DIVERSITY HAS BECOME a priority for businesses and business schools worldwide.
But as these organizations work to create more diverse workforces and
student bodies, they often forget one important underrepresented group:
people with physical or mental disabilities.
However, business leaders are signing on to a new initiative called The Valuable
500, which is working to bring disability into discussions about diversity.
Recently, for example, seven financial institutions in the United Kingdom were
among the latest signatories. They include the Bank of England, Lloyds Banking
Group, RBS, HSBC UK, Monex, Standard Chartered, and Bank Hapoalim of Israel.
Launched in January 2019 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,
The Valuable 500 is described as “a global movement putting disability
inclusion on the global business leadership agenda.” It now has more than
55 signatories, but campaign organizers are seeking 500 global businesses
to join the initiative.
The current signatories want to draw greater attention to the fact that even
though diversity has become a priority in the business world, only a fraction
of companies include disability in their diversity agendas. In doing so, they are
missing out on a talented pool of workers—not to mention a lucrative base of
consumers. According to the group, about 15 percent of the world’s population
live with a disability. This amounts to more than 1 billion people who possess an
estimated US$8 trillion in annual disposable income.
“ 90 PERCENT of business leaders interviewed express reluctance to hire a disabled person in a leadership position. They cite concerns such as inaccessible offices, the potential for missed work, and the cost of making accommodations for people with disabilities.”
—From a survey conducted by Inclusive Boards
Each signatory to the initiative has pledged to take steps to address
disability inclusion within its operations. For instance, Bank Hapoalim of Israel
recently announced a social impact program, in which it will ensure that its
media campaigns include at least one person with a disability. Lloyds Banking
Group partnered with Mental Health UK, and since January 2017, the company
has helped raise £9 million (approximately US$10.8 million) for this cause.
Bill Winters, group chief executive of Standard Chartered, points to his
company’s development of an internal disability benchmark. The company, he
notes, has asked its national-level CEOs to complete the assessment improve
their progress as part of their local
diversity and inclusion plans.
According to Caroline Casey,
founder of The Valuable 500, the
decision of the seven financial institutions
to join the initiative marks the
first time that the world’s financial
services sector has shown such solidarity
in the inclusion of disabled people
in the workforce. She hopes other
U.K. businesses, across all sectors,
will choose to join The Valuable 500
and work to “end disability exclusion
in business once and for all.”