Only 3% of articles discussing diversity reference disability

On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, global businesses sign up to put disability inclusion on their board agendas

Allianz, American Express, Expedia Group and L’Oréal are among the latest global businesses to sign up to The Valuable 500 and pledge to elevate disability inclusion on their agenda. 

Their commitment comes as new research carried out to mark the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, shows that only 3% of media articles discussing diversity referenced disability – and this has only risen by 1% in the last five years.

Despite references to ‘disability’ in the media rising by 55% in the last five years, only one in three articles talking about disability referenced business. 

Commenting on the findings, Caroline Casey, founder of The Valuable 500, said: “ It is clear that while there is a growing increase in awareness around disability inclusion, it is still not as firmly embedded in the diversity and inclusion agenda as it should be. It is often a forgotten aspect of this conversation – particularly when it comes to business leadership. The Valuable 500 is working to tackle this critical issue.” 

The Valuable 500 is the largest network of global CEOs committed to diversity and disability inclusion. A total of 38 new companies joined the movement to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities – bringing the combined revenue of The Valuable 500’s current 360 members to over $5 trillion, encompassing 55 sectors, with over 12.8 million employees and reaching across 31 countries.

Said Casey: “We are delighted to welcome these new members on the UN-sanctioned International Day of Persons with Disabilities, as we enter the 10-year countdown to the completion of the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals.

“This year in particular, in light of the global pandemic, the day focuses on Building Back Better towards a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.” 

The Valuable 500 is calling for a shift in mentality, and for business and society alike to make the next decade the decade of disruption when it comes to inclusion of persons with disabilities. Ensuring disability inclusion is firmly embedded within the whole business supply chain will not be achieved in a single day of awareness – but it can be a critical focus for the next ten years as the world looks to build back better. 

Said Casey: “Inclusion of persons with disabilities – referenced in five of the SDGs – and therefore The Valuable 500’s mission – will be integral to meeting the UN’s 2030 agenda in time over the next decade.

“Currently, 15% of the global population are persons with disabilities. This number increases to 53% when you include the families of persons with disabilities. Businesses cannot afford to exclude such a significant pool of talent, diversity of thought and customers with a spending power of $8 trillion per annum.”

This year has prompted much reflection on disability inclusion, from the changes to society COVID-19 has catalysed to it being the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 25th anniversary of Britain’s Disability Discrimination Act. It is now time to look forward and to focus on the impact and change that can be engendered in this space by the deadline for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. 

The Valuable 500 is continuing to work to lay the foundations for a more inclusive society over the next decade, as it readies to announce the next phase of its mission in early 2021. It will be looking at six key pillars, three internally in organisations and three externally, so together they can co-create and shape business systems that measure how disability is valued within business. The Valuable 500 is also embarking on joint ventures with the International Paralympics Committee. 

“This is a historic moment for disability inclusion on the eve of a decade of disruption which will contribute to the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030. The Valuable 500 will be launching a transformational change programme for business system change in 2021, “ said Casey.

“Today is a day for celebrating the immense contribution persons with disabilities bring to business and society more broadly – this 15% of the global population bring diversity of thought and lived experience and a wealth of talent, all vital for the business sustainability agenda. But it must also be a day of reflection because we are not there yet with disability inclusion and a fair and accessible society for all. 

“We are thrilled to welcome the newest of The Valuable 500 members on board amid the continuing pandemic. We believe in collaboration rather than competition and the multiplier effect of the collective impact of 500 leading CEOs and brands. I am confident that over the next decade if the business community pulls together and stands united in ensuring disability inclusion is a central part of their leadership agenda, we can truly make a difference globally.”

The full list of the latest businesses to have become members includes: Allianz, Allied Irish Banks, American Express, Amplifon UK, Anthem, The Asahi Shimbun Company, Birds Eye, The Clorox Company, Costain Group, DTEK, EDF Energy, ENEOS Holdings, Expedia Group, FARFETCH, FleishmanHillard, Grant Thornton UK LLP, GSMA, Hinduja Global Solutions, Hogan Lovells, Innocent Drinks, Keelings, Kin + Carta, Kmart Australia, L’Oréal, Ottobock SE & Co, Philips, Philip Morris International, PSEG, Regions Bank, Schindler Group, Schroders, Sekisui House, Telstra, ThoughtWorks, Unisys, ViacomCBS Networks UK, Westpac and Wickes.
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