Why Having More Women on Boards is Good for the Environment

By: Leilani Latimer

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Image Source: Unsplash

In celebration of Earth Day, numerous companies will be promoting their "green" products and their efforts around sustainability and climate mitigation. The most meaningful and impactful initiative these same companies could pursue to promote sustainability, however, would be to ensure they have more women in leadership and board roles - because women are in fact the Greener Gender.

In the consumer world, women make over 85% of all purchasing decisions, which is why many companies who market products or services that support "green" practices, health and wellness or community, have found a more attentive, and also more discerning consumer in Green Women.

The term "Mother Nature" is in fact prescient; according to a study from France's National Institute of Statistics and Economics, women emit 6 Kilos less of carbon per day than men (32.3 kilos of carbon per day versus men at 39.3 kilos). In a year, that means a difference of something close to 5 barrels of oil or 56 trees per person! The Daily Mail stated in an article that women emit around 70% less carbon dioxide through their use of transportation than men and another multinational study concluded that women lead greener lives primarily because they drive less, eat less meat, drink fewer processed beverages and are more consistent with recycling.

For real change to occur, however, we need top-down corporate efforts as much as bottom-up consumer efforts. Companies that are truly committed to overarching sustainability have more robust and active ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) programs that extend beyond simply producing greener products, and the more those companies have women on their boards, the better their performance will be.

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A study published by Kelli McElhaney, Ph.D., entitled "Women create a sustainable future" demonstrates that when women participate on corporate boards, ESG or Sustainability performance improves. The study found that companies with women on their boards are more actively investing in renewable energy, measuring and reducing carbon emissions of their products, implementing supplier programs to reduce carbon footprint and addressing the environmental risks embedded in their financing decisions, among other things. Specifically, the companies with women on their boards made efforts to get ahead of regulations and supported ESG practices even when it is not mandated.

While there may be a level of self-selection, with women choosing to be on boards of companies that are already committed to better ESG performance, there is no doubt that once they join those boards, they serve with an eye towards maintaining and improving those same programs. Additionally, women are slightly more concerned about climate change than men, and tend to be better educated about climate change-related issues, making them a welcome addition to corporate leadership, beyond their pure professional experience and expertise.

So, as you think about Earth Day this year and about your own efforts - whether as an individual or as a company - remember that promoting women in leadership is another positive step towards making sustainable change and a positive impact for the long term.

Want to learn more about companies that are committed to making a social impact? Ellevate Network has recently become a B Corp - read on to learn how we're using our business to do good.

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Leilanie Latimer is the Senior Director of Marketing at Zephyr Health. She is a marketing leader with proven experience taking nascent business ideas and products from concept to scale, with success in global go-to-market strategies, product marketing and planning, cross-functional team leadership, customer engagement, communications and employee engagement.

Ellevate Network is a global women's network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.