Lessons learned from corporate giants Unilever, Diageo and Safaricom have helped shape new guidelines launched this week to enable CEOs, HR managers and property developers to foster more inclusive workplaces.
The ‘disability toolkit’ was launched as part of the UK aid-funded Inclusive Futures programme, in response to growing demand from business leaders who want people with disabilities to be represented in their workforce, but do not know where to start.
The disability toolkit offers advice for businesses – big and small – to recruit more people with disabilities, ensure workspaces are accessible, and support employees with disabilities to achieve their potential.
Experience of working with Unilever, Diageo and Safaricom have contributed to the practical guidelines as well as that of jobseekers, disability rights groups and local businesses in Uganda, Bangladesh, Kenya and Nigeria.
Susan Scott-Parker, Founder of Business Disability International and co-author of the disability toolkit, said: “These unique, practical guides are designed to meet the needs and expectations of business because we have learned that making it easier for employers to say ‘YES’ inevitably makes it easier for job seekers with disabilities to find meaningful employment.”
One billion people are estimated to have a disability around the world, yet employment numbers remain incredibly low across most countries.
The International Labour Organization estimates that as much as three to even per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lost within middle-and-low-income-countries as people with disabilities are excluded from the job market.
Simon Brown, Inclusive Futures’ Global Technical Lead, said: “Employing people with disabilities has clear benefits not only for the people employed but also for businesses. One estimate suggests that there’s an untapped spending power of $8 trillion waiting for companies who recognise this.
“But contrary to what people might expect, what we’ve seen is that the financial side has not been the driving force here for these companies – it is a fact they believe hiring inclusively is the right thing to do.”
“The moral argument has really won, and from a Diageo perspective,” says Eric Kiniti, Group Corporate Relationships Director at the East African Breweries Ltd, a subsidiary of Diageo. “This week, we’re launching our 2030 targets on sustainability and diversity and inclusion is one of the key metrics that we’re looking at.”
Sakshi Handa, Human Resource Director of Unilever Bangladesh, said: ‘It is an important responsibility for us to foster a culture for diverse talent. Going forward, we want to be able to welcome persons of disability. It is the right thing to do, and we also want to lead by example in the industry disability and inclusion space.”
As well as releasing the guidelines, Inclusive Futures has worked with companies such as Safaricom to deliver disability confidence training to hundreds of line managers this year. It has also created a “First Shot” scheme to encourage young job seekers with disabilities to apply for vacancies with the company.
The disability toolkit was launched on November 24th 2020 at an online event was hosted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and attended by big brands including Coca Cola, Unilever and Safaricom.
A panel of speakers including Eric Ngondi, board member of the United Disabled Persons of Kenya, Murteza Khan, CEO of Bangladesh Business & Disability Network and Paul Kasimu, Chief HR Officer at Safaricom discussed how valuable the tools are in helping businesses say ‘yes’ to becoming more disability confident.