Women are Key to the Success of a Green Transition

On International Women’s Day, leading accountancy body ACCA underlines the need to address gender inequality in sustainability

Women have a crucial role to play in the green economy. But leading global accountancy body ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is concerned that women are in danger of being left behind in the green transition. 

On International Women’s Day (IWD), ACCA is calling on governments, policy makers and employers to make a reality of the 2024 UN IWD theme - Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.

ACCA highlights that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women, and women are fourteen times more likely to die in climate emergencies than men. UN data shows how women led households lose 8% more income to heat-stress than male led households

“Women work extensively in sectors such as agriculture where they are disproportionately exposed to climate-related events,” says Emmeline Skelton, Head of Sustainability, ACCA

“On the other hand, they are underrepresented in sectors that are benefitting from the transition to net zero such as construction, utilities and manufacturing. This imbalance needs to be urgently addressed.”

Investing in women

ACCA research shows that transition planning is not perceived as a high priority on members’ agenda even though there is a climate emergency. Nearly 70% of respondents that did not have an emissions plan had no intent to or urgency to develop one. Further ACCA research highlights that organisations are only starting to recognise the complexity of the social agenda and how this impacts the different elements of society. Effective Transition Planning recognises the need to address societal injustices as a core component of the drive to a net zero economy.

Finance professionals have a vital role in the transition to net zero. ACCA research reveals that CFOs believe the finance function has a key role to play in business moving towards a sustainable business model creating long term value. For instance, by grasping upskilling opportunities the finance profession can become the guardians of ESG (environmental, social and governance) corporate data.  

In the last 18 months finance has become involved with planning for climate change and leaning in to be custodians on the ESG data. A plurality of respondents (46%) said their organisations have created new positions within finance. 

ACCA is working on this inequality through its focus on gender responsive budgeting (GRB), which measures impacts of gender inequality and mitigates them through targeted policies and budgets.  

Jessica Bingham, Regional Lead, Policy & Insights - EEMA and UK, is looking at how this can help investment in women.

“Gender responsive budgeting can help to identify and address differences by allocating resources to help resilience building,” Bingham says.

“Women often leave the workplace to fulfil unpaid caring responsibilities. In many areas of the globe work and employment issues are exacerbated by climate change where women have limited access to resources, loss of livelihood and food insecurity.” 

The accountancy profession is not immune to these issues. Women leave the profession at a much higher rate than men. In large accountancy firms, estimates suggest around 60% of the graduate intake are women, but that figure falls to an estimated 20% - 30% at manager level. 

Supporting the future of female execs

ACCA is providing education through initiatives such as workshops on the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). ACCA is working specifically with public sector finance professionals to understand how gender responsive budgeting could be used to address the widening gender gap.  

“In order to make progress we need to look at these issues from a holistic perspective. That is why ACCA supports the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) addressing gender, poverty and inequality,” Skelton adds.

“On International Women's Day, the truth becomes clearer: women are indispensable in our journey to Net Zero. With their fresh perspectives, leadership, and innovation, they ignite positive change, foster equality, and empower communities. Together, we're crafting a greener, fairer world through a 'Just Transition'.”

Read ACCA’s transition report: The role of the CFO and finance function in the climate transition: driving value and sustainability | ACCA Global 

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