On International Women's Day (IWD), companies around the world can reflect on progress made toward gender equity while acknowledging just how much remains to be done. The data shows that far too many of the roughly 190 million women employed in global supply chains are still underpaid, subjected to poor working conditions and vulnerable to sexual harassment or violence. Responding to this year’s IWD theme, #EmbraceEquity, we highlight some of the best practices being adopted across our network to uplift women in supply chains, with an emphasis on the need for quantifiable, gender-specific data.
Using Procurement to Further Gender Equity
Alongside other environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria, gender diversity is becoming an increasingly important factor in sourcing decisions. A commitment to equity is now a competitive differentiator that can reward both buyers and suppliers with more business, top talent and employee recognition. A multi-year study by McKinsey found that diversity and gender equity in the workplace correlates with better financial performance. But while the case for equity has become more compelling, many suppliers are still unsure of how to get started.
Collaboration between buyers and suppliers is the key to building more equitable supply chains. Buyers – typically more mature in fostering diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) – can provide suppliers with the support and resources they need to improve working conditions for women and find better ways to attract, retain, promote and empower them.
Providing the Impetus for Suppliers to Improve
As the performance data of the 100,000+ suppliers in our network shows, more companies are scrutinizing their internal DEI practices and taking steps to reduce discrimination and gender bias. In 2022, 47% of companies in the EcoVadis network had DEI policies in place, and 21% enrolled their staff in DEI-related training. Looking at other best practices to address workplace inequalities, there's even more scope for improvement: only 16% of companies took specific action to prevent discrimination during recruitment, and just 3% of companies rated in 2022 had collective agreements on DEI issues. Supplier diversity programs are still exceptionally rare, implemented by just 0.2% of companies in the network over the past year.
To meaningfully advance women in supply chains, businesses must push beyond their organizational boundaries and cascade DEI values and commitments to their suppliers. Now, companies have a better way of putting pressure on their trading partners to improve gender equality and equity outcomes – if they want to echo their values into their supply chains, they need to build programs for assessing and improving supplier DEI performance. This will also require suppliers to be transparent about their workforce management practices and take ownership of any equity gaps identified.
Building the Capacity to Collect Supply Chain Data and Track Progress on DEI
Companies need gender-specific data to understand their suppliers' capacity to promote DE&I and prevent discrimination. Yet, as with the other S topics in ESG, businesses too often lack quantifiable information highlighting remaining barriers to gender equity at work. A standardized supplier scorecard can be used to identify gaps for improvement, paving the way for buyer-supplier collaboration on priority areas and capacity building through, for example, the EcoVadis Academy.
Keeping a close eye on suppliers' performance metrics and monitoring their progress is key to continuous supply chain improvement, as well as having a good buyer-supplier relationship. Suppliers often have trouble reporting on their progress and capturing data through quantitative key performance indicators (KPIs). Collecting quality data requires keeping buyers and suppliers in agreement about metrics and assessment tools. To help our network to provide high-quality supply chain data, we've built out the EcoVadis platform metrics feature, allowing business partners to exchange data on gradable KPIs, including gender diversity metrics.
Delivering on our purpose, EcoVadis’ goal for 2023 is to have 23,000 companies report on gender diversity in executive positions. This International Women's Day, we hope to inspire you and your business network to raise the bar on diversity, equity and inclusion by taking on more ambitious goals and encouraging your suppliers to do the same. Embracing equity is about creating opportunities for everyone to thrive.
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