Data Finds Link Between Sustainability and Gender Mix on Management Boards

Data Finds Link Between Sustainability and Gender Mix on Management Boards

March 4, 2021

PARIS — When women have a stronger presence on company management boards and executive committees, it also has a positive impact on their sustainability decision-making. That is the finding of the latest research from Ethics & Boards, a Paris-based watchdog that uses data to benchmark key corporate social responsibility criteria on companies worldwide.

The new data was revealed Thursday by Ethics & Boards cofounder Floriane de Saint Pierre in a webinar hosted by Paris Good Fashion, an initiative aiming to push the fashion industry toward adopting more sustainable practices, held just ahead of International Women’s Day next week. “We can have a major role to play when it comes to key decisions within a company,” summed up de Saint Pierre.

Outlining the latest moves in the industry, she highlighted that among the firms in the E & B Fashion and Luxury 30 index, which include the sector’s biggest listed companies from all over the world, there are now six female company heads, compared with just one four years ago. “American companies are ahead of those in Europe in this respect,” observed de Saint Pierre, despite the fact that overall, gender parity among company management and board members is higher in Europe, largely due to the 2017 introduction of a quota law in France.

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Of the companies in the index whose advisory boards are made up of more than 40 percent women, she said, 60 percent had put in place a CSR or sustainable development committee, versus 40 percent of companies overall. Some 20 percent had named directors of CSR or sustainable development, compared with 6.7 percent on average.

In addition, the importance of sustainability in a chief executive officer’s variable compensation package was much higher among companies with a more feminine-weighted board structure — 14.2 percent versus 6.3 percent.

“Having sustainability experts on executive committees is a major priority,” said de Saint Pierre. “Another is making sure that younger people have a role on advisory boards,” she added, praising a new bill in Canada that would oblige listed companies to include at least one person under the age of 35 on their boards. In Ethics & Boards’ data, the average age of board members among companies with more women directors was lower — 56.7 years for companies with more than 40 percent of women on the board, compared with 62.5 on average.

Another finding that came out of the research was that companies with a higher proportion of women directors and managers tended to have a more diverse range of board members from different countries. More women are also sitting on nomination committees and remuneration committees than before, the research found, which could have a major impact on areas like recruitment and equal pay in the sector in the years ahead.

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