Photo: BURN Clean Cookstoves
Sustainable Development Goal 5 set the bar to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” by 2030. Closing gender gaps in work and society could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025, according to McKinsey Global Institute. This figure underscores the socioeconomic importance as well as global economic potential available if we achieve gender parity, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day Forum led by the United Nations and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
The Forum is an annual, collective effort to convene government, private sector, and civil society and “put on our gender glasses” as one participant descriptively put it. Humbly, many stakeholders – both public and private – admitted this year that the data necessary to establish a baseline to then track our advancement towards this goal of gender parity remains either poor or non-existent. Examining both global value chains and individual business models through a gender lens allows for a foundation of knowledge that helps provide a clear understanding of how strategies and operations are influencing women’s empowerment.
Among the many conversations taking place during what should more aptly be named International Women’s Month, I found the dialogue around gender integration into business model and value chains particularly exciting. Encouragingly, more and more businesses are realizing that social impact and business profit do not always occur at the expense of one another. Not every company may aspire to be a social enterprise, but every company can become more gender inclusive by integrating women in product design, manufacturing, production, sales, and distribution channels within its value chain. In fact those that are integrating gender are, in turn, becoming more competitive. Companies from SMEs to multinationals can now tap into these social and economic impacts by adapting these lessons learned in the following areas into their own business models and value chains.
Under the banner of “Identity, Community, Vision,” over 1,300 delegates from around the world gathered in Turin, Italy on June 10 to attend the World Chambers Congress. The main focus of the three day event was how to strengthen small and medium enterprises (SMEs) worldwide to create jobs. Organizers focused on the need to create enabling environments for these businesses to grow and prosper – especially when it comes to youth and entrepreneurs.
“Chambers of Commerce play an increasingly important role in the global economy and are central to the International Chamber’s vision to promote trade as a driver of growth, jobs and sustainable development,” International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Chairman Terry McGraw told the delegates. “The World Chambers Congress is an essential forum to promote knowledge sharing between chambers from around the world – driving real development of public-private partnerships.”
Loss of profits and market share, diminishing brand reputation, and costly fines threaten companies that do not meet the international standards of ethics. As evident in the wake of scandals involving top brands such as Apple and Nike for example, today’s consumers are becoming better educated about overseas working conditions and the unfair treatment of workers.
As corporate social responsibility (CSR) has risen as a top priority in operations and supply chains, Software Advice, affiliated with Garner – one of the world’s leading information technology research and advisory companies – investigates “which link in the [supply] chain consumers claim to care about most.” In this report examining how corporate social responsibility impacts purchasing behavior, Software Advice assessed consumers’ willingness to pay more for ethical products. Three separate phases of surveys polled a nationally representative dataset of approximately 385 respondents.
In one survey, Software Advice asked three different groups of consumers how much more they were willing to pay for a product, normally priced at $100 that was produced more ethically with respect to a particular link in the supply chain: raw materials, manufacturing, and distribution. Respondents indicated that they would pay an average of $18.50 more if the raw materials were ethically sourced and as much as $27.60 more for a product that was made in good working conditions.
Faced with a corrupt judicial system, what strategies do Russian businesses employ to resolve business disputes? Lately, less murder and more litigation.
Faced with multinational firms who are liable under U.S. and U.K. laws for their Russian partners’ corrupt practices, how do Russian businesses gain access to international partners? Start putting in place anti-corruption compliance programs.
Those were some of the answers that came from experts from Russia and the U.S. had some answers at a recent panel discussion co-hosted by CIPE and the Kennan Institute, “Corruption and Business in Russian: National Problem, Regional Solutions.” Jordan Gans-Morse, an assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University, presented the results of his innovative research on how non-oligarchic firms are surviving in an atmosphere of endemic corruption. Against this backdrop, CIPE Moscow Program Officer Natalya L. Titova, joined by CIPE partners from St. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk, and Kaliningrad, spoke about a CIPE program in Russia that is helping regional businesses to meet international anti-corruption standards in order to join global value chains.
Corruption is one of the biggest challenges facing the developing world: it has a corrosive effect on democratic governance, undermines public trust, and wastes scarce resources. Crucially, corruption also represents a destructive tax on the private sector that hampers economic growth and development prospects.
A new paper by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Project on Prosperity and Development, The Costs of Corruption: Strategies for Ending a Tax on Private-sector Growth, estimates that narrowly-defined private sector corruption in 105 developing countries amounts to over $500 billion, 3.7 times the amount of official development assistance in 2011. While businesses are often blamed for corruption, and in particular bribery, the paper recognizes that corruption has both supply and demand sides, and that while businesses may contribute to corruption, they are also victims of it. As such, business must be a part of successful solutions to the corruption problem.
This is the point that CIPE constantly emphasizes – and applies – in its work around the world. In fact, the report cites numerous examples of CIPE’s successful anti-corruption programs, including collective action among leading companies in Thailand, legal reforms to guarantee disclosure of procurement contracts in Egypt, work on corporate governance and SME policy advocacy in Russia, improving public procurement transparency and governance in Kosovo, streamlining Armenia’s tax code, and strengthening property rights and supporting legal institutions in Kenya.