Global firms put disability on leadership agenda

Caroline Casey, founder of The Valuable 500. Photo: PA Images / Alamy

Business leaders at 500 international organisations including Apple, the BBC, Google and Sky have committed to advancing disability inclusion, as research reveals that there are no executives or senior directors with a disclosed disability in the FTSE 100.

The average representation of people with disabilities within FTSE 100 companies stands at only 3.2%, despite 18% of the wider UK population having a disability.

The research, conducted by global business collective the Valuable 500 and Tortoise Media, found that only 12% of the UK’s largest organisations report on the number of disabled employees they have and only 5% have issued board-level statements on disability.

The Valuable 500, which launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in 2019, sought to form a group of 500 organisations that wanted to put disability inclusion on their leadership agenda. It has now hit its target, which includes 36 of the FTSE 100, 46 of the Fortune 500 and 28 of the Nikkei.

Caroline Casey, founder of The Valuable 500, said: “Today we have broken the leadership silence on disability inclusion and put this on the business leadership agenda. We have now built this unique community and are launching phase two.

“For me, the collective activation and innovation of this community for systemic business change has been a lifetime ambition. With the scale of The Valuable 500, change is possible because now we have the scale, the perfect time and the multiplier effect of this critical mass – it’s all about intention.”

The Valuable 500’s members have a combined revenue of over $8 trillion and more than 20 million employees across 36 countries.

Paul Polman, chairman of The Valuable 500 and former Unilever CEO, said: “With Tortoise’s research today showing that only a small minority of the FTSE 100 are actively tackling and addressing disability inclusion at a leadership level, there is plenty more business leaders globally can and must do to better serve the 1.3 billion people worldwide with disabilities.

“The commitments made by the 500 global companies over the course of the last two years have already made a tangible difference, and I greatly look forward to playing a role in activating this network and accelerating disability inclusion worldwide.”

Phase two of The Valuable 500’s strategy will see the member organisations work together to improve disability inclusion in business. This will begin with 13 organisations – including Allianz, the BBC, EY and Google – funding, building and testing programmes that will encourage progress.

Its initiatives will include:

  • Google and Deloitte collaborating on an “internal census playbook” that will enable The Valuable 500 signatories to understand disability within their workforce and any barriers that currently exist
  • Salesforce and Mahindra & Mahindra facilitating a jobs portal made by people with disabilities to ensure greater access to opportunities and more diverse workforces
  • P&G and Omnicom conducting a brand audit to help signatories gain insight from disabled consumers
  • EY and Sky supporting the formation of a global research panel of 5,000 people with disabilities to give direct insight on the workings of the 500 companies
  • Allianz and the London Stock Exchange Group contributing to The Inclusive Index Programme, to influence the indices to incorporate disability measures into their criteria
  • Sony supporting the increased representation of disabled people both on and off camera
  • Verizon focusing on inclusive technology and equipping a pipeline of next-gen talent with accessibility skills
  • the BBC supporting Valuable Virtual, to enable the community to share their ideas virtually.

Apple has become the group’s “Iconic partner for Inclusive Design” and will help ensure The Valuable 500 can improve inclusive design and share knowledge.

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