Over a third of companies pledge to do more for disability inclusion

Companies are working to improve their disability inclusion policies in the wake of COVID-19

More and more companies are recognising the need to place disability inclusion high on their diversity and inclusion agenda, according to new research conducted by The Valuable 500.

The global movement, working on getting 500 of the world’s largest businesses to commit to disability inclusion as a priority, found that 35% of companies are now more aware than ever of the needs of people with disabilities and are accelerating their actions and commitments to disability inclusion and accessibility.

The findings highlight the impact of COVID-19 is having on diversity and inclusion. Including changing perceptions around remote and flexible working, as well as raised awareness of the importance of an inclusive and diverse corporate.

While this is positive news, other key learnings from the report drive home that there is still much work to be done to improve disability inclusion.

Work still to do

Around 15% of the organisations surveyed have had to shelve efforts around disability inclusion due to immediate challenges in the wake of a global health pandemic. And, despite 88% of corporations claiming disability inclusion is important to their business strategy, only 8% regularly include people with disabilities in marketing and communications. 

“This critical research tackles an area which is often forgotten or overlooked as part of diversity and inclusion reporting,” Caroline Casey, Founder of The Valuable 500, commented.

“Most D&I and sustainability reports fail to consider the lives and experiences of people with disabilities, from employees to customers, and those who care for them. As a result, the topic of disability is heavily under-represented, under-researched and under-reported.

“It’s important we simultaneously celebrate the progress made over the past 30 years on the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), while ensuring the call to action in this space remains loud and clear.”

“As economies globally look to recover and adapt to a new normal, it is vital we do not return to business as usual but learn from the lessons of COVID-19. Now is a critical time to reset business leaders’ attitudes to disability inclusion,”  Casey added.

The Valuable 500

The CEO led Valuable 500 community is listening intently to society – from their employees to customers – as to what they want for a more inclusive, accessible world. This includes both the online and physical worlds, in an increasingly digital age.

They also realise that it is not just enough to listen; now is the time for action which shows business has taken onboard new learnings, and truly appreciates the value a diverse and inclusive culture will bring to all.


New pledges

Alongside the findings of the report, The Valuable 500 announced that it has now persuaded 296 companies to commit to putting disability on the business leadership agenda. It has also extended the deadline for other companies to join until 2021.

The latest global companies to pledge to improve disability inclusion are Barilla, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), MesoAmerica, Black & Veatch, Nuance Communications, PVH Corp. brands Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, Voya Financial and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.  

There have also been pledges from Europe from the likes of Electrocomponents PLC, Greene King, InMoment, Roche Pharma UK and Software AG; and representation from the Middle East, India and Asia with Dentsu, Seibu Group, Tara Chand Logistic (India) and Zain.

Going forward

Commenting on what businesses need to do going forward, disability activist Judy Heumann said: “It’s great to see this type of call to action go out on the 30th anniversary of the ADA.

“Just the fact that we have laws around an inclusive society shows how far we have come, but now it’s time for businesses to step up and take action. We are all living through unprecedented times, and as we hopefully start to come out of it, it is critical companies look at the type of changes that need pushing forward and make them long-lasting. 

“For the business community – it’s important to realise that you have the power to help those who are marginalised, and this, in turn, will influence society. Businesses need to find the marginalised people in their workforce and talk to them, listen to them and bring them on the journey to being inclusive.

“If a business is going to survive, then it needs to be a place that is accessible for everyone. We are in a world where people will no longer tolerate an unfair society, and hopefully, this change will be around for the long-haul. Let’s put a timeline in place and make the fundamental changes that need to happen quickly.”

View from the top

Claudio Colzani, CEO, Barilla comments: “As a next step in our global diversity and inclusion journey, we’re thrilled to join The Valuable 500. We believe that the inclusion of all employees, including those with disabilities, is the right thing to do for our people and our business. By creating a workplace and products that are designed with people with disabilities in mind, we are living our core values and driving positive change for people and the planet.”  

“We’ve always championed workplace diversity and inclusion as a competitive strength, and we proudly join in this global effort that’s so important and simply the morally right thing to do,” said Steve Edwards, Black & Veatch’s CEO.

“Companies that embrace a variety of backgrounds and perspectives are more successful and offer the type of workplace experience that drives better decision-making, employee engagement and career development. As an employee-owned company, we believe deeply in listening to every voice, bringing out the best in our people.”

Proud to be part of the change

Cheryl Abel-Hodges, CEO, Calvin Klein, Inc. comments: “Calvin Klein is proud to be a part of The Valuable 500, alongside our parent company, PVH Corp. While we are deeply committed to being an inclusive organisation that values every individual, the unfortunate reality is that disability inclusion is too often overlooked in the fashion industry.

“This pledge signifies our commitment to consider differently-abled people in our recruiting, marketing and product development efforts. We believe that collaboration is critical and that together, this group has the opportunity to create significant and meaningful impact.”

Nick Mackenzie, CEO of Greene King, comments: “We’re focused on building an inclusive culture at Greene King and have made some good progress so far, but we know there’s much more to do. We want to create a company where everyone can build a career and can feel valued for the skills they bring. 

“Disability inclusion is an important part of our diversity and inclusion strategy going forward, and we’re pleased to join the Valuable 500.”

Disability confident

Richard Erwin, General Manager, Roche Pharma UK, comments: “Ensuring disability inclusion in the workplace is something my colleagues and I feel very passionately about and I’m thrilled that Roche Pharma UK is partnering with The Valuable500. Roche Pharma UK is recognised as a Disability Confident Employer, and this partnership will help with our commitment and aspiration to become a Disability Confident Leader.

“We have also launched our disability inclusion programme, called Workability – an initiative that focuses on supporting adults with disabilities (hidden or visible) to become ‘work-ready’ while creating an environment at Roche where everyone can thrive.”

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