Skip to main content

Business tackling gender violence: An economic imperative

The private sector has a moral obligation to set the goal of eradicating violence against women. However, this is also an economic imperative, given that corporate inaction in this regard has significant costs.
AUGUST 05 2018

Business tackling gender violence: An economic imperative

Various research studies compiled by the United Nations calculate that the global cost of violence against women may amount to as much as 2% of global gross domestic product (GDP). This is equal to approximately $1.5 billion or the equivalent of Canada’s economy. In the case of a company on the Fortune 500 list, for example, this represents annual losses of $6.7 billion caused by absenteeism, low productivity, and other consequences of intimidation and sexual or psychological harassment of women in the workplace.

Numerous country studies have been done, but two will serve as an example. In Papua New Guinea, the number of days of work lost due to gender violence cost between 3% and 9% of companies’ total payroll. Peru may record up to 70 million days of work lost each year for the same reason.

Gender violence also leaves traces that are more intangible but equally costly for the private sector. These include demoralization, low job satisfaction, high levels of stress, declining teamwork performance, and irreparable damage to interpersonal relations. These same problems affect women who are the victims of violent and abusive practices in their homes; thus, companies should begin to consider how to go beyond the workplace in an effort to help those who are enduring situations of violence in the home.

Act, raise awareness, and influence social change

The high costs of a toxic work environment and potential lawsuits due to situations of violence or sexual harassment cannot be denied. Some measures that companies can take to reverse this situation require commitment and time, but not a major financial investment, in order to be effective:

  • Commission or conduct studies on the causes of gender inequality and violence. If they include information on their economic and social costs, it will be easier to gain employees’ support for changing attitudes and practices.
  • Adopt an effective mechanism against sexual harassment. To do this, it is essential to draft a clear policy that is available to all employees, establish a procedure for complaints, and define the response and follow-up mechanisms.
  • Involve men in discussions on changing policies and creating positive role models. When working in a respectful work environment, it is more difficult to tolerate violence outside the workplace.
  • Provide counseling, legal assistance, access to essential services such as housing and economic opportunities to the victims of sexual harassment.
  • Exert a positive influence on clients, commercial and political partners, and regulators. Changing the law requires exerting a lot of pressure. According to World Bank data, there are 59 countries in which women are not legally protected against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Efforts like the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) organization’s “HERrespect” project are leading all these attitudinal changes in the private sector. This project is designed to combat the high levels of violence and harassment afflicting women in textile factories and agriculture in developing countries. Another initiative is conducted by the Sodexo company, which grants employment opportunities to the survivors of gender violence. Another example is the Justice Institute, intended to improve protection for victims and promoted by the Avon Foundation.

Nonetheless, change in the workplace must be accompanied by a social change that seems to be far off in Latin America and the Caribbean in view of the results of a recent survey in eight countries in the region. More than 80% of those under the age of 25 responded that they believe that men can have sex with whomever they like, but women cannot. The private sector’s mission to eradicate violence in the workplace is an urgent one.



Related Posts

  • Building resilience to health risks in the private sector

    A Six-Step Roadmap to Enhance Private Sector Resilience to Health Risks

    An IDB Invest poll shows nearly 60% of projects have temporarily ceased work or faced major project delays because of COVID-19. Early lessons coupled with existing best practices in public health and safety principles provide a six-step action road map to build resilience against such risks.

    Read more
  • Can 'flotovoltaics' be a future partner for hydropower systems?

    Can 'flotovoltaics' be a future partner for hydropower systems?

    To address changing paradigms, a new technology has been proposed: hydropower plants that enable solar generation or hybrid hydro-solar systems.

