This blog is provided by the IPR Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In a recent post on this blog, I argued that there is a business and societal imperative to integrate disability inclusion into environment, social, and governance (ESG) frameworks. These frameworks are increasingly used by the private sector and investors to assess the true performance of companies.

 In a paper I published with The Harkin Institute, called “Solving ‘Then What?’: Empowering Investors to Achieve Competitive, Integrate Employment for Persons with Disabilities” I laid out 10 actionable steps we can take to fully integrate disability inclusion considerations into ESG frameworks. Here are a few of the recommendations for improving disability inclusion practices in the communications industry:

Launch a Series of Working Group Sessions
The first recommendation is to create a series of working group sessions made up of experts from the disability and investor communities. Each session should be open to the public to view and should cover topics such as:

  • The long-term value creation created by achieving competitive, integrated employment of persons with disabilities
  • Disability inclusion and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals
  • Mobilizing capital to invest in adaptive technologies

Beyond building stronger collaboration between the disability community and investors, the objective of these sessions is to outline that disability inclusion is vital to long-term value creation – for companies, investors, and society.

Further Prove the Business Case for Disability Inclusion
More research must be done proving the business case for disability ESG practices. While Accenture, the World Economic Forum, and the Center for Talent Innovation have published powerful research making the business case for disability, more studies are needed. As one investor said, “It is about trust and generating trust. While one great study goes a long way, humans are averaging machines. Something as complex as disability inclusion needs a lot of validation across many scenarios.”

Improve Measurement and Disclosure
There is a need for wider adoption of metrics that account for the value of competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities. Consistent metrics are also needed for disclosure of employment outcomes.

Specifically, instead of measuring generic, compliance-oriented indicators (such as the number of people hired or sensitivity trainings,) we must look at metrics that cover:

  • The interaction between a person’s capabilities (limitation in functioning) and environmental barriers (physical, social, cultural, or legislative) that may limit their participation in a workplace
  • Number of employees voluntarily disclosing disabilities
  • Compensation (with a particular focus on equal pay for equal work)
  • Executive level and board composition
  • Promotions, career advancement, and retention
  • Number of external partnerships used to identify and recruit people with disabilities into an organization
  • Engagement with supply chain partners to integrate disability inclusion into those organizations, and accurately measure the outcomes
  • Alignment between marketing and communications efforts and disability inclusion commitments

Become Early-Stage Investors
The final recommendation is the boldest – creating an early-stage investment fund to invest in entrepreneurs who recognize that disability inclusion is critical to long-term value creation, similar to what Regina Kline has done with SmartJobs. The value creating opportunities of such a fund go well beyond a handful of investors and a network of entrepreneurs. Consider innovations like audio books, cruise control in vehicles, the keyboard, Alexa, Segways, and the voice-activated dictation feature on your iPhone. The underlying technology of each of those was brought to market to assist people with disabilities. Their broader applicability was quickly appreciated, and the products were adapted into universally designed products for mass use.

Next Steps
The recommendations outlined here and in “Solving ‘Then What?” are merely the starting point in a much broader effort to achieve competitive, integrated employment. Reaching that vision requires great collaboration and partnership; utilizing these recommendations will propel the field toward the work that must be done.

Robert (Bob) Ludke is the Founder of Ludke Consulting and a Fellow of The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement. Over his career, he has advised policymakers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, taught at the United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, and provided counsel on sustainability, social impact, and ESG strategies for companies in the retail, oil, and gas, transportation, and finance industries. 

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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