The global goals and sustainable development were popular topics in Almedalen. Many companies had seminars and exhibitions on the theme. Photo: Lovisa Novak / FUF


Gender equality can make the business community contribute to sustainable development

Focusing on gender equality is an effective way to contribute to global development, but also to create sustainable and successful companies. During this year's Almedalen Week, many seminars were devoted to the role and responsibility of the private sector for sustainable development.

The sun is shining again over Almedalen and the streets are filled with visitors on their way to various breakfast seminars. Also this year, "sustainability" is one of the most used words in the Almedalen program. Several of these program items focus on sustainable investment and gender equality as the way to achieve Agenda 2030 and the global goals for sustainable development.

At "Sweden in the World" square, the development agency's oasis in Almedalen, Jakob Trollbäck's pedagogical illustrations of the global goals form part of the interior. Against this background, Staffan Hansén, CEO of SPP Pension and Insurance, begins a seminar on the role of the private sector in fulfilling Agenda 2030. He believes that the global goals have primarily contributed with a framework and a language that helps companies systematize their sustainability work. . They also provide better conditions for understanding between different actors.

The terms "understanding" and "cooperation" are mentioned almost as often as "sustainable". Virtually every panel on the theme of sustainability seems to agree that partnerships, both across national and sectoral boundaries, are our only chance to achieve sustainable global development.

- Partnership is the new leadership, says Sandra Runsten, sustainability strategist at the communications agency The New Division. A phrase that is heard from several, independent, speakers during this year's Almedalen Week.

Including private actors - and above all private investments - is seen as the key to successful sustainability work. But according to Runsten, civil society has long adapted to the logic of business. In order to create a functioning partnership for global development, it is necessary for the private sector to learn to listen to other actors and stop focusing on returns.

Women create rings on the water

On the other side of Almedalsparken, Anna Ryott speaks in a panel on a similar theme. She was named by Veckans Affärer as the business community's most powerful social changer in 2018. Today, she is chairman of Summa Equity, a venture capital company that invests in sustainable companies.

She believes that return is also an argument for gender equality. Gender equality teams with broad diversity also generate higher returns for company boards and fund managers. Thus, private actors do not have to be familiar with, or even interested in, the global goals to have reason to strive for equality and equality. But despite both moral and strategic arguments for including women at all levels of the economy, economic equality is sluggish , both in Sweden and globally.

Furthermore, Ryott believes that Swedish development assistance must be directed further towards women and gender equality in order to give impetus to a sluggish system in which men control most of the capital. Global development financiers, such as the World Bank, are no exception.

- The long-term stability of investing in women is not valued, explains Sophie Nachemson-Ekwall, researcher in corporate governance and social sustainability at the Stockholm School of Economics.

Girls and women are brought up in most societies today to stay together and take care of their surroundings. This behavior is repeated even when women spend their financial resources. Studies show that women invest 90 percent of their income in their family and its well-being. Investments in women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs thus create rings on the water.

This is a clear example of how the 17 global goals and its 169 sub-goals are connected, for better or worse. The fulfillment of certain, individual sub-goals risks having a negative impact on the fulfillment of others. The goal of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, however, has a proven positive impact on several other goals. There are therefore several reasons to take gender equality and equality into account in all aspects of sustainability work.

Money is the most important source of influence

Staffan Hansén at SPP Pension och Försäkring believes that money is our most valuable source of influence.

- Money itself is neither good nor bad, money does what we say it should do. Money is owned by the people, he says.

According to that logic, everyone could contribute to change by investing their money in things they believe in, like a vote in a democratic election. At the same time, it is no secret that the world's financial resources are concentrated in a small group of people. The question is to what extent the highly coveted private investment can be said to belong to the broad masses. That money does not have its own will does not help much, as long as the people who have it do not listen to logical arguments.

Players in the private sector demand courageous, radical leadership with knowledge and awareness of sustainability issues. If they do not themselves demonstrate these qualities in the near future, there is much to suggest tougher legislation in terms of everything from aviation taxes to human rights.

It is not enough to work with sustainability a little in addition to the regular business. The private sector must integrate gender equality and sustainability work into its core business in order for it to lead to change. Using the rhetoric and imagery of global goals within the framework of its activities invites scrutiny, says Sandra Runsten at The New Division. This in turn can lead to raising the bar for sustainability work within an entire industry.

- It is in the financial sector that the big shift can take place. That is where it must happen, she concludes.

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