Business Partnerships as a Force for Good

By Business Partnerships for Global Goals (BP4GG)

Business Partnerships for Global Goals (BP4GG) is a UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office programme which invests in partnerships with businesses to test and scale shared value initiatives that support achieving the SDGs.

Business Partnerships for Global Goals (BP4GG) is a UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office programme which invests in partnerships with businesses to test and scale shared value initiatives that support achieving the SDGs.  Managed by Mott MacDonald, the programme hosts the Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility, a rapid COVID-19 response facility partnering with 20 international agricultural and garment product retailers, in eight partnerships projects across Africa and Asia.

Our vision is to enable 1 million vulnerable people (50% women) and supply chains to recover from and remain resilient to the economic and social impacts of COVID-19, by leveraging the reach and influence of responsible businesses through partnerships.  Women and other vulnerable people hit by the pandemic have been specifically targeted, and over half of the 200,000 people already benefitting from the programme in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Myanmar, Tanzania and Zimbabwe are women.

The following gives flavour of how four of our eight projects are changing the lives of women within garments and agriculture supply chains in the context of the pandemic.

Global non-profit GoodWeave International works with Monsoon Accessorize and VF Corporation in Bangladesh to support informal and vulnerable female garment workers who have been far more likely to lose their jobs in the pandemic.  Emergency food relief has focussed on pregnant women, single mothers, and older women who face challenges entering the workforce. The relief supported a total of 6,200+ workers and family members. 80% of the workers who received food relief were women, 62% of them informally employed.

CARE International is continuing a partnership with Marks & Spencer in Bangladesh to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In six months, the VSCF programme has supported 110,700 factory workers and community women through the provision of COVID-19 protective messaging, awareness on gender based violence and sexual, reproductive and maternal health, as well as in-kind support with 82,700 female garment workers and women across worker communities receiving sexual and maternal materials contributed by P&G and Gazipur City Corporation. In addition 72,564 were vaccinated through 23 satellite clinics set up under the VSCF programme. Over 90% of the workers now adopt proper COVID-19 protective behaviour, including handwashing techniques and share the learned knowledge and practices with others. And 86% of factory women understand the factors involved in sexual harassment and are more rights aware about GBV.

In Myanmar, Primark has been supported by Impactt, a consultancy specialising in ethical trade and human rights, to design and implement an innovative approach to providing direct monetary assistance to workers whilst building longer-term partnerships with factories to progress women’s empowerment. The pilot project has facilitated the payment of conditional cash transfers – over and above workers’ regular wages – to 1,500 vulnerable garment factory workers, 90% of them women. 97% of workers who received these payments reported a positive impact on their financial situation, and all workers reported less stress. The project has supported digital financial inclusion, with 98% of workers gaining access to digital mobile money accounts for the first time. In parallel, the project works to identify how best to promote gender equality in the workplace, for example through addressing supervisors’ lack of understanding of sexual harassment and Gender-Based Violence.

Fairtrade and MM Flowers are working with Women Working Worldwide and UK supermarket brands including Co-op, M&S, and Tesco to support flower farm workers in Kenya.  150,000 people, around 70% women, depend on the floriculture sector in Kenya, and women have been disproportionally hit by the impacts of COVID-19.  Women’s voices are rarely present in senior management positions and within unions, and during lockdowns the closure of schools meant many women workers with multiple dependents had to stay home to look after children.  These women now need to find money for school fees for 2021 on reduced wages.  Access to food was also difficult during the first lockdown as markets were closed, and transport, gas, charcoal, and water costs doubled. The project is supporting over 3,000 women workers directly with health package distribution, kitchen gardens, and income diversification support.

Three key lessons for empowering women during the pandemic through business partnerships are emerging:

  1. Where possible, aid agencies should partner with businesses and NFPs who have already collaborated and formed successful working relationships. Using these relationships as building blocks for reaching more women with high impact interventions is instrumental in providing faster, wider and deeper impact for women.
  2. In responding to the acute supply-chain shocks of the pandemic, consideration of a spectrum of interventions that address women’s needs is most effective. For example, immediate relief (e.g. cash transfers, food aid, PPE, health packages) should be complemented with those that facilitate transition to longer-term resilience (e.g. future income diversification, advocacy for women’s rights).
  3. Incorporating women’s challenges and needs from the beginning of project design is crucial, and checking back directly with them as initiatives are deployed to ensure relevance and impact is just as important.  What isn’t working should be adapted for maximum impact.

Read more on BP4GG’s work here: bp4gg – Issuu

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