A Japanese non-profit foundation is helping a network of CEOs achieve economic enfranchisement for people with disabilities, who make up 15% of the global population.
The Nippon Foundation has invested $5 million into CEO network, The Valuable 500, in what is the single largest investment made in disability inclusion worldwide. Through the investment, the foundation has also become the network’s Global Impact Partner.
The partnership for disability inclusion
The partnership comes at a time of growing awareness of disability inclusion in business, which includes a global customer base worth some $8 trillion a year. To join The Valuable 500, a company’s CEO has to include disability inclusion at board level discussions and “make one commitment to change the inclusion agenda,” according to a shared statement. Its mission to disrupt business supply chains to promote disability inclusion follows the UN’s 2030 Agenda and its focus on disability inclusion in education and other parts of life.
The fund will enable The Valuable 500 to launch the second phase of its campaign, which will “activate the community of 500 CEOs and brands for global change.” Members will adhere to “6 pillars”, three of which are for stimulating internal change, (Leadership, Culture, and Brand) and three external pillars, (Research, Reporting, and Representation.) The aim is to invest in and roll out programmes and services across the network to enact disability inclusion in business.
Members will have access to an Executive Disability Resource Hub, which will help leaders become more disability-inclusive and a Global Business Disability Survey, which will increase transparency and accountability within organisations.
The $5 million investment follows a period of growing membership for The Valuable 500. In only two years it has managed to encourage over 400 CEOs from major businesses to join, including News UK and Prada. Its size and scale give it the potential to influence disability inclusion on a global scale. Current members have a combined revenue of $5.4 trillion and include over 14.8 million employees across the sectors. Considering 415 global businesses such as Burberry, Credit Suisse, and The Coca-Cola Company are also members, the network’s goal of reaching 500 participating CEOs could well happen soon.
The International Disability Alliance (IDA) has also made an important partnership with The Valuable 500. As its high-impact partner, the global umbrella organisation could further the reach of what is already the world’s largest network of disability-inclusion-minded CEOs. The World Economic Forum (WEF), is also a high impact partner with the network.
Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, said: “It is truly a special day as we officially announce our partnership with The Valuable 500. The Nippon Foundation has been in constant pursuit of supporting persons with disabilities around the world since our establishment in 1962, and we have invested more than $1.3 billion in education and social welfare since then.
“Having spent a major part of my life supporting marginalised people left behind the mainstream of society, I am fully convinced that supporting minority disability groups just by reaching out to public institutions such as governments and the United Nations will not bring about effective social change. Unless the majority of society changes, the world will never change.”
Caroline Casey, Founder of The Valuable 500, said: “As we approach the second-year anniversary of the creation of The Valuable 500, I am honoured to see so many organisations and global voices step up and take a stand for disability inclusion. However, we are not there yet. Millions of people globally are still being forgotten and left out due to a difference. We are thrilled The Nippon Foundation has joined as a key investor and can ensure our work for global disability inclusion can continue going forwards. We are also delighted to have the World Economic Forum and IDA join as strategic partners, and continue to deliver the message of disability inclusion for all.”
The economic experience of people with disabilities
Disability inclusion is one of the most prevalent D&I issues. A 2021 study found that 1 in 4 Americans have a disability while a Family Resources Survey from 2018-2019 found that 14.1 million people identified as disabled in the UK. Both figures show that disabled people already account for a significant portion of both populations, and with the growing prevalence of medical issues, the community is likely to grow globally.
However, statistics show that disabled people continue to be excluded from work. According to the World Bank, disabled people are more likely to experience adverse economic conditions than people without disabilities. This manifests in lower levels of employment, which means disabled people are more likely to experience poverty. However, research also shows that organisations are becoming aware of the business case for disability inclusion. A 2020 study found that 80% of respondents said being disability-inclusive gave them access to a “wider pool of talent” and improved sales and employee motivation.
While over 90% of the report’s respondents said disability inclusion was the right thing to do globally, only 20% had a global strategy in place. This shows that the gap between sentiment and implementation is as much a problem in the disability inclusion space as it is in other areas of D&I. However, a network such as The Valuable 500, which counts some of the world’s best-known companies and their leaders as members, could help change things.