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Vital Voices partners pledge $1.5 bln for women-owned businesses

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 25 Sep 2013 02:00 PM
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Fadhilah Arshad, a businesswoman, talks to a supplier as she sells cloth at her bazaar in Kuala Lumpur December 1, 2009. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad
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NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Vital Voices Global Partnership, the largest international non-governmental organisation providing training and support to women leaders, has pledged $1.5 billion over five years to advance and scale-up the participation of small and medium-sized women-owned businesses in the global supply chain.

The pledge by the NGO grouping nearly two dozen businesses and foundations may be one of the largest commitments to be made at this year's Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), founded in 2005 by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. The CGI annually brings together global leaders to create and implement solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.

"Vital Voices has had a commitment every single year since the very first CGI and this is the biggest commitment with the most partners that we've ever engaged in," Alyse Nelson, president and CEO of Vital Voices, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The commitment is really just the beginning, now the work is getting underway," said Nelson, whose organisation was established in 1997 to promote the advancement of women by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

To track and measure the impact of the partners' investments, Vital Voices will work with WEConnect International, which provides business education, certification, and connections to companies based outside the United States that are at least 51 percent owned, managed and controlled by one or more women.

"Smart companies make strategic investments in women," said Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO and co-founder of WeConnect International, in a statement.

Potentially, some 15,000 non-U.S.-based women-owned firms could benefit from training and help with market entry from the investments pledged by the partners.

"One of the things we've seen in our work is that there is a significant amount of development dollars helping women start small and medium business enterprises," said Nelson. "Yet they only represent one percent of sales to multinational corporations in the global supply chain."

Nelson said each of the commitment partners first will review their vendor lists for the number of women-owned firms they currently list as business partners.

In some cases, they may scale up those contracts. In others, they may enlist new women-owned businesses as suppliers. WeConnect will be able to help through a process by which it vets and certifies women-owned businesses that are ready to be in the global supply chain.

Partners in the commitment include: Accenture LLP; The Boeing Company; the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women; The Coca-Cola Company; DLA Piper; EY; Exxon Mobil Corporation; The International Center for Research on Women; IBM; Johnson Controls Inc.; Marriott International Inc.; McLarty Global Fellows; Pfizer Inc.; The Rockefeller Foundation; the Royal Bank of Scotland plc; Thunderbird School of Global Management; The U.S. Department of State and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

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