Gender diversity creates greener companies and parliaments

5th October 2018

P5 business people credit alamy

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Jon Allen

Companies with gender-balanced boards are far less likely to be sued for breaching environmental laws, while parliaments with greater female representation are more inclined to be tough on climate change.

That is according to the findings of two recent studies, which suggest women, who are disproportionately impacted by the effects of global warming, could play a more central role in tackling the problem than previously thought.

Research by the University of Adelaide found that average environmental lawsuit exposure reduces by 1.5% for each female added to a company’s board, typically saving businesses around $3.1m in each case. A separate report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (GCEC) shows that parliaments with a greater number of women are more likely to designate protected land and ratify environmental treaties.

The University of Adelaide’s Dr Chelsea Liu said gender socialisation and ethics theories could offer explanations, which suggest girls are generally brought up to be more caring towards others than boys.

“This can enhance environmental decision-making,” she continued. “Previous research also found that female executives are less overconfident and more willing to seek expert advice than their male counterparts.”

The findings add further weight to calls for mandatory gender quotas on corporate boards, with representation currently skewed at around 85% to 15% in favour of men worldwide, according to research by accountancy firm Deloitte. A survey of sustainability professionals by IEMA found earlier this year that men hold 77% of leadership roles among its practitioner members.

This is despite consultancy firm McKinsey & Company finding that businesses in the top quartile for gender diversity on boards are 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than firms in the bottom quartile.

Moreover, the International Trade Union Confederation forecasts that full participation by women in the global economy could boost GDP by as much as $28trn every year by 2025.

“Empowering women in leadership is critical for the environment and the global economy,” the GCEC said.

“Women are uniquely well situated to identify, champion and help deliver sustainable solutions.”

Image credit: Alamy


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