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“COVID 19 has been seen as a test run for a major climate event. The parallels are clear: both are silent threats of global scale, they move quickly through borders, they do not discriminate between rich or poor, young or old or race or religion. Both are existential threats against humanity where complete solutions are still unclear. Although both threats are known, we have not taken them seriously enough and hence this urgent call to action,” says En Lee, Head of Sustainable and Impact Investments Asia, LGT.
With the growing importance in climate financing in Asia, leading practitioners who spoke at the AVPN Virtual Conference 2020 highlighted that systemic change to support a resilient ecosystem can only happen when climate action works in tandem with gender equality efforts.
Climate change may worsen gender inequality
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the destructive nature of global crises without immediate resolutions. Likewise, the effects of climate change are slated to be even more devastating and far-ranging. These crises have the potential to widen inequality due to disproportional effects along demographic lines.
“Discrimination and gender norms mean that women and men are impacted differently by climate change” – Katie Turner (Senior Director, Global Programs MEDA).
Especially in rural or impoverished communities, the effects of climate change can be intricately tied with gender identity as agricultural income and land ownership are distinct along gender lines.
Dual-cause impact investing
In adopting a climate change resilient framework, investors can consider how their portfolio will impact marginalised communities, including women. This correlates with an area of growing prominence in the impact investing sector: gender lens investing. In this instance, it will entail that women-led businesses or those supporting women beneficiaries are supported by green financing while driving climate action.
Virginia Tan, Founding Partner of Teja Ventures, gave examples of gender lens investing adopted in her investing process. For Teja Ventures, the venture capital firm will take into account the target beneficiary group, product impact, and overall empowerment in the ecosystem. For instance, one company employs women as rural agents in India to promote sales of solar products. Likewise, Katie Turner, Senior Director within Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA)’s Global Programs, also raised a case study to attention in which smallholder farms in Nicaragua have not only enhanced their access to climate-smart agricultural technology but also shielded women whose agricultural crops can be adversely affected by climate change. In these cases, even without the explicit intent to align the two causes, the resultant impact has led to converging climate and gender impact.
Building a vibrant and resilient ecosystem
A vibrant social investment ecosystem, with the right players and infrastructure in place, is imperative for impact investing to thrive. As pointed out by Joanna Messing, Executive Director, Growald Family Fund, “No individual foundation can take on an issue as large as climate change”, highlighting the importance of multi-sector collaboration.
Fundamentally, financial and impact outcomes are prioritised by investors. Hence, a measurement index to coordinate and quantify investment outcomes have been cited as essential for decision making. In this area, efforts have been made to initiate these processes to draw private investors into the sector. For instance, the Women and Climate Impact (WCI) Fund has pioneered impact matrices with the duo consideration of climate change and gender equality. With the launching of the certification label, W+ Standard by WOCAN in partnership with UNDP, the effects of investments in enhancing women’s empowerment while simultaneously advancing climate objectives can be formally measured. This entails a rigorous cost-benefit analysis in resource allocation in both the public and private sectors. A sample measurement criteria for the W+ Standard has been shared during the interactive conference workshop on “Gender-Responsive Climate Cost Benefit Analysis Tool”.
Fig 1. Sample Matrix of W+ Standard Measurement Criteria
While it has yet to be widely adopted, the introduction of a measurement standard is promising – and a useful tool to quantify returns while justifying investment decisions beyond traditional methods of measurement in monetary terms. The alignment of financial and impact goals, alongside the social causes of gender and climate, will allow the unique and multi-dimensional nature of this sector to be quantified. Optimistically, it may also signal the beginning of long-term investment and restructuring with potential involvement of regulatory authorities. With elements of the ecosystem more robustly established, the influx of capital and stakeholders will boost its appeal to more diverse audiences.