Applying a Gender Lens to Sustainable Procurement

Taking Action: How to achieve gender equality in supply chains

What can companies do?

Whilst the benefits are clear, it can be challenging for businesses to know where to start. It is critical to secure internal support from senior leadership and all key departments, including a commitment to invest time and resources.

An important first step is to review all existing policies and practices to identify any gaps that need to be addressed to fully integrate gender equality within your own operations. This will help to develop and implement a comprehensive corporate strategy on gender-responsive procurement that takes gender equality into account in decision-making at all levels, including understanding the challenges preventing women-owned businesses from accessing and fully participating in the supply chain.

It is also essential to recognise the important role external stakeholders play, including engaging with business partners and suppliers and service providers that collaborate with women-owned and gender-responsive businesses to improve their access to global supply chains as part of this process. The aim is to reach a stage where applying a gender lens to procurement has become an integral part of your corporate culture and practice.

Applying a gender lens to your procurement strategy and practices

  • Phase 1: Understand the state of play
    • Build your company’s understanding of the challenges and obstacles facing women-owned and gender-responsive businesses, particularly the specific issues that are associated with your supply chains and operating context.
    • Use the WEPs Gender Gap Analysis Tool to assess the extent to which your corporate policies and practices and business activities are contributing to advancing gender equality and identify what further action can be taken, particularly how to increase the number of women-owned and gender-responsive businesses in your supply chain through organisations such as WEConnect International.
    • Appoint a cross-functional responsible procurement committee involving representatives of diverse functions, perspectives and backgrounds to assess your procurement strategy and agree on your desired outcomes for increasing diversity through your procurement strategy – what are you hoping to achieve as a business, who needs to be involved and how do these outcomes align with the WEPs?


    For guidance on mapping your supplier base to identify gaps in gender balance, please refer to the following resources: Sourcing2Equal Kenya: Barriers and Approaches to Increase Access to Markets for Women-Owned Businesses (Page 18, Box 3: Global Best Practices in Supplier Diversity and Inclusion).

  • Phase 2: Align Internally
    • Assess the gender balance of your company’s procurement team. Ensuring that women are able to contribute to shaping procurement policies and making decisions is crucial to realising a more representative value chain that protects and empowers women.
    • Integrate gender-sensitive language and commitments in your company and supplier codes of conduct and apply due diligence processes to address any gaps.
    • Review Tool 1 of the Decent Work Toolkit and explore how procurement practices and decisions can impact gender equality in global supply chains and why supporting gender equality is important for buyers.


    What should you consider when applying a gender lens to your supplier code of conduct?

    Here are some examples of questions you should keep in mind when reviewing your supplier code of conduct, although it is not an exhaustive list:

    • Are your suppliers committed to gender equality? Have they signed the WEPs? Do they respect, implement and promote international labour standards?
    • Do your suppliers have policies and mechanisms in place to identify, prevent, mitigate and remediate sexual harassment and gender-based violence and harassment in their workplaces?
    • Do female workers face pregnancy and/or maternity-based discrimination from your suppliers’ businesses? Are there effective policies in place to support pregnant women and mothers to return to work? Is there a parental leave policy in place?
    • Is there a gender pay gap, and if so, how are they working to reduce this?
    • What is the ratio of female-to-male employees at various levels? Do female employees have the same opportunities for progression as men?
    • How are the specific health and safety concerns of female workers supported and addressed?
    • Are women represented in workers’ representation mechanisms at the enterprise level?

    For more information on how to apply a gender lens in company’s code of conduct, please refer to Business for Social Responsibility’s report, “Gender Equality in Codes of Conduct Guidance”

  • Phase 3: Build outreach and capacity

    Communicate with your suppliers

    • Assess your supply chain and utilize a platform or software that tracks and stores data on supplier characteristics to see how your desired outcomes relate to the actual number of women-owned businesses and gender-responsive enterprises in your supply chain.
    • Review Tool 2 of the Decent Work Toolkit for guidance on how to communicate with your suppliers and business partners to understand their knowledge of gender-responsive procurement, commitments to gender equality and how they plan to prioritise gender equality, now and in future – how can you support each other to build capacity and increase collective impact?
    • Communicate the revised strategy and policies to all colleagues in procurement and provide training on the importance of gender equality. The training should include the challenges faced by women-owned and gender-responsive businesses with a view to identify how procurement colleagues can help model inclusive decision-making and practices. Post tenders in places frequently accessed by women entrepreneurs, such as classified ads or digital platforms.


    Embed into corporate processes and systems

    • Review Tool 3 of the Decent Work Toolkit for guidance on how to embed decent work into corporate processes and systems.
    • Explore different approaches to help strengthen procurement teams’ capabilities to promote gender equality in supply chains.
    • Engage with your suppliers and explore how your company can support training opportunities on gender equality at supplier level, as well as including your suppliers in any Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training.
    • Outreach to women entrepreneurs to review procurement processes to understand where there are unnecessary qualifications to apply for bids that disqualify potential suppliers. You may need to consider adapting bids, such as splitting up larger contracts into smaller projects to attract women-owned and gender-responsive businesses.
    • Outreach to women entrepreneur networks to provide training on how to participate in procurement.
  • Phase 4: Measure success and monitor progress

    Measure success and monitor progress

    • Ensure accountability by embedding key performance indicators on gender equality in performance plans and reviews of buyers. This could include setting specific targets to source from women-owned and gender-responsive businesses. Review Tool 3 of the Decent Work Toolkit for examples of buyer KPIs.
    • Introduce assessment and selection criteria on gender equality for current and future suppliers and business partners – communicate with them, including any expectations and requirements they will be required to meet, provide training to encourage open dialogue and share best practices and opportunities for collaboration.
    • Set, communicate and report against time-bound goals and targets for achieving a more diverse supplier and partner network that links with broader company commitments and strategy.


    Example Goal

    Using one of the steps included in the previous section, here is an example of some measures of success you could use:

    Communicate the strategy and policy changes to your colleagues and provide training on gender equality.

    • There is a written corporate policy that clearly defines roles and responsibilities, time-bound targets and success criteria.
    • The CEO has shared the policy via multiple channels, including an all-staff email bulletin, all-staff meeting announcement and company intranet page.
    • Key performance indicators have been included in the personal development plans of relevant teams, with particular focus on the Chief Procurement Officer and Procurement functions.
    • All employees receive basic training on gender equality in procurement upon joining the company.
    • All members of the Procurement functions and any other relevant departments receive advanced training (including practical tools and guidance) upon joining the company, to be repeated every two years or in line with any significant changes.

    To find out more about setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound success criteria for your gender-responsive procurement strategy, please refer to The Power of Procurement: How to Source from Women-Owned Businesses, developed by UN Women in 2017.