The Valuable 500 bolsters pledges on World Autism Awareness Day

The Valuable 500 calls on more business leaders to ensure neurodiversity is a key part of business disability inclusion strategies.

The global disability inclusion movement The Valuable 500 today marks World Autism Awareness Day with a call to the world’s business leaders to ensure autism – and neurodiversity more widely – is incorporated as a priority in their disability inclusion strategies.

The call comes as BNY Mellon, Invesco, IWG, Magic Leap, Shionogi & Co., Ltd, and Slaughter and May become the latest companies to join The Valuable 500 – which calls on 500 of the world’s largest businesses to commit to placing disability inclusion on their business leadership agendas.

Focused agendas

Following its launch in January 2019, 260 companies have joined The Valuable 500 and committed to putting disability on the business leadership agenda – many of whom actively prioritise the inclusion of autistic and neurodiverse people in their businesses.

These include: 

  • Auto Trader UK – which has an established Disability & Neurodiversity Employee Network, made up of individuals from across the business and sponsored by a member of its Executive Team. Auto Trader UK has trained its managers with the National Autistic Society on how to manage autistic people to educate them on how to support autistic colleagues to flourish at work. It is the first company in the world to become Autism Friendly through the National Autistic Society.
  • Gatwick Airport – the first airport to introduce a hidden disability lanyard scheme. The airport places a particular emphasis on training with all passenger-facing staff taught to recognise a range of hidden disabilities. Gatwick also offers this training free to airlines, ground handlers and other organisations across the airport campus.
  • Lloyds Banking Group – which received the National Autistic Society’s Autism Friendly Award, marking their commitment to becoming the UK’s first autism-friendly bank.

Neurodiversity in the UK

There are around 700,000 people in the UK on the autism spectrum, and including their families, autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people. Over 15% of the UK population are classified as neurodiverse, and the benefits of having a neurodiverse workforce are recognised across many industries.

Only one in ten HR professionals, however, are focusing on neurodiversity within their organisations according to the CIPD. Also, 24% of neurodiverse people surveyed for the BIMA’s 2019 The Voices of Our Industry, felt their condition negatively affected their career.

Just 16% of autistic people are in full-time paid employment according to the National Autism Society – illustrating the importance of greater awareness and action from business leaders to include autistic people.

Creative and productive

Caroline Casey, Founder of The Valuable 500, commented: “World Autism Awareness Day is a particularly timely moment to celebrate the talents of people with autism, many of whom are exceptionally creative and productive with talents that are hugely beneficial to businesses in a wide range of industries. We must break out of the common stereotype that it is only in technical and mathematical roles that people with autism will excel. Every business, regardless of sector, has a responsibility and reason to ensure it supports a neurodiverse community, from its employees to its clients.”

The latest companies to pledge to The Valuable 500 join other corporations spanning a vast range of sectors, from technology to the creative industries, across 26 countries. They have combined revenue of over €4 trillion, and over 10 million employees.

Caroline added: “We warmly welcome the new sign-ups joining The Valuable 500 family and congratulate them on recognising the importance of disability inclusion during this unprecedented time. We must not forget that diversity and inclusion in the workplace is everyone’s business and must remain a key priority for CEOs. Perhaps now more than ever, as COVID-19 forces increasing numbers of people to experience the type of daily exclusion that many people with a disability face daily.”

The Valuable 500 campaign is striving to have 500 global business leaders and CEOs signed up to the initiative by September in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to reduce inequality and create inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities.

Business endorsement

Isao Teshirogi, Ph.D., President and CEO of Shionogi & Co., Ltd., said: “In the face of drastic and diverse changes in the pharmaceutical sector environment, we must reconsider what we should provide to society. Given that the purpose of Shionogi Group is, as expressed in its Company Policy, to ‘supply the best possible medicine to protect the health and wellbeing of the patients we serve’ and working in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, we should capitalise on our strengths and create new business platforms in the healthcare field with partners and stakeholders for continuous innovation toward Diversity and Inclusion.”

Slaughter and May Partner Nilufer von Bismarck said: “Signing up to The Valuable 500 is highly meaningful to Slaughter and May as a firm. Diversity and inclusion are vitally important to us across all aspects of our recruitment and retention, with disability inclusion playing a key part in this. This pledge is a commitment to build on our existing initiatives and do more to ensure that our talent pool is reflective of our values.”
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