Why Gendered Corporate Social Responsibility Should Be Legally Binding

The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) calls on companies to take into consideration the social impacts of their actions, and includes aspects of philanthropy, company accountability and stakeholder relations. CSR is a suggestive measure which incentivizes companies to carry out their company activities in a way that is mindful of the social environment in which they are situated.

As a sub-set of corporate structure, CSR is interrelated with the transformative gender-inclusiveness of corporations. Despite thepositive steps that have been accomplished towards greater implementation of women in a diverse range of high-level positions, the full potential of gender equality in the workplace has not been achieved. Women, however, play a key role in promoting CSR within a company, as well as in improving the overall organization of company structure.

A study conducted by Catalyst, a global nonprofit organization striving to achieve workplace equality for women, as well as researchers from Harvard Business School, analyzed “how corporate leadership and organizational structure influence CSR” by measuring philanthropic contributions across companies which include women, as well as those that lack female representation. According to the study, “Research suggests that, examined through the lens of corporate philanthropy, gender-inclusive leadership and CSR are linked.”

The findings suggest that companies with female representatives contributed a greater amount of charitable donations in comparison to those that lacked women’s involvement. In addition to philanthropic donations, the gender-inclusive companies showed improved environmental CSR.

Companies seeking to improve their corporate social responsibility output should consider further inclusion of women in leadership positions. Rigid company requirements for inclusion of women are fairly recent, though Norway and France are taking meaningful steps to achieving such measures. Data shows that “Norway requires 40 percent of directors be female,” comparable with France, at 40 percent as well. The U.S. does not have a specific quantitative goal, though companies are required to prove that their process of selecting their directors is diverse in its nature.

The director of government affairs at Catalyst, Serena Fong, indicated that “having more female leaders is associated with higher levels of corporate social responsibility, including philanthropy, and likely leads to higher quality CSR initiatives,” at the annual Catalyst Awards Conference.

CSR as law

Although the inclusion of women in corporate positions has a positive effect on CSR contributions, corporate social responsibility remains a suggestive measure which is non-binding by international law. CSR assistance is mutually beneficial to the company and to its surrounding community, though some large-scale corporations continue to use exploitative measures to achieve their means in the goal of profit maximization.

The 2016 National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights intends to incentivize German companies to adopt “human rights due diligence – safeguards” and is based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This plan is set to achieve implementation in 50 percent of German businesses, and “the German government will consider legally binding measures” if this target is not met by the prospective deadline.

Canada’s commitment to the United Nations and the country’s agenda being closely aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development goals works in tandem to advance strategies for addressing issues which are important to Canadians on both a local and international scale. Canada’s foreign policy implements gender equality in order to establish women’s inclusion globally. Canada’s membership as a NATO country also aligns with its goals of gender inclusivity. NATO has implemented measures of inclusion for Women, Peace and Security (WPS) through the establishment of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs), which seek to reconcile women’s participation in the sphere of security, and highlight the specific ways in which women are affected by conflict.

The German-based initiative of establishing corporate social responsibility as a legally binding requirement for companies should be considered on an international level, in order to promote a standard company mandate for all companies across the world. Companies which do practice sustainable CSR are more effective through gendered-inclusion; therefore, the international implementation of a law-binding CSR agreement should equally promote women’s inclusion in leadership roles in order to achieve a multi-faceted benefit to both corporations and the global community.

Featured Image: Brig. Gen. Deanna Burt, Director of Operations and Communications, Air Force Space Command,  Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 11, 2019. (photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis Hoffman) via Official United States Air Force Website

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed in articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NATO Association of Canada.

About Mona Mamiche

Mona Mamiche is currently completing her international bachelor of arts degree at Glendon College for international studies and French. Having accomplished a semester abroad in Lyon, France at Universite Lumiere Lyon 2, she is fluent in the French language, as well as having some understanding of Polish. As a member of the Best Buddies organization of Canada, she has organized and participated in past events held by the organization throughout the duration of her high school years. Her areas of interest lie specifically in the influence that culture and the media has on the understanding of the ways in which international security is envisioned by the Canadian population. Striving to promote a more complete perspective of the initiatives to improve and maintain international peace and security, she is currently partaking in an internship at the NATO Association of Canada to reinforce the Canadian notion of international security. She can be contacted by email at monacmamiche@hotmail.com.