Due to more consumers’ demands for transparency about the products they buy — and the fact social media can expose the difference between what companies say publicly and what goes on from the shop floors to the boardrooms — shopping and sourcing ethically is easier (or more confusing) than ever before. We at Triple Pundit have long traced the journey of ethical certifications such as fair trade, B Corporations and the controversial labeling of GMO and non-GMO products. Now consumers concerned about how women are treated in the workplace, as well as the global disparity between men’s and women’s wages, among other disparities, can consider gender equality when making purchasing decisions.
Switzerland-based EDGE (the Global Business Certification Standard for Business Equality) is banking its gender equality certification will resonate with businesses and consumers. Its mission is simple: to engage corporations all over the world in creating equal opportunities for both men and women within the workplace. Currently the organization is working with 60 companies in 14 various sectors on all continents.
Across the pond, EDGE has found success with some marquee firms, including the Switzerland divisions of Ikea and Deloitte. And this week, the organization announced that L’Oréal USA is the first American firm to obtain EDGE’s gender equality certification. That success follows in the footsteps of a White House summit in June that highlighted EDGE’s certification system as one way to improve gender equality in the workplace.
Analogous to the green building standardization system LEED, EDGE grants three different seals. ASSESS is given when a company makes a public commitment to gender equality and develops a plan to continue progress on this issue. The “silver” certification, MOVE, is possible if a company has actually executed such a framework and has taken clear, measurable steps in this direction. The highest certification, LEAD, is given by EDGE to an organization if it is absolutely clear that gender equity has been achieved and the company reaps results. All certifications are valid for two years.
For many women — and men who want their mothers, wives and daughters to be treated fairly in the office — this certification system should resonate when considering the data out there. Depending on how you crunch the numbers, women on average earn 70 to 90 percent of the wages compared to men. In the U.S., that figure ranges from 77 to 91 percent. And in many ways, the disparity widens even more up the corporate ladder. The United Nations is among many organizations that suggest the pay gap becomes deeper with experience, seniority and age. At the very top, only 9 percent of directors on global corporate boards are women; 4 percent of companies ranked within the Fortune 500 have a women CEO. Furthermore, as Lucy Marcus, corporate governance expert and CEO of Marcus Venture Consulting notes, gender equality is not only about fairness. The evidence suggests gender equality, and an overall diverse company starting from the boardroom and C-suite on down, is actually beneficial for a company’s bottom line.
Some companies are starting to notice and are making moves in this direction. As 3p writer Andrea Newell points out, Walmart, which does not have the friendliest history towards women, has started calling out products produced by women-owned businesses on their shelves. But watch for more consumers, and businesses, to inquire whether companies are committed to gender equality beyond public proclamations and eye-catching logos. EDGE is taking a bet that the world is more than ready to hold businesses accountable on this issue, and it will be interesting to see whether it catches on and how such companies embracing this standard will perform compared to their peers in the coming years.
Image credit: EDGE