Initiatives centering women in net-zero strategies create a multiplier effect towards supply chain resilience

Week of 15 November 2021

Initiatives centering women in net-zero strategies create a multiplier effect towards supply chain resilience

Our key takeaway: In supply chains where women play a key role, such as apparel and agriculture, companies cannot afford to ignore their contributions to climate resilience. By thinking holistically and investing in efforts that address the dual topics of women’s empowerment and the climate crisis, companies can reduce their Scope 3 emissions and increase supply chain resilience.

Business Fights Poverty and the PwC team implementing the WOW programme for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office have created a toolkit: ‘Women and the Net Zero Economy: A Transition Toolkit for Businesses with Global Supply Chains.’ It aims to “stimulate action on a gender-just transition to a net zero economy by sparking collaboration across functions and addressing environmental and social impacts together,” with a particular focus on Scope 3 emissions in the supply chain.

    • Women face disproportionate climate impacts: For example, women are 14 times more likely to die during environmental disasters. They also play a key economic role in the sectors likely to face the worst impacts of a changing climate. Per the report, “[w]omen play a central (but often invisible) role in global supply chains as producers, distributors and entrepreneurs, e.g. 43% of the world’s agricultural labour force are women.” As sectors like agriculture are challenged by the climate crisis, women are likely to suffer loss of income, risking the well-being of their households and broader communities.
    • Inherent value for business in addressing gender and climate holistically: The report points to the ways in which “addressing the twin challenges of gender and net zero can create value” for companies—especially in their supply chains where most companies have the highest GHG emissions (Scope 3): For one, it can “increase impact and commercial return” by empowering women to lead and take part in climate mitigation and adaptation efforts in the supply chain, which has been shown to be successful in a variety of countries and settings, per the report. Investing in women and net zero together can also help generate innovative approaches to the climate crisis, such as “new technologies, products, services, processes and business models” that build climate resilience in communities on the ground and in the supply chain. Finally, as investors increase their interest in topics like gender, ESG and climate, there is an opportunity for business to meet this rising demand with robust and meaningful programs to tackle issues through more targeted and strategic investment.
    • Three core ways for companies to have an impact on gender and climate in their supply chains: First, companies should break down internal siloes across the business by enhancing communication between different functions handling environmental and social issues. Companies can ask themselves how to “create procurement policies that align our gender and climate commitments” and advocate for policy changes to government and regulators. Second, companies should take a holistic view when considering ESG issues, “embedding action on gender and climate into core business and supply chains” through leadership commitment, a rights-respecting culture and business structure, and the right KPIs and incentives. Finally, this work requires collaboration both internally and with external partners, including peers, civil society, governments and, crucially, women and communities themselves. The report gives some concrete steps for companies to consider: “Create decent green jobs for women; Enhance the education and skills of women workers; Source from women innovators and entrepreneurs in the green economy; Ensure women can overcome the digital divide and access digital technology, products and services; Promote leadership opportunities for women (from supply chain to boardroom); Advocate to address social norms that create barriers, e.g. land tenure.”

For more, see Work and Opportunities for Women (WOW), Harvard Kennedy School, Business Fights Poverty, PwC and UKAID, Women and The Net Zero Economy: A Transition Toolkit For Businesses With Global Supply Chains (November 2021)