FTSE 350 needs to name disability champions

FTSE 350 boards are being urged to take action to become more inclusive and assign directors specific responsibility for disability issues, after research by KPMG and disability consultancy Purple found almost 60% of businesses do not currently have a named disability champion at the board or senior management level

In addition, almost half of the 500 UK business leaders surveyed said they had never heard of the so-called purple pound – the estimated £249bn annual spending power of disabled people and their families.

The review recommends that boards table disability as a formal agenda item at least once a year. They are also being encouraged to sign up to the government’s Disability Confident scheme to demonstrate their commitment to disabled talent, and to serving the needs of a diverse customer base.

Tony Cates, KPMG vice chair and the firm’s board-level disability champion said: ‘We’ve seen how the introduction of the mandatory gender pay gap reporting requirements has pushed that issue up the boardroom agenda. We have a real opportunity now to use that focus and energy to engage the board in a broader debate around diversity and inclusion – and the opportunities opening up workplaces up and down the country to more talented people can bring for UK plc.

‘Over the next 18 months we would like to see the boards of the FTSE 350 appoint a disability champion and commit to adding this issue to their agenda at least once in 2019. With so much opportunity, both in terms of unlocking the true potential of your workforce and tapping into the spending power of the purple pound, the question is, can your business really afford not to?’

The survey results suggest that greater accountability is needed to turn business rhetoric into meaningful action. More than three quarters of business leaders said they feel confident in their organisation’s ability to meet the needs of disabled employees and customers. Despite this, however, the disability employment gap remains above 30 percentage points and three quarters of disabled people have walked away from a purchase because of poor customer service.

Businesses turning over less than £1m are the least likely to be aware of the purple pound, with two thirds of respondents saying they were not familiar with the term. Only one in ten firms has a dedicated strategy in place for targeting this market.

Mike Adams, chief executive of Purple and co-author of the review, said: ‘Having spoken to some of the most forward-thinking businesses of all sizes when it comes to disability, a common thread quickly emerged – the tone is set by those at the top. We need more leaders to follow suit and create a new culture in which disabled people aren’t just accommodated but embraced because everyone understands their true potential.’

KPMG & Purple report, Leading from the front: disability and the role of the board

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