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By Jane Fiona Cumming and Anne Millar-Durrant

Doughnut Thinking[i] states that the 9 planetary limits and 12 social thresholds need to be considered together, holistically, in order to ensure the survival of humanity. It’s not just a ‘Green’ recovery that’s needed, it’s a multi-beneficiary approach to recovery.

Our current blog series is focusing on the social thresholds – looking at ways in which businesses can build them into their plans. Here we focus on Social Equity.

From our 2020 research, only 2% of companies have targets at scale with what the world needs to address the Social Equity threshold. This amounts to just a 1 million people being targeted with programmes to empower marginalised members of society.

The Social Equity threshold is measured by the % of countries with a Palma ratio above 2. This ratio takes the richest 10% of the population's share of gross national income (GNI) and divides it by the poorest 40% of the population's share so it’s about spotlighting income inequality.

Oxfam's recent report 'The Inequality Virus' examines how a world torn apart by coronavirus can be brought together through a fair, just and sustainable economy[ii] .

In the UK the income inequalities between rich and poor have widened further during the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from key workers, the bottom 10% of earnings are in sectors that have been forced to be shut down during lockdowns. 80% of those people in shut down sectors cannot perform their job from home compared to only 25% of the highest earners[iii]. Furlough schemes have helped offset this for a time, but new studies by the Health Foundation reveals that an economic crisis is likely to have unequal impact on people with the lowest incomes[iv].

Women have also been disproportionality affected by COVID-19 with more women than men being made unemployed[v]. There are also concerns that transgender people will be left behind after the pandemic. In the USA, transgender people of colour are six times more likely than the national average to be unemployed and five times more likely to have incomes of less than $24,000[vi]. This means they are in an incredibly vulnerable financial state.


We have seen the power of ‘collective voice’ to bring marginalised groups to the fore in the recent Black Lives Matter movement that has sparked conversation and activism around the world. People are ready for change, and businesses must listen to what people in marginalised groups want, such as more representation on Company Boards and within governments, as well as the provision of education around issues that minorities face[vii].

Addressing social equity is good for business. Not only can you find and nurture diverse talent, but you will attract positive attention if you are open and honest about your efforts to help minorities and oppressed groups. A study found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenues due to innovation[viii].

Businesses have a role to play by empowering these marginalised groups during the “green” COVID-19 recoveries that governments have started to lay out to make sure no-one is left behind. Initiatives include:

Understanding that equal pay must come for equal work, regardless of race, gender or sexuality

Sourcing suppliers that are from marginalised groups

Giving custom to these groups and create a good supplier relationship[ix].

If you would like advice today on social equity initiatives, click here.

To see a snapshot of our latest research, click here.

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