The new agenda in the boardroom

Five hundred companies are expected to set an example by promoting disability-inclusion in their workplaces. Twenty of them are from India

At last count, 467 companies had signed up for “The Valuable 500”, a global movement to promote disability-inclusion in the workplace.

According to this programme, launched at the World Economic Forum early this year, the signatory-companies would display a commitment to making disability-inclusion a key boardroom concern.

To start with, this campaign, led by management consultant and disability-inclusion activist Caroline Casey, seeks to have 500 companies on board; hence its title. Significantly, twenty of those that have signed so far are Indian companies.

The 500 companies are expected to create a critical mass in favour of disability-inclusion.

Shanti Raghavan, founder of EnAble India, a non-governmental organisation that is driving the campaign in Asia, says the movement is designed in such a manner that signatory-companies will have to make disability-inclusion a part of their DNA. “So, even if a CEO quits the organisation, the inclusion agenda will continue,” says Shanti.

As some board-members may be associated with multiple companies, the disability agenda will spread.

It is understood that from the boardroom, the inclusion agenda will permeate through the other layers of the organisation.

Seema Arora, Deputy Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry, explains that if an organisation has pledged to make the workplace inclusive for people with motor disabilities then it must run campaigns around it, make and create a culture that is inclusive, achieve its target, celebrate it and also spread the message.

Companies that have signed-up for the programme will have access to resources from The Valuable 500 and a community of like-minded peers.

Shanti says making “disability-hiring” a priority and the workplace more inclusive are not the only ways to show that an organisation is inclusive.

“A company can have ‘inclusive procurement’, that is by buying products made by people with disabilities, it is indirectly creating jobs,” she says.

Other possibilities include making its products or services more accessible to the people with disabilities, and making CSR fund more accessible for inclusion-related causes, adds Shanti.

Creating champions

The Valuable 500 aims to create champions who will serve as influencers, and there is a similar initiative from India that mirrors its objective.

“We have 9000 members in CII, and in January this year we launched India Business Disability Network where 55 companies have become members. It doesn’t matter even if we have the same companies signing up for The Valuable 500 as what is important is to create and showcase the role models and make it easy for companies to learn from them,” says Seema.

For example, Brookfield Properties is working towards making its campuses more accessible, and its efforts include compliance with “Universal Accessibility Guidelines”.

“The existing infrastructure on our campuses has been evaluated to be aligned with global accessibility standards,” says Alok Aggarwal, MD and CEO – India Office Business, Brookfield Properties.

On November 29, Caroline Casey, founder, The Valuable 500. will meet representatives of companies that champion disability-inclusion, at an event in New Delhi. The event is presented by CII and Brookfield Properties in association with EnAble India.

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