By Alice Allan, Challenge Director, Business Fights Poverty
Gender Based Violence (GBV) affects 1 in 3 women globally and has been referred to by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres as a political ‘global pandemic’ and ‘a mark of shame on all our societies’. A new Business Fights Poverty toolkit has been published to help companies tackle violence and harassment and domestic violence. These two forms of violence can affect employees full and equal participation in the workforce.
Gender-based violence affects employees physical and mental health and well-being, leading to stress, anxiety, loss of self-esteem and motivation. Often women are forced to leave their jobs. It contributes to the gender pay gap and seriously affects women's opportunities for advancement and career progression. Women usually bear the brunt of gender-based violence, although others are at risk, including men and members of the LGBTQI community.
The costs of GBV are high, with estimates totalling $1.5 trillion, the equivalent of 2% of global GDP. The impacts of inaction are significant. For example, in one study in Papua New Guinea, International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimated that staff lost 11 workdays per year to GBV, including two days to presenteeism, five to absenteeism and four to assisting other GBV survivors. Staff time alone cost companies between 3% and 9% of payroll.
The #MeToo movement has shown there is an unprecedented demand for change, including from employees and from some business leaders across the world. Companies are beginning to tackle GBV, but many others must now follow.
One of the barriers to action has arguably been uncertainty – there is a nervousness about ‘what to do’ about such a complex problem. With this in mind, Anglo American, CARE, IFC and Primark came together to undertake a nine-month Business Fights Poverty Challenge to better understand how business can most effectively address GBV.
The resultant toolkit aims to help business take action. It is timely and will help companies prepare for the implementation of the new International Labour Organisation convention on violence and harassment. This was agreed in June 2019 and sets out the first globally recognised standards for addressing violence and harassment, which will level the playing field and oblige action and accountability by governments and employers. One of the most significant implications of the Convention is that it will require a more comprehensive response from companies.
By taking the actions described in this toolkit, companies will also be contributing to the achievement of the ambitious internationally agreed UN targets for people and planet, particularly Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5 on gender equality, and 8 on decent work and inclusive growth. It will also prepare those engaged in development and humanitarian operations, including private sector suppliers, to adhere to the new (July 2019) OECD DAC Recommendation on Ending Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment.
Our toolkit provides a 5 Step Framework for action, supplemented with tips and case studies to unearth promising practices. Our 5 Step Framework outlines how companies can comprehensively tackle violence and harassment at work:
We have also included a detailed diagnostic tool, developed by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), to help guide companies to take an in-depth look at their policies, procedures and operations. This includes across their value chains.
The report includes case studies that illustrate how companies are starting to innovate against these 5 steps. They include Anglo American, Kering Group, Vodafone, Diageo, Avon and Unilever, as well as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and CARE.
Three clear insights emerged from our Challenge into how business can address GBV:
We sincerely hope that this toolkit for action will help us move forward together. GBV is not an easy subject to tackle, but it can be done. Our toolkit illustrates that there are many things businesses can do even if they are at the very start of this journey. The results will benefit overall performance, productivity and retention. And, those experiencing GBV deserve nothing less.