Why ”CSR plus the missing D”?

In the countries of our partnership, the modern approach to disability is enshrined in their laws, highlighting the dignity of persons with disabilities and their right to be treated equally in all areas of social life. Unfortunately, such a declarative approach is not accompanied by fast enough changes in daily life, in particular in the labour market, as persons with disabilities are still rarely employed as staff members enjoying equal rights.

Despite the promotion of the notion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as one of the key strategies for 21st-century enterprises and despite the existence of guidelines on CSR implementation (the International ISO 26 000 Standard; GRI [Global Reporting Initiative] indicators), the European labour market still needs to be much adapted to the requirements of changing societies in terms of disability. Although such guidelines provide a space for its incorporation into company management policies (they concern such themes as human rights, social development engagement and job creation), it is clearly visible that comprehensive activities are missing that would deploy CSR policies coupled with focus on disability.

Analysis of annual CSR reports drafted by companies as well as broad experiences gained by our project consortium members show that companies concentrate mainly on activities regarded as classic CSR, e.g. taking care of the environment, treating the equality of persons with disabilities in the recruitment process and at workplace not seriously enough.

It should also be highlighted that CSR is still too frequently confused with philanthropy, which is particularly visible when attempts are made to include disability in CSR activities. The phenomenon is a legacy of the previous approach to persons with disabilities treated as recipients of charitable assistance and not employees involved in the company’s operations and generating its profits on an equal footing with others. Such an outlook on disability, still present in the corporate world, makes entrepreneurs keener to offer financial gifts as ad hoc assistance for the needy rather than to actively engage in the process of including persons with disabilities into their businesses as full-fledged staff members. Perpetuated also in the media, the status quo is a consequence of missing model scenarios and practical training materials showing how persons with disabilities should be made part of companies following the modern understanding of disability. It is our hope that the results of the “CSR plus the missing D” project will help change the status quo.