With over half of the world’s total GDP (circa $58 trillion of economic value) being moderately or highly dependent on nature, the degradation of our natural capital represents an escalating threat to our ecosystems, and to the financial stability of nations and organizations. Since the launch of the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), financial institutions have been increasingly recognizing the benefits of assessing and mitigating nature-related capital risks. Yet, the gender component in nature-risk management is often overlooked. In this article, you will discover a four-pillar structure mirroring the TNFD to incorporate gender-responsive strategies in nature-risk management.
Nature-related risks do not affect all groups equally, and gender – in this context referring to the social aspects of being a woman, men or other gender identity – plays a significant role in how populations and communities and in turn financial institutions are affected by, and can respond to, nature-related risk. Contaminated water sources, polluted air, and the spread of diseases due to ecological imbalances can pose significant health risks with specific gendered implications. For example, in many cultures, women are more likely to be responsible for water collection, which can pose risks to child and maternal health if the water sources are contaminated. In low-income settings, indoor air pollution due to cooking with solid fuels can lead to respiratory problems, which have been linked to pregnancy-related illnesses. Natural risks like extreme weather events, soil degradation, and water scarcity can also directly affect food security, which, in turn, may have a significant impact on women’s well-being and the well-being of their families.
It is therefore imperative that organizations incorporate a gender-responsive approach into their strategies for managing nature risk . Gender-sensitive approaches provide a more accurate assessment of the actual impact of nature-related risk on all stakeholders, ensuring that vulnerabilities are adequately addressed. It fosters community engagement and participation in sustainability efforts. Businesses that embrace gender-responsive strategies can also tap into increasing market opportunities, especially in sustainable finance and financial health and inclusion. Recognizing and serving the unique financial needs of both women and men can be a valuable business proposition. Organizations that incorporate gender into their nature-related risk strategies demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility . In the context of a global regulatory environment that places increasing fiduciary duties on the financial sector, these frameworks are also an important element of risk management. By being proactive about addressing nature-based risks through a gender lens, financial institutions can enhance their reputation and build trust among stakeholders while also opening up new markets.
The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), launched in September, plays a pivotal role in aiding the business sector in its approach to nature risks. Modeled after the successful Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), the TNFD aims to create a consistent framework for reporting on nature-related issues, with a specific focus on nature and biodiversity. It provides organizations with guidelines to assess their dependencies, impacts, risks, and opportunities related to nature. These can be addressed through integrating gender considerations across four pillars: within the organization’s governance processes, strategies, risk management, and through the development of metrics and targets.
Organizations can improve their gender responsiveness at the governance level through more balanced gender representation in their decision-making. One way to do this could be to set targets for gender representation at the senior management level. This is an approach that many UNEP FI members have adopted, including BNP Paribas, Lloyds Banking Group, and Santander.
Gender can also be considered at the governance level through specific reference to women as part of the organization’s human rights and stakeholder engagement policies. For example, ING produces an annual human rights review which provides an overview of how they embed their commitment to human rights within business conduct, including through client engagement. As part of this broader commitment to human rights, in 2018 they signed the UN Global Compact Women Empowerment Principles and developed the Lioness network to promote diversity and inclusion for women within the workplace.
The TNFD Framework recognizes the importance of stakeholder engagement through consultation and capacity building, which can make communities more resilient to the impacts of natural risks. To assist organizations in improving their stakeholder management processes, TNFD produced the TNFD Guidance on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities and Affected Stakeholders.
At the strategic level, organizations are encouraged to assess and disclose nature-related dependencies on their business model, strategy, and financial planning. This includes disclosure of how the organization makes decisions to mitigate the negative impacts of its business activities on the environment , including through its sourcing and procurement policies. These impact assessments should be conducted in a gender-inclusive way to better understand how different genders may be affected differently.
The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)’s 2020 Gender Plan of Action can be a useful resource for organizations that are just beginning to develop a gender-responsive impact assessment strategy. An important first step is to close data gaps arising from the limited collection of gender statistics and sex-disaggregated data. UNEP has provided a useful guide for organizations to improve the way they collect data relevant to gender and the environment, which can in turn assist organizations to incorporate this data into their business strategies and planning processes.
As part of their risk management processes, businesses should specifically consider gendered impacts and vulnerabilities related to nature-based dependencies, recognizing and addressing the differential risks faced by women and men. Some of these risks may include women’s limited access to and control over land and property, which can restrict their ability to equitably share in profits within the agriculture and forestry sectors. Women in nature-dependent industries may be subject to economic disparities due to gender-based wage gaps and limited access to credit and financing.
Some UNEP FI members have already taken steps to mitigate these risks, for example, through financial health and inclusion programs that specifically target women entrepreneurs, especially those within nature-based industries. For example, Wema Bank, based in Nigeria, launched its SARA platform to address gender-based economic disparities and encourage women’s financial inclusion through support for women-led enterprises.
Metrics and targets
Finally, organizations working to adopt the TNFD framework should also include gender considerations when setting their metrics and targets. UNEP FI members can access additional resources on setting gender targets across their business operations and supply chains. These resources include the publicly available Guidance on Gender Equality Target Setting, as well as a member’s area with additional resources and access to best practice, case studies and examples on gender equality.
In addition, UNEP FI has also prepared a fact sheet on A Gender-Responsive Approach to Nature-Based Disclosures for Financial Institutions which you can access here.
In conclusion, incorporating a gender-responsive approach in addressing nature-related risk is essential for the financial sector to fully understand the impact of nature-related risks and to develop strategies that are inclusive and equitable. Financial institutions can use the TNFD’s four pillars as a valuable tool to adopt a gender lens in their assessment and disclosure practices. This proactive approach will lead to a more sustainable and equitable future where both nature and gender are given their due consideration, and financial institutions play a pivotal role in driving this transformation.
If you would like to find out more about how UNEP FI can support your organization to set gender targets as part of the TNFD framework or as part of your organization’s broader commitment to gender equality and social sustainability, please reach out to arrange a consultation .