International Day of The Girl

International Day of The Girl

International Day of The Girl

Did you know that there has been little overall progress on gender equality at the global level between 2015 and 2020? According to the World Economic Forum it will take another 131 years to achieve it. Did you know that The Netherlands ranks 25th out of the 27 EU countries in the representation of women in management positions?

In partnership with Plan International, we will launch The International Day of The Girl campaign on 11 October. 

All around the world, girls and young women are discriminated against, just because they are girls. On the International Day of The Girl, girls claim their space — girls with a mission, girls that raise their voices and lead the way. Together we fight for equal rights and opportunities. Can we count on your support? Will your organization join us? 

Girls and young women can change the world when they get the chance. Show that you support equal opportunities for girls and (young) women. Amplifying our messages, organizing a Girl Takeover, and committing to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). 

Photo credits header: Ilvy Njiokiktjien/Plan International



Share our messages on your personal and company’s social media channels to spread awareness. 

Girl Takeover

Organize a Girl Takeover within your company to give young women the opportunity to take over the role of business leaders for a day. 


Show that your company’s commitment to gender equality goes beyond 11 October by signing the Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Want to learn more? Register for the virtual information session on Tuesday, 3 October from 10:00-11:00. The session is free and open for everyone. 

Amplify the message on social media

Share our messages on your personal and company’s social media channels. Please tag us in your messages and use the campaign hashtags.


LinkedIn: @Plan-Nederland & @UN-Global-Compact-Network-Netherlands 

Instagram: @PlanInternationalNL & @GlobalCompactNL

X/Twitter: @PlanNederland & @GlobalCompactNL


#DayOfTheGirl #IDG2023 #UnitingBusiness #GirlTheWorld 


of women in the Netherlands depend financially on a partner or the government


Only 13% of Dutch companies publish information about equal pay


of women in the Netherlands experience pregnancy discrimination at work

Girl Takeover

The global #GirlTakeover is a call to action for radical social and political change to tear down barriers of discrimination and prejudice that continue to hold girls and (young) women back.

Young women step into the roles of leaders for a day to draw attention to the fact that they should have the chance to decide over their own life and the world they live in. And they demonstrate that – when given the chance – they can become whatever they want to be. They advocate for equal opportunity and representation of girls and (young) women.

Selection of companies that has participated


The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) are a set of seven principles offering guidance to businesses on how to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace, marketplace, and community.

These principles were established by the UN Global Compact and UN Women and are informed by international labour and human rights standards. The principles are grounded in the recognition that businesses have a stake in, and responsibility for, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

WEPs are a primary vehicle for corporate delivery on gender equality dimensions of the 2030 agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Receive more information

Jamie Holton

Sr. Programme Manager Business & Human Rights and Gender Equality

Contact person for the International Day of The Girl campaign 

The UN Global Compact Network Netherlands recognizes Eva Gouwens for championing the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN Global Compact Network Netherlands recognizes Eva Gouwens for championing the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN Global Compact Network Netherlands recognizes Eva Gouwens for championing the Sustainable Development Goals

The Hague, 26 June 2023 — Last week, Eva Gouwens was recognized as the 2023 local SDG Pioneer by the UN Global Compact Network Netherlands. An SDG Pioneer is a business leader working at any level of their company, using business as a force for good to advance the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

“To me personally and to us at Fairphone, being sustainable has always meant to care about the planet, but also about the people affected by the products we make. I love that, at Fairphone, we work day in and day out on how to put the SDGs into practice in our business, in our products and services to make it easier for our users to put them into practice as well. We develop products that are made fair and kept in use longer – by making them easier to repair and recycle, but also by offering long support and a fair and sustainable design. Being named UN SDG pioneer for the Netherlands is a great honour and recognition for these efforts.” – Eva Gouwens, CEO at Fairphone

As the winner of the Local Round, Eva Gouwens will now compete in the Global Round along with other candidates for the title of 2023 UN Global Compact SDG Pioneers. The global winners will be announced this September 2023 during the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit.

