SheSupplies in collaboration with WomenWin, Win-Win strategies and the Social-Economic Council (SER), organized an in-person event in Pakhuis de Zwijger on October 31st 2022 which was kicked off by Lilianne Ploumen, former minister of Trade and Development Cooperation. The event brought together different businesses and organizations in the food sector, and included a panel of experts – Kirsten Kossen from ASN Bank, Inge Jacobs from Mars, Meine van der Graaf from Wakuli and Emma de Ouden from SER – who shared their knowledge on the topic of gender equality in the supply chain.

Lilianne Ploumen giving speech

Lilianne Ploumen sharing insights during the event.

Lilianne Ploumen provided key insights on equal pay for equal work, she said: ‘Women’s unequal pay is still a problem. Women are being devalued, we are selling the world short, and therefore also our organizations’, highlighting how much gender inequality still exists and that change must begin immediately. ‘Gender equality is a matter of decency. Everyone counts, if you work on human rights you also have to work on gender equality’, she mentioned. According to a study by BSR, if women participated in the economy equally to men, it would add as much as US$28 trillion to the annual global GDP.

The panelists explored how businesses may use technology to their advantage, as well as the need of having a diverse workforce in order to have a more sustainable business model. They discussed how to build an inclusive atmosphere for gender equality in the supply chain to ensure that women are not discriminated against.

The two steps of the due diligence process at Mars Inc were discussed by Inge Jacobs, Senior Manager – Human Rights and Income – Cocoa. Step 1, focusing on what needs to change for women to realize their full potential (A Mars initiative). And step 2, it is about what is happening within the business internally. She emphasized how decision-making rights, discrimination and equal opportunity are their top three priorities and that Mars extended parental leave to 18 months as one of the initiatives.

Meine van der Graaf, Sourcing for Impact manager at Wakuli highlighted that there is a lot small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can do to improve gender equality in the supply chain. He said: ‘For SMEs with limited resources it is extra important to look for maximum overlap: work on regenerative production, income improvement, access to the market and include a better position for women in the mix.’ He also advised businesses to start documenting their own evidence on how a healthy balance between men and women benefits the business, making them futureproof.

In addition, both Win-Win Strategies and SheSupplies presented best practices that are used at Freddie’s Flowers & Signify highlighting the adaptation of gender equality for businesses to succeed, further emphasizing the importance of including women in the discussion room.

‘Nothing about us, without us’

The event was educational, and the former minister correctly stated some key points for advancing gender equality in supply chains, including the statement about women: ‘Nothing about us, without us’. She believes that the voices of female employees are crucial, highlighting that equal pay, childcare, transportation and health care for women are all things that should be done along with safe workplaces and paying the minimum wages. By providing women with a platform, businesses can make a difference, set a good example and ultimately make better business decisions.

‘Organizations gain from having a good gender balance’

The power of advancing gender equality in supply chains and gender-responsive procurement was opened up over a day of lively talks with our network of partners, members, mentors, and enthusiasts. The discussion covered a wide range of topics and concerns to address women’s rights and gender equality in the supply chain from a business viewpoint. Participants included Dutch enterprises, government representatives, financial institutions, NGOs and independent specialists. These individuals’ varied backgrounds helped share their experiences, lessons learned, and a key message—that organizations gain from having a good gender balance throughout their business.