The Barbie Movie: Does the Pink Buzz make Mattel a Buy from an ESG Perspective?
How are investors thinking of Mattel and Warner Brothers post Barbie?
What makes an ESG leader for companies like these?
With the box office success of the Barbie movie this summer, we are certainly congratulating director Greta Gerwig (who also co-wrote the film with her partner Noah Baumbach.) "Barbie" is a blockbuster and is breaking the glass ceiling. Since premiering on July 21, the film has grossed over $1.38 Billion globally in box office sales (a feat only achieved by approximately 50 films in history), and is now the highest grossing domestic film of 2023. Barbie is projected to earn between $1.5 -1.6 B by the end of its box office run.
Even more newsworthy is the film’s well received message of women's empowerment.
The powerful monologue by main character Gloria, played by America Ferrera, is being heralded as a strong acknowledgement of the challenging and often impossible role women are asked to play in US society. Each of the characters invite women (and men) to reimagine traditional feminism. The film acknowledges the complexities of the patriarchy, recognizing male struggles and calls on all of us (people of all genders) to question current societal norms and to take steps to end the “real-world” patriarchy, in favor of a more balanced and effective society.
Despite having yet to achieve gender equality, the world is starting to take note of the power of women in their consumer decisions. Women and girls are actually being credited for holding up the US economy this summer—between the Barbie movie, Taylor Swift and Beyonce tours, the power of women as economic agents and as consumers is finally being recognized by both investors and economists.
This moment and the momentum that the film has garnered is serving as a call to action toward further gender equity. As gender lens investors, we have been asked whether Mattel, Warner Brothers or Crocs now make our buy list.
Does this movie make Mattel or Warner Brothers a buy for ESG investors?
Amidst the economic and cultural success are ESG and gender lens investors adding these companies to their buy lists? While one blockbuster is exciting, we are looking deeper into how the company is organized and how their future product line up will unfold.
At Nia, we invest at the intersection of environmental sustainability and social justice. We look for products and services across our six solutions themes, weaving a gender lens throughout our investment process. We have yet to see any of the Barbie associated corporations meet our criteria for solutions focused businesses.
That said, companies like Warner Bros. Discovery (the distributor for the Barbie film), Mattel (leading toy maker and distributor of Barbie dolls), and Disney (global leader in animated films, toys and theme parks) can take note of how successful this type of empowering messaging is for consumers. In planning for future films, and in further developing their lines of products and services, We encourage these companies to incorporate a gender lens, literally capitalizing on this opportunity to move toward true gender equality while strengthening their brands and growing their revenues.
From the perspective of ESG investors, how can these companies improve?
The research informs us that companies that incorporate gender inclusive practices generally outperform. For strong corporate governance, positive return on investment, and an upside as far as increasing future opportunities for culturally relevant content, we look for diversity across senior management as well as the board of directors.
We encourage each of these companies behind this powerful film to adopt policies and practices that lead to true gender equality.
Pay equity audits and policies to end discrimination in recruitment, hiring, and promotions.
Fair and equitable employee contracts—including the removal of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), ending the use of forced arbitration which is associated with curtailing career trajectories of women and BIPOC employees, while keeping hidden issues that may affect company culture and investors.
Promotion of women in leadership at all levels of the company which can strengthen governance, decision making, and increase return on investment (ROI).
More stock ownership by women across the firm, particularly those in executive management.
Commitment from the top (CEOs, executives and board of directors) to focus on true gender equality across the firm and in future products and services.
With Mattel’s 45 next films lined up, we are looking to see more blockbusters including prominent female characters and strong female and male roles that promote gender equality, rather than reinforcing patriarchal stereotypes.
With some thoughtful strategy, brands like Mattel and Warner Brothers among others can lead as ESG companies.
With climate change globally affecting women and BIPOC communities at a greater rate, we want to see companies committing to reducing their carbon emissions and actually offering products and services that play a part in the solution to our world's greatest risks—lack of gender equity being one of them.
May Barbie serve as a poignant reminder of how far women’s aspirations and goals have advanced in 60 years, while also demonstrating how far we have to go in the real world to achieve gender equality. Investors have a significant role to play in achieving gender equality. We literally get the economy we invest into and by choosing companies with significant women in leadership, and products and services beneficial to women and girls, we can use our investor voice to achieve a gender inclusive economy.