“The SDG Pioneers programme recognizes the dedicated professionals that drive and innovate solutions through new technologies, initiatives and business models that can enable us to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. We hope their work will inspire others to advance the Global Goals by implementing our Ten Principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption,” said Sanda Ojiambo, CEO & Executive Director of the UN Global Compact

About the SDG Pioneers Programme

As a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General, the UN Global Compact works with companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with the Ten Principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Launched in 2000, the UN Global Compact guides and supports the global business community in advancing UN goals and values through responsible corporate practices. With more than 18,000 companies and 3,800 non-business signatories in 162 countries and 62 Local Networks, it is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world.

For more information, follow @un-global-compact-network-netherlands on social media and visit our website at

Changing role of the CFO

Changing role of the CFO

Interview with Javier van Engelen, CFO at Signify: Changing role of the CFO

Javier van Engelen (CFO at Signify) and United Nations Global Compact


30-03-2023: CFOs are the stewards of corporate finance. By coming together, they can advance their collective understanding of why sustainability-linked investments are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and leverage billions of dollars in annual corporate investments to support the sustainability transition. 

UN Global Compact Network Netherlands spoke with Javier van Engelen, CFO at Signify, about the changing role of the CFO. 

‘’If CFOs want to properly address the challenges in sustainable finance, we need to collaborate to lobby for the right measures.’’

Javier, what is your vision of sustainability and the role of business therein?

Sustainability is not something we can have a debate about. It needs to be everyone’s focus moving forwards. There are three major parties involved in the sustainable transition: consumers, businesses, and governments. All have a crucial role to play. 

Companies are the drivers of innovation and are capable of informing both consumers and governments. Business is and will always be fueling innovation. For example, we went to the market with ultra-efficient LED lightbulbs that achieve 92% energy saving. If the private sector does not keep on innovating, our sustainable transition will stagnate.

When Signify innovates, technical knowledge of how a product contributes to the sustainability transition is developed within our company. We have a responsibility to inform our consumers and the governments of the contribution of our products.

What role does a CFO play in this? How does that express itself within Signify?

CFOs have a dual role in many businesses. We are part of a board of management and should act on that responsibility, but we also have the final responsibility for the financial management of the company. CFOs look at the risks for the company and subsequently derive strategies and ways to mitigate these risks. Centering sustainability in our operations means also centering it within our risk assessment and including it in our annual plans and long-term strategies. 

CFOs are also responsible for aligning (non-)financial targets and considering different investment choices. We must make decisions on where the business puts its money, whether in the sphere of innovation, production, or partnerships.

Where do you see the biggest challenges in the field of Sustainable Finance for the coming years?

I think the most important challenges within Sustainable Finance entail drawing and aligning a strong sustainability impact thesis, creating the right incentives in the market, and structuring communication and reporting. When looking at the impact thesis, I think the challenge is mainly centered around a culture change. Both supervisory boards, shareholders, and the investor base should be 100% convinced about the sustainability strategy. This requires the leadership team, and especially the CFO to be visionary and capable of sometimes decoupling the financial component from these sustainability challenges. When looking at creating the right reward systems and incentives, the challenge is especially big as I have not yet found proof that the market rewards sustainability through financial instruments which give an actual benefit. There are a lot of ESG-convertible bonds, but they don’t give a clear benefit. 

Focusing on communication and reporting, I think there is a huge challenge due to the lack of common standards and consistency. Creating a level-playing field for a listed company like Signify that needs to compete with non-European businesses is key.

Looking back on these challenges, I think the CFO Principles are a crucial instrument to tackle them. If all businesses and their CFOs commit to the Principles, drafting an impact thesis will become more straightforward, thought leadership on the creation of Corporate Finance reward systems will be advanced, and reporting and communication will become more transparent.

What has moved you to sign the CFO Principles for the SDGs?

