Gender transformative approaches are good for business. How can companies accelerate their adoption? Insights from recent CGAP and IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative events point to a number of answers, including targeted experimentation, alignment on measurement metrics, robust benchmarking data, and opportunities to share and learn in non-competitive fora. And all in ways that make business sense.
The “Gender Transformative Business Models: Opportunity to Action” events engaged global corporations, financial service providers, agricultural producers and processors, and rural service providers, including first-movers and those new to the gender transformative journey.
Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), virtually joined executives from Agrifirm, FMS Farms, JDE, Mastercard, Rabobank, Root Capital, Safaricom, Wi-Agri, Women in Cocoa Cooperative, IDH, and CGAP pictured here at the hybrid Executive Leadership Roundtable on Gender Transformative Business Models in the Global Agricultural and Food Sectors—one of the “Gender Transformative Business Models: Opportunity to Action” convenings, held November 15, 2021.
Three key insights emerged from these events
Gender equity creates business value. As highlighted in the opening remarks by Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), gender equity is a fundamental source of value creation for companies. In Indonesia, for example, a global coffee trader realized that their trainings were mostly reaching men, though 80% of Indonesian coffee farmers are women. In response, they changed their approach and now train female and male farmers on cultivation, processing and marketing. They revised their training materials to elevate the roles and responsibilities of female coffee farmers and now offer training at times and in locations convenient to both women and men. As a result, the knowledge gap between female and male coffee growers narrowed, coffee production increased, and the amount of coffee supplied to this trader jumped 131%.
Gender transformative business models go beyond simply including women and address the underlying social norms that contribute to inequities. They design for people’s different needs and constraints, and aim to foster change in individual capacities, gendered social norms and expectations, and institutional rules and practices. According to the IDH Gender Toolkit, in Uganda, intra-household conflict led to the sale of unripe, low-quality coffee beans by both women and men, as well as adverse interpersonal effects, including gender-based violence (GBV). Women were actively participating in coffee production but had limited influence on their income from coffee or how they spent their time. In response, workshops on joint decision-making among female and male smallholder coffee farmers contributed to mutual trust and the sale of good quality, ripe beans at a higher price. They also increased their household incomes and joint management of assets and incomes, established a more equal division of labor, and reduced instances of GBV.
Four primary drivers motivate companies toward gender transformative business models. Firms want to build stronger, more resilient supply chains; increase the number and diversity of their clients; attract and retain talented employees and business leaders; and/or add value to people’s lives and livelihoods. Their first step in implementing gender transformative approaches varies. Building leadership buy-in, for example, could be enhanced with internal frameworks advancing a company-wide commitment to gender transformative approaches and women-centered strategies that provide operational guidance. Workplace policies on engaging with employees, customers, and suppliers could be adopted or revised. Gender transformative approaches could be embedded in partnerships, targeted data collection and analysis, and data-driven, customer-centered product development. A range of company actions and policies can start the journey toward a more gender transformative business model.
How can companies accelerate their journey toward gender transformative business models?
Measure. As H.M. Queen Máxima said in her remarks, “What gets measured, counts.” Tools are needed to assess and track gender transformative approaches that use simple, common metrics and easy-to-collect data. For starters, it is important to have a shared understanding and alignment on what a gender transformative business model is and the specific elements that constitute it. This understanding gives rise to widely accepted, easily implemented metrics.
Benchmark. Good, standardized data facilitates good decisions, both within companies and at the market level. They can inform investors assessing risk and returns from various potential investments and shape the market understanding of what gender transformative business models look like across different industries and regions. With standardized benchmarking data, businesses can measure against peers and learn from their comparative standing.
Experiment. A range of approaches can be designed and tested to center women in business and see what adds value, both to women’s lives and livelihoods and throughout the companies working to serve them as suppliers, clients, or as part of their employee base.
Share and learn. Companies can learn from their peers in non- or pre-competitive fora, sharing and absorbing insights that save resources, spark innovation and leverage talent, internally and externally.
IDH and CGAP are aligned in their conviction that advancing gender transformative approaches adds value to business, people’s lives and livelihoods, and the environment. Together, we are creating a roadmap to help companies active in agriculture and food systems build evidence, generate buy-in, create allies and take action by embarking together on the journey towards gender transformative approaches.
This article was originally published by CGAP.