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We need more inclusive reporting on disability. Here's why

Advances in disability inclusion can be achieved through better data reporting.

Advances in disability inclusion can be achieved through better data reporting. Image: Pexels.

Rhiannon Parker
Chief Innovation Officer, The Valuable 500
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Society and Equity

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • CEOs must balance financial performance with purpose-led values.
  • Many leaders are overwhelmed by the complexity of disability inclusion.
  • Improved disability data can advance disability inclusion in the workplace.

Today’s C-Suite leaders have the daunting task of simultaneously upholding their fiduciary duties and acting as stewards of the purpose-led values expected of their organizations. Translating these values into tangible actions requires effort, cost structures, and access to accurate and meaningful data which can be transparently communicated to internal and external stakeholders. It also requires leaders committed to defending the position that delivering strong financial returns and building inclusive organizations are not fundamentally oppositional undertakings.

For today’s most senior leaders, this comes at a time when they are also required to navigate the complexities of a post-COVID19 mental health pandemic, energy and climate crisis, and a geopolitical environment which is marked by a decrease in globalisation and rapid movement towards digital sovereignty on behalf of various nations. All formidable challenges to address while building and leading inclusive organizations.

So, where does disability inclusion sit within this very complex remit of today’s CEO?


What is the World Economic Forum doing to close the disability inclusion gap?

Many leaders, even those most committed to operationalising their organizations’ purpose-led values admit to being overwhelmed by the complexity of disability as an identity and a data set, the slow rate of progress observed, and how to ensure the concept of disability inclusion is woven into key business processes such as risk modelling, assessing materiality, and business continuity and emergency response planning. They also hesitate to use their voices to tell their personal stories of how disability impacts them directly or indirectly.

Addressing the disability performance data void

The Valuable 500’s position is that change starts with addressing the disability performance data void through voluntary public disclosure via annual reports and accounts (ARAs). This must start with strides toward greater transparency on behalf of individual companies and culminate in collective synchronised action to truly drive change.

At Davos this year, we launched an inclusive reporting whitepaper which presents five disability inclusion key performance indicators to be introduced to our 500 companies and the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting ecosystem at large.

Leaders are well versed in the mantra that what gets measured gets managed. Adopting and publicly reporting on these five standardised disability-inclusive KPIs will allow for better oversight of how companies are performing on an individual level and enable comparison amongst companies. Doing so will also unearth drivers of change that were once not well understood.

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Leaders should be prepared to start their inclusive reporting journeys with strikingly low levels of disability performance but acknowledge that they are in the company of many others who are at a low level of organizational maturity in this domain. In many ways, the transparency being asked for is counter to corporate psychology as it can be deeply uncomfortable not to excel in any given performance criteria.

Despite being at a less-than-optimal position, the current state of corporate disability performance should not be a deterrent to operationalising change or offering transparent insights to internal and external stakeholders, including the global disability community. Quite simply, progress must be prioritised over perfection.

If organizations are unaware of key performance criteria such as how many disabled employees they employ, how disabled employees experience life day-to-day within the organization, and what percentage of their workforce has received training specific to disability inclusion, it makes it very difficult to adapt systems, processes, and entrenched ways of working that are inequitable or non-inclusive.

Equally, if organizations are unaware of the degree to which their social media content and other digital assets are inaccessible to an estimated 20% of the world’s population, it remains unclear how much work is required to address the problem or what realistic goals may be.

Advancing disability inclusion

In both developed and emerging markets, employees and consumers are demanding a better quality of life, more connectedness, and more opportunity. This is particularly true of the Gen-Z disability community who are proud of their disabled identity, understand that disability is a social construct rather than a medical one, and are no longer willing to be overlooked. Their non-disabled peers are taking note of this and also demand better from the brands they interact with.

The disability community has a long and painful history of being excluded from the ability to fully participate in the global economy. While the rise of remote work, e-commerce, and the evolution of the digital environment has opened many doors for the disability community, tremendous inequity persists and the potential for further exclusion as it applies to the rise of the metaverse, AI and machine learning is a very real threat if not addressed proactively. Today’s CEOs have a key role to play in ensuring that disability data is incorporated into business performance criteria so that tangible advances in disability inclusion can be realistically achieved.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Forum InstitutionalEquity, Diversity and Inclusion
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Institutional update

World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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