    Read more
  • Solar energy: The revolution spurring development in Honduras

    Solar energy: The revolution spurring development in Honduras

    When Invema plant, the main plastic recycler in Honduras starts operating, a success formula resonates. It is one of the commercial companies that took advantage of the photovoltaic energy boom in the country. Its case demonstrates how the private sector’s investment in solar energy can facilitate greater economic and sustainable development for the country. Six years ago, the executives of the firm decided to install solar panels in the company, so it could generate its own power. This initiative promised a 20% reduction in energy consumption as well as a significant reduction in greenhouse gases emissions of polluting gases. And so it was. Today, Invema obtains energy savings up to 30% in electricity and reinvests in the focus of its business, recycling, so much so that it is now manufacturing the bottles that Coca-Cola uses in Central America. “We are very proud, because thanks to the solar panels, IDB Invest’s doors/channels opened up and allowed us to make the investments we dreamed,” says George Gatlin, the manager of Invema, which is located in the northern city of San Pedro Sula. Invema is part of many companies and private consortia that have opted for photovoltaic energy since Honduras decided to reform its electricity subsector to revert its electricity matrix from thermal to renewable. The reforms began in 2012, when generation using fossil fuels accounted for 70% compared to 30% for renewables. This thermal hegemony was reflected in increasing oil billing, carbon dioxide emissions, high tariffs up to US$0.30 per kilowatt (KW) produced, and frequent rationing. Following the reforms, led by the government with the advisory services of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), there was an upsurge in renewable energy until the energy matrix was completely reversed compared to 2012. The latest report from the Central Bank of Honduras (BCH) in 2018 records a 75% electricity generation based on renewable sources, and an 11% share of photovoltaic energy. This percentage translated into 433 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity at the end of 2016, placing Honduras in the lead of solar generation in Central America and third in Latin America, after Chile and Mexico. “We are witnessing a revolution in the electricity sector, not just in Honduras, but worldwide, because energy storage is changing the concept, points out Carlos Jácome, IDB energy specialist who has participated in the reforms process in Honduras. “The Bank support comprises studies and soft financing. Later, the savings make it possible to improve the productivity of these companies because they can use what they no longer pay in energy to expand their businesses,” comments Jácome. Since 2012, the IDB and IDB Invest have provided technical assistance to Honduran commercial, industrial, and institutional sectors to investigate the technical and financial feasibility of photovoltaic projects. To date, 22 studies have been completed for projects ranging from 40 kilowatts (kW) to nearly 3 MW of installed capacity. Official reports indicate that interest in photovoltaic projects have increased due to a reduction in about 40% of the installation costs over the last five years. Behind this innovation there are three combined components that have resulted in a successful formula: i) the impetus of government that created favorable conditions for investment; ii) the decisions made by entrepreneurial companies; and iii) the IDB’s ability to evaluate and finance the projects. The initial investments in photovoltaic development in Honduras involved a shared risk for IDB Invest and its clients. Nonetheless, what made the difference is the technical capabilities of the Bank for evaluating and support for this type of investments. The Honduran experience encourages entrepreneurship and new markets while demonstrating that IDB Invest is the partner of choice for innovative markets. Experiences of this kind should be replicated in the region. The first photovoltaic investments began in 2015, when 388 MW were installed, followed by 45 MV more in 2016, according to reports from the National Electrical Energy Company (ENEE). According to the ENEE, the Honduran commercial and industrial solar energy market is quite different from what it was in 2012, starting with changes in electricity billing (between 11 and 18 cents per kW per hour), installation costs for panels, legal regulations, and the availability of photovoltaic manpower in the region. In addition to this, national capacities have developed with the installation and administration of photovoltaic projects. “Before, if a Canadian, Spaniard or a Costa Rican person did not show up to supervise the project it didn’t move forward. Now the Hondurans themselves have been strengthening all these positions. There is a friendly environment for investment,” notes Elsia Paz, President of the Honduran Renewable Energy Association (EHER), one of the entities that emerged in the context of these reforms. Download the full story here: “Solar Energy: The Revolution Spurring Development in Honduras” Subscribe to receive more content like this! [mc4wp_form]

    Read more