Article (March-2020)


Women leadership and partnership in delivering SDGs

Priya Zutshi

Designation : -   Sr. Manager, Group Sustainability

Organization : -  Mahindra, Mumbai


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In recent years a lot of conversation has taken place on sustainable development goals and how we can go about achieving them. Adopted in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also known as the Global goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. India has been on the forefront of not only taking commitments on the goals but also on the performance front. Among other things the goals have enabled LED movement in the country to go viral, enabled appliances to become highly energy efficient, becoming the most energy efficient cement manufacturer in the world and aggressively driving the creation of renewable energy capacity. A lot of opportunities are being seen in the implementation of the goals. Business have also become aware of their potential. According to several studies including a report by Business & Sustainable Development Commission achieving the Global Goals could lead to an estimated US$12 trillion in market opportunities in four economic systems : food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being. This makes them interesting for business as it helps deliver on all the 3 P agenda of people, planet and profit and thus the concern in part for how to effectively deliver on them. On a different note another concern area for business have been the lack of women leadership and participation in corporate world. Quoting world bank figures in 2019 - Women made up 48 percent of the Indian population while it has the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world. Less than a third of women - 15 years or older - are working or actively looking for a job. A global study by Deloitte identified Indian women as holding 12.4 per cent of board seats and just 3.2 per cent of board chairs in 2017 (Deloitte, Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective - Fifth Edition). And with this abyssal performance what is at stake? A report by Business & Sustainable Development Commission titled - Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Goals, found that business teams that are gender - balanced with women in leadership roles have competencies in areas that are important to business growth and sustainable development : long-term thinking, innovation, collaboration, transparency, environmental management, and social inclusiveness.

And hence the connect between the two issues. The report makes the case that greater diversity and female leadership deepens these competencies, which then accelerates sustainable and longer-term business opportunities in line with the SDGs. This is because of their innate sense of finding solutions to very complex problems and are often impacted the most hence their leadership and participation vital for the success of SDGs. Women in leadership role have unique set of life experiences which in a country like India are especially important to have. This perspective can broaden and deepen the executive board's insight making it more effective and agile while responding to a broader agenda.

So how can one active this for companies? You will need to identify their unique talents, understand what they bring to the work environment to best enable their success, and then ensure that their voices are heard. We will need to identify women who can work asmentors, role-models, networking groups so that the very culture of workplaces change. Thus, the need to not only incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into a business's core operations, but also pushes businesses to envisiona powerful role that women leaders can play as accelerators toward the goals and in unlocking the new market opportunities that exist. An essential point is that women are more than beneficiaries of the Sustainable Development Goals, but leaders in driving SDG action and implementation. Women's leadership is central to delivering the goals as it could propel today's business into a new era - an era that champions a long-term perspective and places profit on equal footing with positive social and environment impacts. Changing business-as-usual about leadership will require a change in mindsets. There's an economic prize in both the SDGs and women's leadership. Like there is aneconomic prize for businesses that invest in the SDGs there is a payoff in women's leadership : According to McKinsey research, investments in workplace gender equality could add $28 trillion to the global annual GDP by 2025. So why not capture both by investing in women's leadership for the SDGs? This is a win all situation for sure.