Gender equality: food brands have much more to do

Just 4% of sustainability commitments made by 34 of the world’s largest food companies relate to gender equality.

Lumina Intelligence Sustainability analysed 905 pledges made within the corporate sustainability (CSR) reports of 34 manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and foodservice companies against the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, on gender equality.

Only three – Nestlé, Tata Global Beverages and PepsiCo – make ongoing pledges to pay women equally to men. Women also account for fewer than half the managerial positions at most of the top food and drink companies. Many companies are committed to increasing the proportion of women in management, but few guarantee pay parity,” Lumina’s sustainability analyst, Oliver Nieburg said in an interview with

Lumina’s analysis also covered foodservice companies that are large buyers of cocoa, coffee and tea (Starbucks, McDonald’s and Tchibo). None of the three make gender equality pledges in their latest CSR reports, Nieberg told Footprint. They have however separately made some commitments on female employees – such as 100% pay equality for women (Starbucks) and improved women's representation and career advancement (McDonald's).

Nieberg added: “These pledges only relate to certain markets, though, and the deadlines are not always clear. The majority of foodservice CSR commitments (82 pledges from three companies) are for SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, and typically relate to sourcing third-party certified agri-commodities.”

Analysis by Footprint of the first gender pay gap reports published last year showed that among the 10 largest contract catering companies (measured by turnover, based on the BHA Foodservice Management Market Report 2017), the difference in pay between the sexes ranged from 5.1% at OCS to 34.1% at Aramark. The average for the sector was 1%.

The deadline for 2018 pay gap reports to be submitted by private companies is April 4th 2019.

Last week, UKHospitality announced the establishment of the UKH Diversity Forum, which will enable the hospitality sector to share best practice and creative solutions to “ensure the sector continues to provide opportunities irrespective of gender, ethnicity, age or sexuality”.

UKH CEO Kate Nicholls said: “The hospitality sector has great record on issues like gender balance and pay. There is, however, more that we can do to ensure that representation is equal at all levels of business, including senior management and board levels.”

 In the coming months, UK foodservice companies will likely have to prepare for more rules on pay transparency, relating to ethnicity, disability and the gap between the CEO and median worker. A recent analysis of the new proposals is available here.

 FoodNavigator’s full report on the Lumina research is available here.

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