for transport, food or corporate governance, women have a more virtuous approach than men
“You also have to change your mentality so that eating a steak cooked on a barbecue is no longer a symbol of virility. » This sentence, pronounced by the deputy Sandrine Rousseau during the summer days of Europe Ecology-The Greens, in 2022, had triggered a politico-media frenzy, which had eclipsed the questioning on the environmental issue of food.
This question came up again this week on the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day, from an unexpected pen: that of an economist from the Banque de France, Oriane Wegner, who examines in a note THE “gender disparities in behaviors and consequences associated with climate change”.
Even if income is the explanation that comes up most often to justify disparities in greenhouse gas emissions within a population, gender has also been pointed out by several international studies as a major discriminator. Particularly in transport, food and governance.
A less polluting use of transport
In metropolitan France, men use significantly more polluting transport than women. The trend is particularly marked in Ile-de-France, where 53% of men go to work by car or motorized two-wheeler, compared to 40% of women, according to a study by the National Institute of Statistics and Studies. statistics (INSEE) in 2011. While the situation is more balanced in the rest of the country, with 80% of women and men driving cars, the latter travel more on two wheels.
“The regular use of a motorized two-wheeler is a very masculine practice, in Ile-de-France as in the provinces”, specifies the INSEE. A gender disparity confirmed by a survey carried out by TNS Sofres for the Groupement des entreprisesmutuelles d’assurances in 2009: at the national level, only one motorized two-wheeler driver in four is a female driver.
Ile-de-France residents are emblematic of the discrepancy in the choice of modes of transport: in 2010, theObservatory of mobility in Ile-de-France indicated that the former mostly traveled by car while the latter mostly went on foot and by public transport. Admittedly, they move as much on average; but in the Paris region, “when only one car is available in a household with at least two working people, it is indeed more often used by men”explained INSEE.
Food that emits less GHGs
The food sector (agriculture, livestock, processing, transport) generates about a third of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of human origin, of which just under half are linked to livestock. However, with regard to meat diets, the gap between men and women is known and measured: according to the latest survey national food consumption data from the National Health Security Agency (Anses), the French eat 64% more charcuterie than the French and 80% more meat (excluding poultry).
These disparities are not only due to the overall quantities ingested: they are also found at comparable diets. In men, meat (about 61 grams per day) contributes nearly 2% to the daily caloric intake, against 1.4% in women (34 grams).
“In the context of the scarcity of meat for peasant and working-class populations, the consumption of meat products also varied within a household, with the head of the family having the right to larger and better portions to replenish strength. of work and ensure the satiety of the one who “earned the bread”recalls a 2018 study by FranceAgriMer on the evolution of vegetarian diets in Europeciting works of anthropology. We can indeed see the root of the image of meat as a male food. »
To refine this inventory of the gendered impact of diets, it would also be necessary to measure the consequences of the consumption of processed products, which are responsible for half of the greenhouse gases from our food, and in particular refined products, savory and sweet biscuits, desserts, sweet and/or alcoholic drinks, etc., of which men are the greatest consumers. Dairy products (excluding cheese) are the only products that women consume more than men – this sector as a whole accounts for approximately 4% of all greenhouse gas emissions at the World level.
At work, management that is more committed to the environment
Even if women are still largely in the minority at the head of companies, when they manage to do so, they more often demonstrate a commitment to the environment than men. “Existing research suggests that women show a higher propensity to protect the environment, and a greater concern for the dimension CSR [responsabilité environnementale de l’entreprise] of the company. Studies also note the beneficial effect of gender diversity on boards of directors on the renewable energy consumptionand for banks on granting loans in favor of less polluting companies »summarizes the economist Oriane Wegner in his note.
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On the scale of France, this trend also seems to be confirmed, at least in terms of the commitments of female leaders, both in the large groups that in SMEs. In fact, the more the management is feminized, the better the quality of CSR, according to the Skema observatory of the feminization of companies, which calculates the correlation coefficient between the environmental risk rating and the proportion of women in decision-making bodies.
A finding verified empirically within the CAC 40, where companies engaged in an ambitious carbon trajectory (according to calculations by the Carbon cabinet 4), such as Schneider Electric, Legrand or Engie, also have more female management bodies (more than 30% of women on the executive committee).
Correlation not being causality, it is difficult to know if the companies already virtuous in their environmental strategy decide to place women at their head, or if the conscripts bring the necessary change in terms of sustainable development. What is certain is that it is easier to invite women into its decision-making bodies than to modify its climate trajectory when it is committed to a very carbon-intensive path, from finance to fossil fuels.
In Sweden, female households produce fewer greenhouse gases
In Sweden, researchers showed in 2021 that men emit, on average, 16% more greenhouse gases than women.
To arrive at this observation, Annika Carlsson Kanyama, Jonas Nässén and René Benders have drawn up an average table of expenditure using Swedish state statistics, before calculating the ecological cost of the most common products and services from a software already used for similar surveys. They focused on the activities of single men and women, to avoid biases induced by family life – where household emissions are pooled among all its members, including children, which makes comparisons more hazardous.
“The explanation for these inequalities is not in the amount of expenditure. Men consume only 2% more than women. Rather, it is found in spending patterns”advances the study.