As of now, CFOs are often still viewed as a bottleneck. The classical view regarding the CFO is that if the numbers cannot be justified, business cases aren’t viable. Current sustainability issues go way beyond this. CFOs need to be bold, daring, and future-oriented and that’s why I signed the CFO principles for the SDGs. Also, I believe that by collaborating we can swiftly advance on the previously discussed challenges, such as creating structural reward systems and a level playing field in communication and reporting. We should aim at creating a CFO 2.0 or CFO Green. A CFO with fiducial responsibility but an equal responsibility of focusing on directing investments towards sustainable innovations.

Looking at Signify, I work here because I fundamentally believe in what we are doing here. We’re maximizing the capacity and potential of light. We create brighter lives and move towards a better world. That inspired me because it brings technology together with what the planet needs. We innovate so we can move forward, whether it be improving crops with our solutions or decreasing crime rates in busy parks. These innovations are at least partially fueled by Corporate Finance. I believe there is a future where financial officers have a huge role to play, and the CFO Coalition for the SDGs can be a great contribution to this.

Could you explain the way Signify redirects investments to realizing the SDGs? 

To explain this, I will elaborate on our Brighter Lives, Better World Program. The purpose of this program is to unlock the extraordinary potential of light. The program is characterized by ‘doubling the impact’. We have four doubling initiatives. The first one entails climate action and CO2 footprint. We want to go at double the speed of the Paris Accord. We do this by focusing on a lot of internal initiatives but now also by focusing on scope three, so by critically analyzing our suppliers.

The second initiative entails circularity. We focus on a modular build where we can replace only certain elements instead of an entire product. 3D printing plays a crucial role in this. We want to increase this from 16% to 32% in all our products. Again, doubling. 

The third initiative focuses on food availability, safety & security, and health & well-being. All our initiatives in this scope focus on the positive influence of light on the livelihood of people. Think of projects like connected lighting in parks to decrease crime rates, or increase the mental health of people by mimicking outside lighting in offices. We call this last project Nature Connect. We want to bring the revenues from these initiatives where light can positively influence people from 16% to 32%. 

The fourth initiative is called A Great Place To Work. Our focus here is on gender and age diversity. We aim to bring women in leadership positions from 17% to 34% by 2025.


As of now, Signify is the only Dutch company to have signed the CFO Principles. Why is it important that other businesses follow Signify’s initiative and sign the principles?

I see the Netherlands as a progressive country that takes the lead and is home to many frontrunner companies. There’s the potential for so much innovation. However, if we want to properly address the sustainable finance challenges I laid out before, getting Dutch businesses to work together is crucial. Therefore, I urge companies to follow Signify’s example and sign the CFO Principles of the United Nations Global Compact. 

Javier van Engelen

Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Member of the Board
of Management

Javier van Engelen has joined Signify as Chief Financial
Officer (CFO) in June 2020 and is a Member of the Board of Management since October 2020. Before Signify, he has held financial leadership positions at international FMCG, retail and pharmaceutical companies in listed, family owned and private equity environments. He most recently held the position of CFO for Grupo Telepizza, a EUR 1.2 billion food operator, ultimately leading the process to take the company private in 2019.

Prior to this, he was CFO of Jerónimo Martins, a EUR 15
billion listed food retailing company with over 90,000
employees. Javier also has a solid manufacturing and M&A background, stemming from the start of his career at Procter & Gamble, and subsequent CFO roles at AstraZeneca and Triumph

A Belgian and Portuguese national, Javier holds a master’s degree in Economics from the Antwerp
International Business School in Belgium.

Greenwashing in the financial sector

Greenwashing in the financial sector

Greenwashing in the financial sector

Young professionals today are increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability in the financial sector. This was made clear at the recent SDG Young Leaders Network meet-up about greenwashing in the financial sector, where a new thematic group called Young Sustainable Finance (YSF) was launched. YSF aims to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the power of the financial sector, bring together young professionals in and around the field, and become the leading young professional community in sustainable finance.

Hosted by Houthoff, the meetup welcomed over 50 young professionals, who engaged in constructive (break out) discussions and networking sessions. Jan Willem van Gelder of Profundo, along with several Houthoff colleagues, served as keynote speakers, highlighting that greenwashing is a common practice that needs to be addressed. Greenwashing refers to the deceptive practice of organizations making themselves appear more sustainable than they actually are through tactics such as green crowding, green lighting, green shifting, green labeling, green rinsing, and green hushing.

