It is in the interests of corporations and leaders to support and nurture the talents of disabled individuals, agreed a panel on the business case for disability inclusion at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.
Panellists agreed on the clear economic case and return on investment for disability inclusion, as part of the value proposition of a business, and recognized the imperative to create a new global standard for workplace disability equality. Stakeholders must recognize “the power that business brands, leaders and platforms can bring to change,” said Caroline Casey, founder of business inclusion company Binc.
There are 1.3 billion individuals with disabilities worldwide – one in seven of the global population. A total of 80% of that number acquire a disability between the ages of 18 and 64, yet disabled people are 50% less likely to have a job. “Disability, collectively, is the most marginalized group of people in the world,” said Casey. The case for disability is a case for business, participants argued. Multiple studies have shown that disability inclusion in the workplace results in higher revenue, net income and profit margins, while the cost of disability exclusion in OECD countries is an estimated 7%.
“We see the financial benefits, the benefits of attracting great talent,” said Julie Sweet, Chief Executive Officer for North America at Accenture. “We believe it’s really important to be focusing on invisible disabilities,” she said, which accounts for 80% of disabled individuals.
“If we don’t have a world where everybody is included, then we’re touching the basic fabric of humanity,” said Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer (2009-2018) of Unilever, who also runs a foundation for the blind. “People with disabilities are humans, and it could be you tomorrow.”
“If you as a company respect every individual, you have a better chance of being respected,” Polman said. “You show you are a company that cares.”
“There are so many reasons, from a company business standpoint, to make sure we bring equality to life for our people, for our consumers, for all of our stakeholders,” said Carolyn Tastad, Group President for North America at Procter & Gamble. “It’s just the right thing to do, and it’s good business.”
“We need outstanding talent in our company, which means we have to take diversity and inclusion really seriously, and disability plays a huge role in that for us,” noted Duncan Tait, President and Chief Executive Officer for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa at Fujitsu. Said Tate: “Take the first step. Get your leaders confident in disability, set up a network, and make a target.”
The role of media in raising awareness was highlighted. “We can do a better job,” said Peter T. Grauer, Chairman of Bloomberg. “We can leverage our platforms much more effectively,” he continued, committing to increasing internal education and diversity.
By leveraging advertising and media to tell positive disability business stories, companies can “show the possibilities, the potential of these remarkable individuals,” commented Tastad.
Polman made an impassioned call for action: “If people cannot see past a disability then they are blind themselves; if they cannot hear the cries of everybody to be included then they are deaf themselves; and if they don’t stand up for their rights they are lame themselves.”
“None of us are doing enough,” said Sweet. “But this is how we make change.”