“The day has finally come – a critical landmark in the saga of global climate change has just occurred, and hardly anyone has noticed. The Carteret Islanders of Papua New Guinea have become the world’s first entire community to be displaced by climate change. They’re the first official refugees of global warming and they’re packing up their lives to move out of the way of ever-rising waters that threaten to overtake their homes and crops. The island they call home will be completely underwater by 2015.” So writes Brian Merchant in response to the story that first broke a few years ago, suggesting that these islanders could be the first who’d be forced out of their homes.
Ironically, even though the evacuation has taken place, the story passed with barely a murmur in the press. While only about 2,000 people have been affected, the loss of their homes and way of life is still a tragic occurrence. “And this is certain to be merely the first such community to be forced into such action—with sea levels continuing their steady rise, and a distinct lack of meaningful action from governments of rich, polluting nations, more helpless communities are sure to be displaced.”
How does climate change link in with gender balance?
An overview of any social or business approach in the world today can be defined by the 4 Ps – People, Planet, Profits and Purpose (purpose is a newly added ‘P’ – typical of a 21st century change of approach). Throughout the world if we look at the main thrust of business to-date, it is clear that profits to shareholders have overwhelmingly taken preference over the other 3 Ps. There’s much lip-service on every company website about community service initiatives, but there is also enough evidence to show that many corporations put aside their scruples to deliver these profits. As Plan B writes: “We read about short cuts that lead to oil spills, overworked and overtired employees that cost societies trillions of dollars in fatigue related accidents, cheap toys that cause sickness in children, poorly built schools that collapse, greed in the executive suites – on and on and on.”
Traditionally, corporations have always been headed by men – even in 2014, 95% of CEOs are male, along with 85% of directors. The strong emphasis on profits before people and the planet is a cornerstone of the alpha-male construct that has driven business. Consequently, corporate greed and the lack of concern for the environment in the pursuit of profits have led to the present parlous state of our planet. When a leading country like the US will not ratify the Kyoko Protocol (Canada did but then withdrew) for fear of the damage it might do to the country’s economy, we can see that priorities are completely out of line.
Women are ‘greener’ than men?
Research, however, shows that women rate people, planet and purpose higher than profits. In May 2011, Greenbiz wrote: “According to a large number of studies women are more green than men in both their attitudes and their actions.” Similar results came following an international survey by Synovate, proving that women are greener than men. It has emerged that women are far more concerned about preserving the ecology of the planet and want to invest in companies that show their commitment to practices that won’t harm the environment any further. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t concerned with profits, any more than men don’t care about people or the planet – but it does show an important ranking of priorities.
Here is a summary of the many different areas of research that make the point that women are better for the environment than their male counterparts:
- According to Hansa-GCR, women decision makers in business are more environmentally-conscious than men. The Center for Women’s Business Research (CWBR) released a brief called the “Environmental Consumerism Among Women Business Owners,” that reported the environmental friendliness of a product does have a moderate to major influence on the purchasing habits of 77% of women decision-makers in business.
- Women are more likely than men to buy eco-oriented or recyclable products, according to an international study. This is significant because research indicates that women make at least 75% of home purchase decisions.
- The Business News Daily wrote in December 2010, that “men are nearly twice as likely to believe that buying products marketed as green makes no difference.” Men are also much less likely to check that their purchases come from companies that brand their products as “ethical” than women (30 percent versus 42 percent) and twice as likely to believe that the green movement is just a marketing ploy (16 percent versus 8 percent).
- Women in industrialized countries are more likely to buy ecologically friendly and organic foods, more likely to recycle and more interested in efficient energy use, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And a survey of research by investigators at Stanford, Ohio State University and the Associated Press found women perceived greater vulnerability to risks and were more willing to pay higher income taxes and gasoline prices to protect the environment.
- According to a 2010 study by Tiller, women are more likely than men to experience “green guilt,” as the poll calls it–41% versus just 27% of men.
- The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found women are less likely than men to support environmental spending cuts and are less sympathetic to business when it comes to environmental regulation. They also have more positive feelings about environmental activists and are concerned about environmental risks to health, especially locally.
- A new study from the United Nations confirms that women have a lower carbon footprint and are better for the world’s future health.
- As for protection of the planet and people, it has been proved that women are more invested in good corporate governance, complying with safety standards, obeying legal requirements, are committed to better adherence to codes of conduct, and pay more attention to minimizing and controlling risk.
This is just some of the evidence that people and the planet will be better off in the hands of women – but in order for this to have an effect on the behaviour of big business, it will be necessary for women to be equally represented in positions of authority. By 2020, women will also comprise two-thirds of university graduates in the developed world, so there is no shortage of skilled women available to move into these senior posts. Of interest, also by 2020, millennials will form half the workforce and they appear to be keen to work for purpose-driven leaders with ‘A Better World’ agenda, rather than corporations focused purely on the bottom line.
It is important to note that all these surveys include generalisations based on statistics – we can all think of many men who are intimately concerned with the planet and making the workplace better for people. Nonetheless, when talking about percentages and overall numbers, women as a gender are clearly more concerned about the environment than men at large. It has been suggested that this could be that men don’t understand the consequences of their actions. A recent analysis of eight years of Gallup Poll data suggests that U.S. women have greater scientific knowledge of climate change than men, and women also express slightly greater concern about this threat. If it is just a need for better education, it will be most helpful when women are given a voice that men will hear and respond to. This is where the ‘female factor’ will radically alter the business landscape, with gender balancing being something not only to be wished for, but to be welcomed with gratitude as a true panacea to our current ills.