Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


GRI steps up diversity plea

November 2009

Companies have been urged to ask their suppliers for more information on diversity performance, and to consider submitting such data to third-party audits.

New guidance from the International Finance Corporation and the Global Reporting Initiative says businesses are putting too little pressure on suppliers over diversity, and suggests they should demand more information about their policies and programmes.

It recommends they should run supplier mentoring and training programmes on gender practices and reporting – supported by procurement procedures emphasizing that companies will not get orders if they fail to meet certain targets.

They could follow this by publishing a list of their best-performing suppliers on gender issues to encourage others to follow suit.

The guidance, unveiled at last month’s CSR Asia Summit in Malaysia, has come about because the GRI is concerned that companies rarely report much data on gender, despite the inclusion of gender-related indicators in the GRI sustainability reporting framework. Ernst Ligteringen, GRI’s chief executive, said businesses were in need of ‘practical, hands-on guidance on how to measure and disclose their performance on gender’.  

The document was compiled from observations during consultation workshops with businesses, civil society, investors and labour representatives. A ‘high-level advisory group’ was established to guide the process, with the German, Icelandic and Swiss governments as lead sponsors. The advisory group included Amy Augustine, diversity manager at US-based Calvert Asset Management, Kate Grosser, a researcher at the International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and Marianne Mwaniki, Standard Chartered’s head of sustainability engagement governance.

The guidance says companies should consider:

  making a ‘clear and explicit’ commitment to gender diversity in their mission statements
  producing a timetabled plan for achieving that commitment
  naming a board member to champion gender equality
  appointing an individual or team to manage gender equality
  including gender as a performance indicator for staff.

In addition, it says companies should consider encouraging the placing of women and men in occupations not normally considered ‘typical’ for their gender, and should review whether their products and services are available to customers regardless of their gender.

The GRI governing body is shortly to consider whether to update its gender recommendations but says it hopes the guidance will help businesses to make progress in the meantime.

Other recommendations:

Companies should:

  consider supporting access to childcare either by providing childcare services or information on such services
  ensure that women serve on committees that make decisions about community investment projects
  make sure women in the community are consulted, perhaps through an external women’s  community consultative council
  review and monitor marketing and advertizing materials to ensure they are free of gender discrimination.   

Global Reporting Initiative | Global | Diversity

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