Driving the change towards more ethical business

As we approach our 2022 AGM in June, we are delighted to share this post from Trustee Nankunda Katangaza, who joined our Board in 2021. Here, Nankunda talks about being a Trustee, and her thoughts on how ethical finance can drive women’s empowerment.

Joining Co-operative and Community Finance (CCF) felt very serendipitous to me. I’ve done volunteer work since I was 15, from hands on helping out in a youth club every weekend to volunteering for an HIV/AIDS awareness organisation working in the African & Caribbean community as a university student to more strategic and governance-based roles over the years. It’s a great way of meeting people and getting involved in one’s community that also bring depth to one’s career.

Most recently, I was on the Board of a theatre company for 6 years, which recently completed a chapter and started a new one – a physical relocation to a new, purpose-built theatre, 70 years since it first opened its doors. So the time was right to make room for new blood to continue that journey and for me to find something new. Just then, the CCF opportunity popped up on my Linked In. The Board roles I’ve held previously have always been quite complementary to my interests both professionally and personally – in the arts, as a school governor and in the legal services sector – but this time I was looking for something a little further afield and that would also broaden my skills and experience as an entrepreneur.

I’d been thinking about a board in the financial services sector but most of the opportunities arising were with big banks and financial institutions that didn’t quite fit what I had in mind. CCF was firmly in the financial services world but with values that were in keeping with my own and serving businesses that do not traditionally have much access to financing – co-operatives, social enterprises, employee-owned businesses, women-owned businesses etc. CCF offered the potential to really get involved with and support the types of businesses similar to mine and also understand more about investment and finance – it felt perfect. Everyone at CCF is committed, passionate and knowledgeable and I’m enjoying getting to know the people and the organisation and looking forward to contributing to the organisation’s work.

CCF’s recent blog on the 2022 Earth Day theme ‘Investing in our Planet’ is part of an increasingly urgent push for change. CCF should be at the heart of shaping a more ethical way of doing business, the co-op way. It is also an opportune moment to observe and learn from some of the large finance houses out there on how to maximise resources and communicate effectively to our target business communities. I’m also pleased that CCF is signing up to the Diversity Forum Manifesto 2.0.  When there are different voices committed to the same cause, there is a broadness of approach which can be transformative. It can truly elevate and accelerate change I am excited about the potential there is for CCF and ambitious for what the organisation can do.

I’ve been thinking recently about women and finance, and investment in women’s enterprises. How can we at CCF really contribute to greater and innovative investment and financing of women-owned businesses? In my view, this can best be addressed by taking a gendered approach to financing that has the empowerment of women at its heart, whilst also tackling existing social, economic and institutional barriers.

We all know that women bore the brunt of the pandemic both socially and economically. They were first to lose low-paid work, over-represented in jobs ineligible for furlough, took on most of the home-schooling responsibilities and the domestic work burden etc. Violence against women and girls, already endemic, increased dramatically globally. In a world where this is the reality, how can we invest in or finance women’s enterprises and deliberately, purposefully address the broader gender inequalities in society? Approximately 30% of all businesses globally are owned by women but under 1% of corporate and government spend goes to them. We still have situations in many countries where access to a bank account must be under-written by a man, and men make all decisions about how household income money is spent. How can we invest to balance creating real, social impact and also a return on investment?

There are already interesting initiatives taking place globally on innovative financing structures and deployment of investment through a gender lens that can provide useful lessons – for examples see this article from the World Bank and this one from the European Investment Bank . This could be done, for example, by creating dedicated funds for women-owned businesses and financial instruments that specifically support women’s entrepreneurship. Of course, businesses don’t have to be women-owned to achieve gender equality outcomes and different incentives can be created. For example, a requirement for a gender equality assessment of supply chains to secure eligibility for financing. Or offering higher value loans or finance for specific outcomes, or lower interest rates for businesses that achieve gender equality goals. 

As an ethical financing entity, CCF already provides technical support and financial awareness and access for small co-ops and therefore has the experience and expertise to target women-owned businesses and design activities that meet their particular needs whether they are large companies, SMEs or micro-enterprises. There is so much that could be done and I’m excited to be part of the team at CCF, driving this forward.

Does this sound like the kind of conversation you’d like to be involved in?

There is still time to put yourself forward to join Nankunda and our other Trustees as we are recruiting now -the deadline in noon on May 9th. We would love to hear from you if this sounds like something you’d be interested in.