Taking a gender lens to climate change adaptation

Anna Triponel

May 10, 2024
Our key takeaway: Women and climate change are inextricably linked. This nexus plays out in a couple of ways. First, women and girls are disproportionately impacted by climate change, which can sometimes be fatal. Women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die during a natural disaster and an overwhelming 80% of climate-displaced people are women. This is because women and girls are typically on the frontlines of climate change and their existing vulnerabilities increases their exposure to, and reduces their ability to recover from, the effects of climate change. At the same time, women are vital change-makers when it comes increasing peoples’ and communities’ adaptive capacity to climate change. This is due to the vast amounts of knowledge and experience they have, which can be applied in climate change adaptation efforts. Without taking a gender-sensitive lens to climate change adaptation efforts, these efforts will be ineffective and in turn exacerbate risks to people, which are increasingly becoming risks to business. In short, taking a gender-sensitive lens is crucial to ensuring the effectiveness of climate adaptation efforts and improving business resilience to climate change.The report issues a call to action: “[i]t is vital to think of women in these contexts not just as victims of the climate crisis, but as agents of change who can make a real difference in increasing the resilience of people in their communities and beyond.”

Private Adaptation Finance at GiZ published its report on Empowering women for effective climate change adaptation: The Role of the Private Sector (May 2024):

  • Women and climate change are inextricably linked: The report emphasises how women are uniquely vulnerable to climate change and, simultaneously, their “unique experiences and adaptive strategies are beyond valuable for adaptation efforts worldwide.” Women and girls are typically more exposed to the effects of climate change, which can have devastating and sometimes fatal consequences. For instance, women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die during a natural disaster. In addition, women constitute 80% of people displaced by climate change. Women’s unique vulnerabilities to climate change are underpinned by existing factors, such as a higher reliance on natural resources; less control over assets, job security, social security and access to services and credit; traditional norms; and low literacy and education levels. At the same time, their frontline exposure to climate change and the traditional knowledge that they have (which can be applied in crop resilience or water management) makes them particularly effective at adapting to climate change.  
  • The business case for taking a gender lens to operations and supply chains: The report highlights the business benefits of incorporating a gender-sensitive lens to companies' operations, products and services, and supply chains. For instance, gender-diverse companies are more profitable and resilient: “a gender-inclusive business culture has been shown to increase profitability and productivity, boost creativity and innovation, and enhance company reputation.” In addition, applying a gender lens to products and service delivery can increase companies’ competitiveness as they are able to better identify, cater to, and increase their target group such as women. Furthermore, companies who use their leverage to encourage suppliers to respect and protect the rights of women can see business benefits: it “helps avoid or mitigate potential reputational risks, since it helps to avoid supporting or collaborating with suppliers who do not adhere to certain standards.” Leverage includes companies incorporating a gender-sensitive lens to human rights due diligence processes, and supporting business partners in their adoption of gender-relevant policies and strategies.
  • Recommendations for companies: The report highlights the role that SMEs can play to empower women for climate change adaptation in the workplace, through their products and services, and along their value chains. While these recommendations are directed at SMEs, all different types of companies can apply these recommendations in practice. In the workplace, SMEs can 1) “[i]mplement inclusive hiring practices”; 2) “[o]ffer flexible working arrangements”; 3) “[e]nsure equal payment for equal work”; and 4) “[f]oster female leadership.” Through their products and services, SMEs can 1) “[c]onsider women as hidden customers”; 2) “[a]ctively seek and incorporate women’s feedback in product/service enhancement”; and 3) “[t]ailor products/services to women’s needs and challenges.” Along their value chains, SMEs can 1) “[c]onduct thorough due diligence, including focus on women and other disadvantaged groups”; 2) “[s]upport suppliers in implementing gender-sensitive practices”’ and 3) “[l]ead by example.”

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