CSR, gender, and business performance

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While progress has been made on CSR reporting in areas such as the environment and social reporting (see for example recent reports by the Sustainable Investment Research Analyst Network and the Global Reporting Initiative), to date there is no concise global framework for gender and CSR reporting. Company reporting on gender equality was for many years confined to diversity policies, along with some program information. Increasingly, though, there are CSR reporting initiatives such as that by IBM that promote a more holistic approach to gender impact reporting. Why? The business benefits are obvious:

  • reporting on gender helps companies in recruiting, retaining, and motivating female employees
  • gender impact reporting strengthens a company’s reputation as a “women-friendly” enterprise and can help attract consumers and investors that are driven by ethical interests
  • some companies improve brand-differentiation by targeting women customers or women’s interests groups.

For example, IBM’s efforts to increase the number of women in the workforce helps to achieve its current strategic goal of significantly increasing business with small and medium-size businesses, of which a substantial portion are run by women. According to IBM’s CSR report, “IBM's supplier diversity program helps increase purchasing opportunities and contracts with diverse businesses.”

What is needed, therefore, is a gender and CSR reporting framework that goes beyond the number of women on the board, number of female workers, and women’s wages to include the entire value-chain, including relevant human resource management indicators by gender, women-owned businesses as suppliers, women consumers, and investors.
At IFC (and thanks to the OECD), we started gathering some ideas on what such a framework should look like through a public wiki. We look forward to getting your inputs through both the wiki and the blog and would welcome examples of other innovative projects being run by companies.

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Authors

Carmen Niethammer

Employment Lead, IFC Gender Secretariat

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