Firms like GAP and L'Oreal and Mott MacDonald know that a proactive approach to gender issues can flag up brand risks to companies at an early stage
The empowerment of women is not only the greatest human rights issue in the world, “it’s the greatest economic issue in the world”, says Joe Keefe, president and chief executive of US investment management firm Pax World Management.
Keefe is co-chairman of a leadership group set up by the United Nations to promote its Women Empowerment Principles, seven principles to guide business on how to empower the women who work for them. At the annual WEP meeting at the UN last year, Keefe said that research had established “beyond a shadow of a doubt that investing in women and girls lifts whole nations, lifts the global GDP, and actually results in better corporate performance, better market performance, better capital markets and better economies”.
For companies that are worried about human rights risks in their supply chains, he argues, women can be an important early warning system, because they are the most vulnerable to risk.
“Dealing with gender issues in general helps companies to reduce regulatory and reputational or brand risks,” says Julie Gorte, senior vice-president for sustainable investing at Pax World. “That is true throughout the supply chain.”