It was also noted that the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) concept was created due to public pressure on the financial sector since 2000. However, ESG has been criticized for not affecting business as usual, having flawed screening, and not delivering on its promise.

Discussions during breakout sessions included legal and regulatory developments related to greenwashing. For example, it was highlighted that legal action could be taken against companies and countries for misleading sustainability claims. Although NGOs have pursued this in the past, financial institutions may also resort to litigation, in addition to divestment, for broken sustainability promises.

To avoid greenwashing, it is necessary to be serious about sustainability. This can be achieved by simulating change from within, combining commitments to sustainability with critical minds, questioning all ESG/sustainability aspects in the workplace, and making strategic choices to finance the transition to more sustainable business.

What can young professionals do against greenwashing?

Young professionals can use their skills, knowledge, and experience to prevent greenwashing by creating psychological safety to share ideas openly. They can also use platforms like young boards and reverse mentoring, make use of viable business cases for a shift to more sustainable business, and use an energizing and visual way of presentation.

All in all, we look back at a successful event and want to give a special thank you to Nadir Koudsi and Ewoud van der Leek from Houthoff for hosting our event and to Jan Willem for being our keynote speaker.

Would you like to know more about YSF and the SDG Young Leaders Network?

If you want to learn more about Young Sustainable Finance and get involved, visit their website here or reach out directly to

If you want to learn more about the SDG Young Leaders Network, visit their website here SDG Young Leaders Network – UN Global Compact Network Netherlands or reach out directly to

Let’s work together to accelerate the SDGs and make the financial sector more sustainable!

Learning about equity, a game about exclusion, and tips for inclusion

Learning about equity, a game about exclusion, and tips for inclusion

Learning about equity, a game about exclusion, and tips for inclusion 

This year, UN Global Compact Network Netherlands is piloting two peer learning groups, one on Gender Equality and one on Climate Action. The goal is for the participating companies to learn more about these important topics, to dig into the challenges that they are facing, and to exchange best practices that can help overcome these challenges. This blog is the first of many in which we aim to capture our companies’ peer learning journey.

Equity versus Equality

Earlier this month, we held our first gender equality session on the topic of “Inequality vs. Inequity”, hosted by one of the co-leading companies – Deloitte – in their Edge-office in Amsterdam.

Equality and equity are often confused. Equality refers to an equal distribution of resources and opportunities. The problem with this is that this implies everyone benefits the same from this support. This assumption is false since people’s starting position and therefore also their needs can differ. “Equity” acknowledges these differences and seeks to provide the required support they need to achieve the same equitable outcome. Ultimately, we as a society and our companies should strive for equitable outcomes to get to fair outcomes.

Deloitte co-leads: Hilary Richters , Karen Lampe & Jason Jie

But how do we get to equality?

Companies’ daily HR practices determine whether or not someone gets hired, promoted, or paid a specific salary. Associations with people’s genders, race, jobs often have the effect of putting people into different – unequal – social groups.

Jason Jie, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Specialist at Deloitte Netherlands, explained that companies should ensure an inclusive environment that appreciates everyone’s unique, diverse characteristics and backgrounds. Companies should also reflect on their work culture, which could exclude certain groups of people.  

To get a better understanding of the feeling of exclusion, Jason prepared a simulation game around including and excluding behaviours. All participants were assigned roles by putting on a pair of glasses with a card, with numbers between 2 and 10 – so you could see each other’s numbers, but not your own. Everyone was given the task to only talk to people with high numbers – and ignore people with low numbers. During the evaluation of the game, everyone could effortlessly guess whether they had a high or low number. It made participants aware of the subtle behaviours we have at work where we may exclude people instead of making them feel welcome.

Interestingly, Jason noted that the social norm on what’s considered legitimate inclusion or exclusion changes over time. For example, an employee resource group for LGBTQIA+ people to share their experiences could be seen to legitimately include one group and exclude others. It’s therefore important to keep having dialogues on what inclusion means, and how it can contribute towards equity.

