Women are the key to unlocking a multi-trillion dollar economic treasure chest linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a new report.

The Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals paper from WomenRising2030, an initiative supported by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, sets out how US$12 trillion in ‘new market value’ – linked to the SDGs – can be realised through ‘gender equality in the workplace’.

In the foreword to the report, Gail Klintworth, Business Transformation Director, Business and Sustainable Development Commission, said: “Achieving gender equality is an important focus of the Global Goals, although much of that dialogue to date has focused primarily on Goal 5 (gender equality), which aims to empower women and fight discrimination. It may be an unintended consequence, but this limited discussion risks positioning women as beneficiaries of the goals, rather than as individuals whose leadership is required to achieve them.

“This report intends to bridge that gap in the conversation. Its findings show that when more women are in corporate decision-making positions, their companies benefit – as do society and the environment. For example, one study of more than 1,500 global corporations found that compared to companies with less gender-balanced boards, those with more women board members offer more goods and services to communities with limited or no access to financial products. Those organisations also tend to prioritise environmental issues and are likely to invest in renewable power, low-carbon products, and energy efficiency. To highlight a strong public-sector example, a recent study found that women in the United States House of Representatives consistently outvoted their male colleagues on environmental protection every year from 2006 until 2015.”