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Towards a disability-smart world: insights

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Earlier this year, in July, we released our report ‘Towards a disability-smart world: Developing a global disability inclusion strategy’. The work draws on evidence from over 100 global brands and includes case studies from Business Disability Forum Global Taskforce members including Accenture, Eli Lilly, GSK, HSBC, Unilever, Microsoft and Royal Dutch Shell (who also generously sponsored the project) to name just a few.

Our research found that whilst most multinational organisations recognise the importance of disability inclusion, a minority has developed a global approach to disability inclusion (23 per cent said they have a global disability strategy). However, global companies are starting to move towards a globally consistent approach. For example, 86 per cent have made some kind of commitment to disability inclusion at a corporate level and 57 per cent are considering or starting to embed a global strategy.

Unsurprisingly, Senior Leadership is critical with 91 per cent of respondents agreeing that identifying a senior global disability champion as early as possible was essential to the success of a global disability inclusion programme.

A consistent experience for disabled employees and customers around the world is still some way off as less than a third (32 per cent) said their organisation aimed for a culture of disability-related best practice in ‘all or most’ locations in which they operate and 29 per cent said the same for shared best practice and lessons learned relating to disability.

Despite the challenges, the good news is that leading organisations are happy to share what works (and what doesn’t) and collaborate with each other and organisations like Business Disability ForumILO Global Business and Disability NetworkPurpleSpace and The Valuable 500 to make progress.

The report contains practical case studies on work undertaken by BDF Global Taskforce members including Accenture, HSBC, Sodexo, Shell, Unilever, Accenture. Some of the fundamental lessons for organisations looking to develop their own strategy include:

  • Don’t underestimate the complexity of a global disability inclusion strategy and how long it might take. Focus on intentions, rather than perfection.
  • Engage people with disabilities and business leads at regional and local levels to gather insights and inform global strategy. Working collaboratively will empower colleagues to interpret and execute global commitments to disability inclusion in ways that are culturally and legally appropriate for their country.
  • Start small, by focusing on one or two activities and locations. Gather evidence and then scale up.
  • Identify a senior global disability inclusion champion, early on, to drive forward the strategy.
  • Disability impacts on every area of the organisation. Bring together colleagues with key responsibility for global functions such as HR, recruitment, the built environment and technology.

In order to further equip global business, this month we are excited to launch a series of mini resources that compress key elements from the report. These briefings will provide an overview of the current context, key challenges (including statistics and best practice case studies) and a roadmap for developing a global disability inclusion strategy.

For more information about the Business Disability Forum Global Taskforce visit here or contact

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