Social reports leave out the aspect of disabled people

Source: The Employers' Forum on Disability, 12 July 2002

The Employers’ Forum on Disability today launches ‘The Employers’ Forum on Disability Global Inclusion Benchmark’ – an annual global benchmarking exercise to audit companies’ policies towards people with disabilities and help ensure that they are truly inclusive. Fifty corporate responsibility reports of leading UK and global companies were analysed. Sponsored by UnumProvident and conducted by Accountability, findings reveal that in only 10 of the 50 reports were disabled people truly visible as valued employees, customers and members of the community. There are 8.6 million disabled people in the UK alone.
Business is coming under increasing pressure from a range of NGOs and interest groups to do business differently. An entire industry of think tanks, consultancies and advisors on Corporate Responsibility has grown up to help companies communicate effectively with their stakeholders. Companies have responded with expensive programmes of community investment, corporate culture change and social reporting, all of which aim to promote inclusion and transparency. Despite all this, the Forum’s research shows that the majority of the reports fail to address disability.

The research findings also show that of the 50 company social reports reviewed:

* 70% of those with customers fail to report on their approach to customers with disabilities
* only 12% of the reports include any mention of disability as part of the company’s corporate responsibility strategy
* 20% of companies provide information on community investment or charitable giving to help local disabled people
* 38% of companies report on the recruitment, retention and personal development of their disabled employees
* 12% of companies make a public commitment to employees who become disabled
* 29% target their products at disabled customers
* no company reported on disability in all the areas across the benchmark

"With the exception of leading companies like BT, Co-operative Bank and B&Q, who are to be congratulated, it appears that for far too many companies, disability is simply not on their radar screen: this puts them at serious legal, financial, reputational and competitive risk," says Susan Scott-Parker, Chief Executive of the Forum. "It is clear that other companies are failing to take advantage of an important means to communicate their genuine commitment to valuing disabled people. Business, and indeed society, need to shift their perception of disability as an issue peripheral to business. Disabled people are customers, shareholders, members of the community, business partners and valued employees."

The top ten companies, ranked on the Employers’ Forum on Disability Global Inclusion Benchmark criteria are:

* BT
* The Co-operative Bank
* B & Q
* Barclays
* Centrica
* Abbey National
* McDonalds
* British Airways

Roy Gardner, Chief Executive of Centrica and Chairman of the Employers’ Forum on Disability, says, "It’s great to see Forum members setting standards in reporting on disability as a priority for socially responsible business. Disabled people in the UK have a combined spending power of £50 billion. The business case for working with disabled people as employees, customers and partners is compelling. This new Global Inclusion Benchmark will make it easier for champions inside business to promote this issue and ensure that companies publicise their commitment to their disabled stakeholders."
Simon Zadek, Chief Executive of AccountAbility, says, "AccountAbility is committed to supporting the integration of the disability dimension into broader corporate responsibility strategies and practices. Despite exemplary cases of business leadership in this respect, the evidence from the benchmarking study clearly demonstrates that there remains much to be done."
Joanne Hindle, Corporate Services Director, UnumProvident says, "If we are to succeed in our New Beginnings campaign to help disabled people get and keep jobs, it is vital that employees are open and positive in their attitudes towards disabled people. The publication of this benchmark is a useful way of working towards this."
Bob Niven, Chief Executive of the Disability Rights Commission, says, "We congratulate the Forum for highlighting disability as an important aspect of CSR, helping business to understand where and how disability impacts on business success. The DRC will be taking a keen interest in the Forum’s report and initiative, which we hope will lead to significant progress for disabled people and for the companies who apply good corporate responsibility practice."
Through launching the Global Inclusion Benchmark, the Employers’ Forum on Disability hopes to move disability up the UK and Global business and societal agenda and to ensure that companies are best placed to manage the associated risks and exploit the opportunities that disability presents. This, the first part of a three-stage process, was sponsored by UnumProvident.

Cable and Wireless plc is sponsoring Stage Two, which will encourage leading corporate responsibility organisations to provide information via their websites in a way, which enables business to meet the standards set by the benchmark.

Stage Three will encourage those organisations that set global standards on corporate responsibility to incorporate disability within these standards.

Download the report (pdf)