Increased female and youth legislative representation may improve ESG performance

July 16, 2023

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Increased female and youth legislative representation may improve ESG performance

As part of a larger body of research, psychologists have studied the composition of national legislatures from more than 100 countries and found that those with higher female and youth representation perform better in achieving the 17 ESG (environment, social and governance) goals and 169 targets.

The study involved cross-disciplinary collaboration between researchers in marine ecology, environmental policy, and political science, and revealed the trade-offs between environmental and socio-economic ESGs in the policy making process, and the choices countries have made on the different paths towards achieving the global goals.

Females and youth are currently underrepresented in many parliaments, such as that of Japan, which has one of the lowest numbers of female parliamentary members and a high average age of cabinet members. The authors hope their results can help motivate countries to increase diversity in their legislatures and potentially achieve better ESG performance.

The researchers also examined the performance of countries on different types of ESG goals.

What the researchers say: “An interesting finding is that when we separate the environmental goals from socio-economic goals, we find that female and young parliamentarians do not have the same effect on achieving these two different types of goals. For example, a greater percentage of female parliamentarians positively affects the performance of socio-economic goals, but doesn’t affect the performance of environmental ones,” the lead author explained.

“This means that there is a divide or trade-off between socio-economic goals and environmental goals, especially in developed countries that tend to have very high scores on social and economic goals, but lower scores for environmental goals,” she said. “It’s a big global challenge and it’s why countries need to turn trade-offs between these two into synergies.”

The researchers point out that if trade-off challenges are not properly resolved, increasing females and youth in parliaments will not necessarily mean that we can achieve the desired social and environmental ends. We urgently need a more balanced approach to reach them, or even one in which environmental related outcomes such as those associated with climate change, biodiversity, and sustainable consumption and production, are prioritized. “Our study shows the limit to the current approach to sustainable development, where countries can cherry pick what to work on and what not to work on,” the researchers explained.

Further studies can explain why nations with a higher proportion of young and female legislators are more successful in achieving ESG goals and explore how the increased presence of these demographics in local governments can impact sustainable development. Such research could reveal similar trends across different regions and promote stronger links between socio-economic and environmental objectives.

So, what? I believe that this research could equally well be applied to organizations.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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