What is in this article?:
- When Women Serve on Boards, Sustainability Performance Increases
- The Magic Number is Three
A new study examining companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance found that companies with one or more women on their boards were significantly more likely to have improved sustainability practices.
“This is not a women’s or men’s issue, it’s a collective and business opportunity,” said study author Kelli McElhaney, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor at the University of California’s Berkeley Haas School of Business. McElhaney, who is also the faculty director of the business school’s Center for Responsible Business, co-authored the study with Sanaz Mobasseri, Ph.D. candidate, Berkeley-Haas Management of Organizations Group.
To measure corporate performance, the authors reviewed each organization’s ESG performance. ESG, a widely accepted measure of corporate sustainability among the investment community as indicators of risk management, opportunity recognition and strong leadership, includes the following criteria:
Environmental criteria include steps to improve energy efficiency of operations, to measure and reduce carbon emissions, to reduce packaging and invest in renewable power generation.
Social factors included health care access for underserved populations in developing market supply chains, strong employment benefits and performance incentives, products with improved health or nutritional benefits, and products and services to communities with limited or no access to financial products.
Governance is defined as cleaning accounting, avoiding corruption and bribery and maintaining a high level of disclosure and transparency about business practices.
“Women and sustainability are two sides of the same coin,” said Halla Tomadottir, executive chair and co-founder of Audur Capital in Iceland, who was interviewed for the study. “Corporations build better societies if they have balanced boards.”
“The voices of women are critical in advancing the goals of corporate shared value,” added U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, who serves on the board of Nestle and also participated in the study.