equality will directly benefit a growing proportion of our cocoa supply. Our ultimate goal is to source all our cocoa sustainably, the majority via Cocoa Life.

Gerry Boyle said:

From CARE’s many years of experience working in agricultural value chains, we think that some of the key issues on women are – identifying where women are working in the value chain, taking a systems approach, looking at where risk lies, innovation and getting to scale. (See our report:   “Adding Value to Value Chains”, http://bit.ly/1PKEKJ0 )

I think signing up to the UNW Empowerment Principles as a framework for guidance is a great starting point. A company’s sustainability and responsibility framework should address its most material risks and opportunities and be linked to SDGs. An equality lens can be applied to all aspects of business and decision making. Our public sustainability and responsibility targets to 2020 are in three core areas relating to our material issues: leadership in alcohol in society; reducing environmental impact; and building thriving communities. Our commitment to building thriving communities includes a specific commitment to women internally around talent and externally around building thriving communities

Also in dairy in Bangladesh, we have developed a chain of franchisees of quality dairy agricultural and veterinary products – Krishi Utsho http://bit.ly/1NyaW4f.  Together these have substantially raised the incomes of the women dairy farmers and provided women with new microenterprise opportunities, particularly in running the milk collection points which work on the basis of a commission on sales to the dairy processor, thus reducing the need to tie up capital in managing buying and selling

I think we have to relate meaningful participation in economic development activities by mobility and decision making pattern in agriculture and value chain activities.  We should also do a some level of market barriers assessment on how women are not able to participate effectively for some agriculture  value chain before designing the appropriate VC interventions

Hester le Roux said:

SESSION 1, Q1: How can business best support women’s economic empowerment working through their value chains?

To get companies to see that gender empowerment is a core part of business development, successful strategies include: i) making the business case for it; ii) model behaviour; iii) use industry associations for greater advocacy and; iv) using company policies and practices.  Coca Cola and Unilver are both making concerted efforts to make women a core part of their supply chain and customer base. 

For those not familiar with the WEP:More than 1,200 business leaders have signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP), a set of Principles for business offering guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.  Launched in 2010, the WEP is a collaboration between UN Women and UN Global Compact. The WEP emphasize the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality and women's empowerment.


georgie said:

I think signing up to the UNW Empowerment Principles as a framework for guidance is a great starting point. A company’s sustainability and responsibility framework should address its most material risks and opportunities and be linked to SDGs. An equality lens can be applied to all aspects of business and decision making. Our public sustainability and responsibility targets to 2020 are in three core areas relating to our material issues: leadership in alcohol in society; reducing environmental impact; and building thriving communities. Our commitment to building thriving communities includes a specific commitment to women internally around talent and externally around building thriving communities

We have found that it's important to demonstrate the business case for creating shared value if possible in commercial or financial language that business stakeholders can understand, through savings, growth opportunities, reputational benefits, licence to operate and grow. We have developed some internal tools to help us do this such as the social impact framework but this is a work in progress

Absolutely agreed Ekanath. Gender sensitive value chain analyses are not yet part of mainstream analytical thinking on agriculture, and using tools to really understand where women are operating across the chain, their activity gaps, and the barriers they face is key to successful company strategies to support women maximize their economic potential.

Ekanath Khatiwada said:

I think we have to relate meaningful participation in economic development activities by mobility and decision making pattern in agriculture and value chain activities.  We should also do a some level of market barriers assessment on how women are not able to participate effectively for some agriculture  value chain before designing the appropriate VC interventions

Hester le Roux said:

SESSION 1, Q1: How can business best support women’s economic empowerment working through their value chains?

I second Gerry. The HERproject takes a two-pronged approach to its workplace programs implement in the global supply chains.

1. Working directly with farm and factory management to ensure that workplace systems, policies and practices enable the environment for women to uptake empowered behaviors.

2. Making low-income workers (predominantly women) the recipient of BCC trainings. Empowering women in global value chains requires a deep understanding of the specific needs that low-income working women face. We’ve identified three primary areas of empowerment as a focus for HERproject: heath, financial inclusion, and positive gender relations.

Mondelez International's Cocoa Life program will track and report impact against 10 global key performance indicators (KPIs) that correspond to the program’s five key areas. Data will be disaggregated by gender where relevant, for example incomes, productivity, access to training, and participation in decision making at community and cooperative level.

Sumana Hussain said:

I think plugging the data and knowledge gap in this area is critical and business can play a key role in doing this.  Through their supply chains business can have access to information on the types of work that women do and their economic contribution.  Setting up systems to collect information on how women participate at various stages of production in supply chains would make an invaluable contribution to our understanding. As long as women’s work remains invisible and uncounted we cannot design effective strategies to improve their economic outcomes. 

Hi, I am Parvez , Director Private Sector Engagement at CARE Bangladesh.

There has to be first of all an appreciation among business leaders that everybody wins when you invest on women. Women are often not even part of formal value chains, rather part of unpaid labor within the value chain.  It is not as straightforward as one would like, to see through that women are actually engaging productively in value chains and more importantly benefiting equitably from their engagement. 

For companies, they have to make deliberate attempts to ensure that women are participating in value chains, and gainfully. This is where NGO and private sector co-creations and collaborations can work out. My colleague Gerry Boyle has talked about the Dairy Value chain experience in Bangladesh. To add to that, animal rearing has always been a household occupation where women would engage, but that never constituted a primary source of income for the household or an economic role for the women. This is where CARE and BRAC Dairy partnership has mad all the difference. By introducing digital fat testing, fair price (and much higher than what they would get earlier)  has been ensured.

The value chain of milk collection for processing has fully fledged and become efficient as a result of CARE’s complimentary investment (through private foundation’s social investment) side by side BRAC’s core business investment. BRAC being the lead firm has benefited from the investment that has offered it the risk capital to venture into this new business model, while as many as 30,000 households (75%of the participants are women) have permanently scaled out of poverty, generated economic and social wealth to improve their livelihoods by investing on health, education and other essential social services. A new cadre of service providers, called collection point managers, have emerged who are facilitating transactions between the milk processing units and households who produce milk through animal husbandry. Collection point managers, offer aggregation points as well as fat testing provision paving the way for transparent terms of trade for the individual households based on quality of milk. Extension services in the form of inputs, feed, vaccines and animal health services have emerged through a social franchise of micro entrepreneurs.

Referring to this extract from the WEP CEO statement: “Equal treatment of women and men is not just the right thing to do – it is also good for business. The full participation of women in our enterprises and in the larger community makes sound business sense now and in the future. A broad concept of sustainability and corporate responsibility that embraces women’s empowerment as a key goal will benefit us all.” - What are the main elements of the business case for women's empowerment for you, Georgie?

georgie said:

We have found that it's important to demonstrate the business case for creating shared value if possible in commercial or financial language that business stakeholders can understand, through savings, growth opportunities, reputational benefits, licence to operate and grow. We have developed some internal tools to help us do this such as the social impact framework but this is a work in progress

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