Companies’ best practices to promote equity 

Throughout the session, companies exchanged best practices to promote more inclusive, equitable work environments. For example, Deloitte has a Panel & Proposal Promise: they aim for panels and proposal teams to consist of 40% men, 40% women, and 20% of employees that belong to underrepresented groups. A different company shared that before they start an application process, they map the existing team and what traits or characteristics could help diversify the team. This could mean focusing on a different gender, ethnicity, or educational background, and considering whether people are extroverts or introverts. Another company shared that they promote a more diverse pool of applicants in a male-dominated sector by ensuring that if internal application processes don’t have at least 33% women  applicants, they will open up the position externally to reach this.

At the end of our session, our group of companies committed to implementing at least one inclusive practice in their business. We will reflect on how this went during the next session on April 13.

Five ways for a company to embrace equity

Five ways for a company to embrace equity

Five ways for a company to embrace equity  

Two years ago, AkzoNobel first signed the Women’s Empowerment Principles. Now on International Women’s Day 2023, with a new CEO ready to carry on the commitment, we’re reflecting on what it really means for a company to sign this document – because it’s not just a photo op. “Signing the Women’s Empowerment Principles is a natural extension of the AkzoNobel culture and the way we operate,” says Greg Poux-Guillaume, AkzoNobel CEO. “We are making encouraging progress towards gender equality, but it remains an ongoing journey from which we will not deviate. We owe it to ourselves, to our partners and to our communities.” Here’s a brief overview of five ways we’re building a more diverse and inclusive company:

1. Increase leadership diversity

AkzoNobel’s leaders understand the importance of representation that reflects the diversity of our organization. We’ve set a goal of achieving 30% female representation in senior executive roles by 2025. Currently, at 25%, we’re well on our way to increasing that number.

Diverse leadership teams bring a range of perspectives and experiences that help us make better decisions and respond more effectively to changing market conditions. So as part of striving for 50-50 gender representation in executive recruitment, we require hiring managers to put together diverse interview panels.

2. Mind the gender pay gap

We believe in equal pay for equal work – and we can prove it.

In 2022, an external review of our compensation practice found that after correcting for background variables, the annual pay gap was just 0.9% in favour of men. We’ll continue to review the data and our practices to do what we can to get even closer to equal pay.

3. Develop and retain female talent

A rebuild of our talent performance framework is currently underway to provide our top talent with more career growth opportunities. Designed through the lens of diversity and inclusion, special care is being taken to prevent bias.

Globally, many resources are already in place to make sure our work environments are inclusive and welcoming to all, including a D&I toolkit, team workshops and an ambassador network.

We’re also making structural improvements, with a €400,000 budget allocated to improve women’s facilities in our manufacturing and supply chain locations. This includes projects to enhance bathrooms, showers and changing rooms, as well as create lactation rooms. Smaller improvements can also have a big impact – for instance, we now advise our sites to provide properly fitted workwear for female employees.

4. Foster employee networks

Our employee-driven Women Inspired Network connects people of all genders who are interested in advancing gender equality. 

Organized into local chapters, the network is a place to learn, grow and empower each other to drive change. For example, our India chapter invited local leaders to reverse-mentor women, increasing awareness of gender-related challenges. For this International Women’s Day, an online event about parenting and work will encourage conversation at our sites around the world.

5. Empower women in local communities

One of our 2030 ambitions is to empower more than 100,000 people with new skills – including programs tailored specifically to women.

In Brazil, our “Mulheres na Cor” (Women in Color) program helps women transform their lives by breaking into the traditionally male-dominated vehicle refinishes and decorative paints industries. In another initiative, we started working with more than 500 women in rural India to promote entrepreneurship in decorative paints.

Our journey to gender equity continues

The five areas listed above represent just a few of the actions we’re taking to promote gender quality at AkzoNobel and in the communities where we operate. We’re highly motivated to keep learning and growing in this journey together – that’s embracing equity.

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