How can your business unlock the potential within your value chain?

by 21st Aug 2018
Meti Feyisaa, a farmer in Waji Chilalo, Ethiopia. Meti Feyisaa, a farmer in Waji Chilalo, Ethiopia.

CARE and Diageo have conducted an in-depth gender analysis of Diageo’s barley supply chain in Oromia region, Ethiopia. We have been working together in a global partnership since 2016 and wanted to more deeply understand the barriers and opportunities for women’s economic empowerment. We believe that what we learned could provide useful lessons not just for Diageo, but for any business with a global supply chain.

Some of the results of the analysis are what you might expect: ingrained gender norms often prevent women from accessing and realising the benefits of their barley production. What was perhaps more surprising is how the nuances of everyday business practices such as contracting can have a significant impact on gender equity and therefore the performance of the value chain. Through completing the research, we realised that these findings aren’t just relevant to Diageo, they apply to any business with a global value chain and there are three key things your business can do to unlock the potential of women and your value chain:

1. Understand where women are within your value chain

Since 2014, Diageo has been contracting farmers using unions and primary co-operatives as intermediaries; co-operative membership is a pre-requisite for being a farmer contracted to supply to Diageo. The report found that women are under-represented within co-operatives and on average, women account for only 13% of co-operative membership.

Women are therefore invisible within the value chain which means that they are more likely to be excluded from training and decision-making regarding farming and its benefits.

The report recommends collecting sex-disaggregated data at every level so that co-operatives, unions, partners and Diageo can identify the roles that women play and therefore what the priorities are for increasing their participation. Understanding the roles which women carry out, and why they are excluded from other roles, will help you to unlock the potential within your value chain.

2. Set targets to proactively support women in your value chain

Once you have mapped where women are within your supply chain, you can identify targets to support their empowerment and unlock business potential. The report recommends establishing targets for the number of women who are contracted as farmers and to ensure that minimum numbers of female-headed-households participate as members.

In addition to setting targets, it recommends working with unions and co-operatives, training and input providers to create gender inclusive strategies, outreach and action plans; targeting training and incentives to female extension trainers; and ensuring that training and meetings are gender-sensitive i.e. they take into account women’s workloads and have flexible locations.

3. Recognise your strengths and the role of partnership

The above recommendations present some quick(er) wins. However, women will not be incentivised to contribute to your value chain over the long-term unless they have equity in household relations and decision-making.

The report found that on average, women in the Diageo barley supply chain spend 10-13 hours a day carrying out agricultural activities, looking after children, the elderly, sick relatives, cooking, fetching water and fetching firewood, often awakening around 5 or 6am to complete their tasks. In contrast, men awake at 8am and have far more leisure time within their days.

This is where the power of partnerships comes in. Entrenched cultural norms and unequal relationship dynamics need to be addressed in order for any interventions within the value chain to be made sustainable. The private sector cannot do this alone. Businesses should partner with NGOs which have the expertise and knowledge to address fundamental barriers such as gender-based violence and to engage men and the entire community to create a supportive environment for women’s empowerment. By partnering with governments meanwhile, businesses can increase access to essential service provision, gender-sensitive policies and training.

These three steps may not provide all of the solutions, but they can begin to help your business unlock the power of women within your value chain and release your business potential.

Verity O'Shaughnessy

I am a Partnerships Manager in the Private Sector Engagement team. I oversee the team’s portfolio of partnerships with the private sector with a focus on women’s economic empowerment and humanitarian emergencies. I support the team to work with our private sector partners to achieve income objectives for CARE, multiply impact for communities living in poverty and influence business practices for greater social impact. I also directly manage strategic partnerships with Diageo, Twinings and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG). I specialise in women’s economic empowerment throughout the value chain from smallholder farmers to retailers and customers, in particular through managing CARE’s partnerships with Diageo and Twinings. Within the IHG partnership, I focus on developing a strategic approach with IHG to the whole disaster relief cycle including response, recovery and preparedness.

I joined CARE in 2015 from the Fairtrade Foundation where I specialised in developing markets for fairtrade products grown by smallholder farmers and workers in coffee, tea, sugar and cocoa value chains. I have a BA in Development Studies from the University of Sussex, which is where my passion for working with the private sector to achieve development impact sprung from!

One good thing I've watched

Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette is a powerful punch of the realities of being somebody that exists in society’s margins and an account of why this means Hannah is leaving comedy. Hannah shares her personal experiences of the abuse and discrimination she has endured for being seen as ‘other’ and the cultural norms that have enabled it. A heart-breaking (and at points hilarious) call to recognise “diversity is strength”.


Twitter: @VOShaughnessy