Why Sustainable Businesses Should Study Up On Women

Sustainability and women are inextricably linked.  This is not because of soft inclusive reasons, but for hard inclusive business reasons.  If interconnecting systems of operations, production, shipping, community involvement, environmental responsibility, and more are what we seek, the wider the variety of brains and human traits involved in corporate decision-making, the better. While we have a long tradition of rewarding linear and independent thinking, sustainability will demand a new priority on the relational and interdependent.


No one corporation will start to prioritize this new thinking in the same way. Taking steps in a new direction could mean hiring more women or hiring more people who demonstrate qualities like empathy or holistic perspectives. It could also mean coming up with better ways to encourage or reward such thinking from existing employees, no gender about it. What sustainable businesses should be seeking are leaders or change agents who can guide and empower more collaborative environments and more cross pollination in problem-solving.  Sustainable thinkers will see the relation between issues perhaps a bit more clearly than they  fully understand the issue on its own – and that’s a good thing.

The ways that women influence and drive sustainable business are many, but a few are particularly key:

  • As competitive advantage:  Too few companies seem to be really committing to gender (and broader) diversity as a key part of their sustainability strategy.  Those who do, and do it soon, will have a definite first-mover advantage.  The beauty is that taking the lead does not mean your corporation will “win” as much as it means your corporation can then become the source of knowledge on what works/what doesn’t.
  • As collaboration builder: Sustainability demands less ego and generates more impact. This means the best leaders will start by guiding teams and getting diverse functions, specialties or organizations working together for a greater good that oh, by the way, really forwards their own corporate interests, too.  Patagonia is a frequently cited example for pulling diverse and competitive interests together in the pursuit of broader economic and societal good (See their work in organic cotton or their more recent partnership with eBay Green in recycling apparel).
  • As consumer influencer: If the women’s market makes or influences 80%+ of consumer purchases (and it does), sustainable businesses will do well to double-down toward understanding their needs, expectations and aspirations for a greener world. Having more women in your corporate ranks is one step, but using the new tools of market interaction/connection to better understand and reach this demanding bunch should also be a big priority.

And these are just the beginnings of why I am launching the women and sustainability monthly series for SustainableBusinessForum. As anyone who has read my previous work will know, my marketing to women background walked me right into my focus on, and passion for, sustainable business.  I will not write here about women-only conferences or make this a way for women to cheer themselves on.  Instead, my goal is to make this NOT a women’s topic at all! I aim to contribute a true, substantive exploration of how understanding more about gender in relation to sustainability and the economy makes incredible and powerful business sense.

I look forward to developing this series and seeing where it, and your feedback, may take me.

Source / Fuente: sustainablebusinessforum.com

Author / Autor: Andrea Learned

Date / Fecha: 07/11/11

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