Women have a key role to play for sustainable development in business


The historic Paris Climate Agreement was signed in New York by 175 countries. In its wake, companies have also made commitments, as with the « Two Degrees of Change » initiative, which makes gender equality in the workplace a point of leverage in the fight against climate change.


United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke of “a historic moment.” On April 22 in New York, 175 countries – representing more than 93% of the greenhouse gas emissions behind global warming, according to the NGO World Resources Institute – signed the Paris Agreement on climate finalized last December, designed to limit the rise in global temperatures to “well below 2°C.” The countries participating in the negotiation of this agreement now have one year to ratify it, as 15 have already done, most of them small island States.

Companies committed to sustainable development

In parallel, companies launched and reinforced initiatives during the COP to fight climate change, alongside the negotiations for the agreement and its signature. Here are some examples.

One example is Caring for Climate, the largest coalition of groups (including Danone) that have committed to climate issues, which back in 2007 defined precise goals for its member companies, and a methodology for reducing their carbon footprints. More than 90 firms have implemented those methods, and the initiative has thus successfully reduced the CO2 emissions of the members of this pioneering group since 2013.

Another example is Two Degrees of Change. The program was launched in April, led by Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management, and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What makes it so original is that it works simultaneously to fight climate change and promote gender equality in the workplace.

Promoting gender equality and protecting our planet: a virtuous circle.           

“There is a clear parallel between the progress we’ve seen on gender equality and climate change over the last six years,” says Christiana Figueres. “Evidence suggests that a greater presence of women in the boardroom and in senior leadership roles can help increase the corporate focus on climate change.”

A concrete action plan will also need to be drawn up, with a twofold aim: increasing the presence of women in corporate decision-making bodies, and pushing the world of finance and investment to tackle sustainable development issues head-on. “As an industry we were a concerned but largely inactive bystander as the financial crisis unfolded,” says Helena Morrissey, who is also very active in matters of gender equality in London, “and we must not make a similar mistake on this issue. […] [T]he financial risks associated with climate change are clear. The investment community has an opportunity to take a leadership stance […] to address the challenge ahead.” The philosophy of Two Degrees for Change can be summed up as the presence of more women on company boards, accompanied by more actions to fight global warming. And, in the end, more productivity and growth. A virtuous cycle that companies cannot afford to miss out on.

Photo ©Danone

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