Global non-profit group Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) is partnering with six leading sustainability networks around the world on a three-year project to advance women's empowerment in global supply chains.

The collaboration aims to make women's empowerment central to the strategies, guidelines and practices that provide a framework for supply chain management. It has support from the likes of the Foreign Trade Associations' Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) and from Sedex, the non-profit group working to improve global supply chains.

As part of this partnership, BSCI will work closely with BSR to develop guidance that clarifies where and how its BSCI 2.0 system can be further reinforced to integrate a "gender lens" that takes into account the rights and needs of women in supply chains.

"Inventing a code isn't going to help achieve gender equality in the supply chain," says Peder Michael Pruzan-Jorgensen, senior vice president at BSR. "To be effective, gender considerations need to infiltrate the existing standards. This gender code guidance is a first step toward mainstreaming gender considerations into private-sector policies and practices."

Also on board are the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), The Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI), International Council of Toy Industries CARE Foundation (ICTI CARE), and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). According to BSR, these partnerships will have a "ripple effect" on thousands of major companies worldwide, placing women's empowerment at the forefront.

"We are delighted to be part of this important initiative, which will support our BSCI participants toward adopting strategies, guidelines, and practices that incorporate a gender lens," says Christian Ewert, FTA director general. "Our members have an unwavering commitment toward the empowerment of women in global supply chains and value the power of partnerships and collaborations, as well as the impact of a collective voice on critical issues."

To accompany this guidance, which will be made publicly available early 2017, specific auditing guidelines will be developed to support the identification of practices that prevent women from achieving their fullest potential.

In addition, BSR will collaborate with ICTI-CARE and IDH on in-country work to design and implement women's empowerment strategies in partnership with local industry associations in India and Kenya to foster deeper change within those countries.

"Women play an instrumental role in supply chains and experience specific challenges relating to gender equality, including fair remuneration, representation, and exploitation," explains Jonathan Ivelaw-Chapman, Sedex CEO. "Sedex, through its partnership project with BSR, will support and aim to re-address the issues of gender equality and improve the working conditions of women in supply chains."

The partnership is part of a three-year project focusing on mobilising private sector action for women empowerment, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs (MINBUZA).