Guidelines on gender due diligence not followed in practice
Despite expectations on businesses to conduct due diligence with a ‘gender lens’, gender-sensitive and gender-responsive policies and plans are often missing or lacking, causing severe impacts on women in a wide range of sectors. This was concluded in an online workshop with Latin-American civil society organisations, led by OECD Watch and co-hosted by Swedwatch.
While both men and women may be impacted by corporate activities, women experience these impacts differently and often more severely. For example, women are more likely to experience gender-based violence and discrimination, and to face stigmatization when challenging traditional gender norms. Moreover, female human rights defenders are often at heightened risk of attacks.
To increase the understanding of, and exchange experiences on business-related gender impacts among civil society organisations in Latin America, Swedwatch co-organized a workshop led by OECD Watch in the issue. The workshop assessed case studies of irresponsible business conduct and measured them against recommendations in the OECD Due Diligence Guidance and related gender documents (see fact box).
“Companies are expected to proactively identify, prevent and mitigate risks specific to women, and develop gender sensitive and gender-responsive policies and plans. However, as was illustrated in the case-studies, businesses, in various sectors often fail to properly conduct gender due diligence, which causes severe impacts on women”, said Malena Wåhlin at Swedwatch.
Gender sensitivity lacking
One of the cases discussed in a workshop was that of a wind-farm project in Mexico, where an intersectional gender perspective in community consultations was lacking; only five percent of the participants were women, and very few could participate in the consultations due to fear of attacks. The companies in question made no effort to organise consultation sessions at times and places suitable and accessible to women, nor to provide information in appropriate spaces to encourage the participation of women and girls in the community.
In a Peruvian case, negative impacts facing female workers in the garment industry were also highlighted, including precarious health and safety conditions for women, temporary hiring regimes, limited unionisation and fears of getting fired when demanding respect for their labour rights. Many factories in which these women work provide garments to international companies from OECD countries.
“It is important that civil society – with its crucial role to hold businesses and states to account for business-related impacts – knows what to expect by companies in terms of identifying and addressing gender impacts”, says Malena Wåhlin.
Need for raised awareness
Based on the workshop discussions, participants identified solutions to ensuring gender–sensitive and gender-responsive business policies. A clearer language on the need for companies to consider intersectional gender perspectives in the OECD Guidelines and associated due diligence documents, as well as amongst National Contact Points, was highlighted.
It was also concluded that multinational enterprises with responsibilities under the Guidelines need to increase their awareness of their responsibilities to conduct gender-sensitive due diligence, as well as their knowledge of gender-related impacts that may occur in their supply chains.