SDG 5: The Role of Business in Achieving Gender Equality

Todays blog is about SDG 5, gender equality and the actions a business should take to support gender equality across its complex and diverse global supply chain.  A few months ago, I saw a post on Twitter by Marks and Spencer (M&S).  The post advertised M&S’ commitment to digitally pay women within its supply chain, which sparked a debate on Twitter groups.  People could not believe that M&S were not already doing so. I was pleased to see it.  In other words, M&S had recognised that there is a problem and they are working to resolve it.  So what does it mean and why does it matter?

Encourage Gender Equality in Supply Chains

Supply chain management is diverse and difficult to trace. Corporations, such as M&S, Unilever, SC Johnson and Walmart, have a deep network of businesses that make up their global supply chains. The number of layers, how work is contracted and sub-contracted makes traceability of environmental, social and ethical issues very complex.

Employees in Europe or North America, are likely to have salaries paid into a bank account.  Move out of these continents and the situation is the opposite. Despite rapid economic development in Asia, Africa and South America, most people will be paid manually.  The deeper you dig into a multinational global supply chain, the more you will come across cash in hand payments.  Women continue to receive cash in hand which is detrimental to their livelihood.

The number of women working across supply chains continues to rise, but their lives are marginally improving.  Wages are often handed to the head of the household.  In most cases it is a husband, father or in-laws.  Handing over income is a culturally acceptable practice and often mutually agreed.  Sometimes wages have been taken away forcefully.  The money is used to support illicit habits, such as, alcohol and gambling and leaves nothing behind for the household.  When women require money for personal use, they must ask for it.  And then is questioned for every small request.  Such issues have been contributing to the continued increase of women living in poverty.

Business Support for SDG 5 Gender Equality


  1. Transfer your payroll to digital systems such as BACs.
  2. Offer money saving workshops for women at your workplace and encourage the same with suppliers.
  3. Review internal policies, training and recruitment practices.
  4. Carry out pension forums to explain pension schemes.
  5. Ensure women are not paid less than men doing the same role, close the gender pay gap.
  6. When taking on new suppliers, ask for their payment/wages policy and ask to see an example.


  1. Encourage digital payment systems.  The gap in the digital payment market has been identified by local entrepreneurs and large corporations alike.  As a result, they are leading the way in mobile payment systems.  In Kenya, for example, the mobile payment app known as, M-Pesa, owned by Vodaphone, has become one of the most popular methods for payments.  According to a report by the BBC, 73 percent of Kenyans have a mobile payment account.  With the growing demand for quick payment methods, supply chains can explore salary payment systems using such apps. This will encourage traceability of payment equality and accessibility for women.  It will also enable women to retain money for personal use, thereby improving their livelihood.
  2. Collaborate with your global suppliers to facilitate workshops to make women financially savvy.
  3. Upskill women by encouraging them to take up educational workshops whether it is vocational or academic.

Support Gender Equality At Home

Whilst we talk about empowering women, it is equally important for us to also recognise that men have a critical role to play in women’s empowerment and gender equality:

  1. Raise sons to treat their sisters and female friends as equals so when they enter the work environment, respect and equality is already a part of their values and beliefs.
  2. Empower and support women in recognising their abilities and strengths. Ensure that this same vision is passed on to future generations.
  3. Encourage male colleagues to treat women as equals, respect them, and value their work and opinions in the same manner.

SDG 5 can be achieved once business support for gender equality is embedded within business practices.  Regardless of the size or location, a business can support gender equality by taking small steps, locally and globally.

Raise sons to treat their sisters and female friends as equals. So when they enter the work environment, respect and equality is already a part of their values and beliefs. #DayoftheGirl #SDG5 #GenderEquality #SDGs Click To Tweet

Did you know?

  • Women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men get for the same work.
  • 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
  • Females represent just 13 percent of agricultural landholders.
  • Almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday.
  • Two thirds of developing countries have achieved gender parity in primary education.
  • Only 24 percent of national parliamentarians were women as of November 2018, a small increase from 11.3 percent in 1995.

Source: UNDP

Do you want to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 targets? Below are links to blog articles written to assist small businesses with SDG ideas:

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. How Do You Fit In?

No Poverty, Small Business Support for SDG 1 

Zero Hunger, Small Business Support for SDG 2

Good Health and WellBeing, Small Business Support for SDG 3

Quality Education, Small Business Support for SDG 4


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