Working together to drive the disability agenda is #Valuable

By Diane Lightfoot, Business Disability Forum

Business Disability Forum is delighted to be an expert partner of the Valuable500 which returned this week to the World Economic Forum in Davos. It’s been a brilliant and exciting year with #Valuable founder Caroline Casey seemingly circumnavigating the globe in her tireless efforts to engage with CEOs of some of the world’s most iconic brands.

The results speak for themselves: after launching just one year ago, an amazing 240 global leaders have personally committed to putting disability on the board agenda, signalling a huge and vital step forward in the inclusion agenda.

Many of them are Business Disability Forum Partners and Members and we work with them to provide pragmatic support and advice to support their “Disability Smart” journey. For if #Valuable and the Valuable 500 is the (very compelling) “why”, winning hearts and minds, we at Business Disability Forum are the “how” – helping business put the practical actions in place that turn commitment into reality.

The UK has long been at the forefront of driving the disability agenda forward – Business Disability Forum itself was set up almost 30 years ago as the world’s first disability business network – but though huge progress has been made, disability has too often been seen as the” poor relation” in diversity terms. Thankfully, however, in the UK and globally, there is now a growing awareness of disability and an increasing recognition that it is part of being human: it is the one strand of diversity which can and most likely will affect every one of us, whether we acquire a disability ourselves or are close to someone who does.

The 300+ companies that we work with already recognise that disabled people are not only a very large and important talent pool but a hugely significant consumer market too. And, as global brands start to focus on getting it right for this customer group, they will no doubt realise one of our core messages: that when you get it right for disabled people, you get it right for everyone.

And it’s not just about customers; businesses are also increasingly recognising that it is no longer OK to have an external brand that doesn’t match their internal culture and values (and vice versa) – so a focus on the employee space is really important too. In December 2019, Unilever – the first company to join the #Valuable campaign and whom we are proud to count among our Partner group – announced their commitment to becoming the employer of choice for people with disabilities, and a vision that 5% of their workforce worldwide will comprise of disabled people by 2025.

I hope that following the World Economic Forum this month, many more companies will not only sign up to the Valuable 500 but move forward with the leadership and action that will make disability inclusion a reality.

Meanwhile, my huge congratulations to #DisabilitySmart Partners and Members who have signed up to the #Valuable500 over the last year. All of us @DisabilitySmart look forward to working with you to achieve the #InclusionRevolution together #WEF20.

Now, in 2020, it feels as though there is a real opportunity and appetite for a sea change that will transform opportunities for disabled people worldwide. It’s time for business – Disability Smart business – to lead the way.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO, Business Disability Forum

You can read more about the Valuable 500 and the organisations signed up so far in the report launched this week here

Join the Valuable 500 and make 2019 the year of the inclusion revolution

By Diane Lightfoot, Business Disability Forum

“This is the inclusion revolution, right here and right now.” Challenging words spoken by the amazing Dr Caroline Casey, founder of #Valuable, at Business Disability Forum’s Scottish Conference, back in December.

Dr Caroline Casey on stage

Dr Caroline Casey CEO, Binc

If you have been working in the disability space for any length of time, it can be easy to become despondent, and wonder if the change that we have all been calling for and working towards for so many years will ever happen. The global disability employment gap is wider now than it was in 2010, for example. And too many big businesses which talk the language of diversity, fail to include disability.

This makes no sense when you consider that disability is the one characteristic which can and does – and will – affect us all. And yet it is too often the Cinderella of the diversity world.

But last week something amazing did happen. For the first time ever, disability inclusion took centre stage at the most influential global event in the world.

The World Economic Forum four-day annual conference in Davos brings together leading figures from business and politics to discuss issues of global importance. Usual topics on the agenda include security and the economy, and, more recently, the environment and the gender pay gap, but never the value of the 1.3 billion people living in the world with a disability. Until now.

Thanks to the incredible and visionary leadership of Dr Caroline Casey, for the first time in the Forum’s history, disability was a main stage event. It is hard to overstate what a big deal that is. The buzz started towards the beginning of the week and by the time Caroline took to the main stage on Thursday, joined by CEOs and global business leaders, including former CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, it felt as though something was really happening.

They highlighted the actions that global organisations can take to become “the tipping-point for change” and to “unlock the business, social and economic value of people living with disabilities across the world”.

I am proud to say that Business Disability Forum Partners and Members, Unilever, Microsoft, Barclays, Fujitsu and Accenture, were among the first businesses to sign up to become part of the Valuable 500 – a growing cohort of businesses who are committed to putting disability on the agenda at the highest global level.

Valuable log - black stripe and an orange heartThe Valuable 500 is calling on global organisations to commit to putting disability on their board agendas in 2019, with recent research by Business Disability Forum Partner, EY, showing that over half of global senior executives, rarely or never discuss disability on leadership agendas.


I said earlier in this blog that too often disability is the Cinderella of the diversity world. And a brilliant new film created by AMV, DIVERSISH, launched at the conference in Davos, makes this point brilliantly. It shows that many businesses may call themselves diverse yet overlook disability in their definition of diversity. They are as the film says, diversish. You can see the film here:

So what now? How can we ensure that the historic events of Davos turn into the longer-term inclusion revolution we have all hoped for?

As an expert partner of the Valuable 500, Business Disability Forum will be among organisations ready to provide practical resources and advice on how they can bring about meaningful, top-down and embedded change within their organisations, during 2019 and beyond. It’s an opportunity and challenge which we relish.

But this change can only happen if more global businesses follow the example set by Unilever, Microsoft, Barclays, Fujitsu and Accenture, and sign up to the Valuable 500 pledge.

As Sir Richard Branson says, “Stand up as allies for change. Consider how you can improve your disability performance and commit to unlocking the value of over 1.3 billion disabled people and families across the world.”

You can find out more and apply to be a Valuable 500 business at thevaluable500.com.

Let’s make sure that this is only the start of the inclusion revolution that we and so many others in this space have been seeking for so long.