Recommendations concerning the implementation of the principles of social corporate responsibility in the area of disability (CSR+D)
The recommendations that follow below have been developed as a result of two-year efforts by the consortium of the “CSR plus the missing D” project, bringing together organizations from Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal. The project work was led by the Managers of the Future MOFFIN Foundation.
Thanks to the work done by the consortium, the project partners visited companies implementing interesting CSR+D initiatives, met experts in that field as well as considered diverse factors conditioning positive changes in the labour market for persons with disabilities in the countries of the partnership. Out of all the examples of good practice collected by the project, the partners have selected the most interesting ones that illustrate modern trends in approaching employment of persons with disabilities and offer companies just embarking on this journey a model to inspire their own efforts. The good practice list is still open and the Managers of the Future MOFFIN Foundation intends to publish further interesting examples once the “CSR plus the missing D” project has ended to distinguish those who make efforts aimed at tapping into the capital of many persons with disabilities which still remains underutilised. The recommendations presented here do not constitute a closed catalogue of activities which in its current shape will work perfectly everywhere and regardless of the conditions, and the reader is advised to take this into consideration. However, the partners are convinced that, as a result of many conversations, meetings and looking at the practical delivery of community engagement programmes in the field of CSR+D, these tips may prove highly valuable for taking the right direction in the policy of including persons with disabilities into employee teams. It is vital to know that they have already worked in many enterprises, in different countries of different traditions and diverse work cultures. These recommendations are then as universally applicable as it was only possible.
Importantly, the final shape of the recommendations was naturally influenced by the project partners, managers of the enterprises presented as most interesting in the practical implementation of CSR+D principles and experts external to the project partners. Thanks are due to the members of the Come CloSeR to Disability task force who shared their valuable observations thus enriching this document.
Read more about the Come CloSeR to Disability task force
Positive impact on social change
Each organisation functions in some kind of space, thus has an impact on the natural environment, society and economy. Social responsibility is an organisation’s responsibility for such impact. What matters is not just minimising the negative impact but also maximising the positive influence. Disability is placed in the sphere of responsibility for the functioning of a given organisation in a specific social context. Given how disability is defined in the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (where an upset ability within a given person’s body in conjunction with barriers present in the environment may hamper his/her full participation in social life or make it impossible), it should be assumed that there are many ways for organisations to act. The first obvious option is charity. Gifts offered to others will help them operate in one way or another, yet organisations can exert much deeper impact on making the environment more accessible to persons with disabilities, and consequently further-reaching social change.
Why implement CSR plus D?
- Because persons with disabilities potentially represent a vast market of consumers who could be interested in our services,
- Because persons with disabilities can appear in our community at any time and each organisation should be ready for it,
- Because the absence of persons with disabilities in the labour market is a social issue while enterprises are key actors whose activities can impact positive changes in this area,
- Because companies need employees who thanks to their assets will contribute through their work to making them successful enterprises,
- Because employing persons with disabilities has a positive impact on the social environment while making companies more open and their operational methods more flexible,
- Because success in this area depends on coordination of efforts made by a number of partners inside the enterprise through releasing energy going beyond their standard job description.
How can companies include disability in their CSR policies?
- Taking care to develop services or products accessible to all.
Developing a product meeting the needs of as many people as possible means expanding the market of prospective consumers but also excluding some group(s) of people more or less consciously. The fact that persons with disabilities withdraw from public life is a result of just such long-term exclusion. People unable to use various articles, accessible museum exhibitions, theatrical shows, or public transport are unable to use anything at the end of the day. Minor changes we can make are a contribution towards bigger changes and show our social responsibility.
- Entering into contracts with partners offering goods and services meeting the requirements of accessibility for persons with disabilities.
This may be difficult as there are still many entities out there which do not attach much importance to the full accessibility of their products. One of the arguments given when this must be explained is the cost, considered disproportionate given the number of people making use of accessibility. Companies taking care of persons with disabilities and their needs can change that relation. For example, by expecting that standard computer software meets the full accessibility requirements customers could make manufacturers treat accessibility as a routine thing. Thanks to this, also all the other users of such software will find it easier to adapt workplaces so that they are suitable for employees with disabilities.
- Entering into contracts with partners who are socially responsible.
There are companies and other organisations offering products comparable with other similar products, yet made, for example, mainly by persons with disabilities. It is then worthwhile to use such a service of product as the preferred option.
- Improving disability awareness.
Whether a company already employs persons with disabilities, only intends to or even does not and has no intention to, for instance due to the specific nature of the sector where it operates, it pays to improve the staff’s disability awareness by providing regular training in that area. Solid knowledge of disability may be after all a perfect corporate social responsibility programme and support each CSR strategy, if only because everywhere – in each local environment, the company’s surroundings and its employees’ families or among its clients – there are persons with disabilities. Frequently, our employees have invisible disabilities which although hidden do have an impact on their work and so knowledge of that area should be commonly available in enterprises and their local environment.
- Employing persons with disabilities.
The absence of persons with disabilities in the labour market is a major social issue while enterprises are key actors that can be part of the solution.
⇒ Changing the perception of persons with disabilities among company staff.
Stereotypically, persons with disabilities are perceived as needing help and doing things for them, often lacking independence. As such an image is created by the media and rooted in the medical model of disability, it is understandable that many people still think that way. Opportunities for employing persons with disabilities in the open labour market depend on changing that perspective, so as to focus on the limitations generated by the physical and social reality and remove them, thus making it possible for persons with disabilities to fully use their potential.
⇒ Focusing on the opportunities persons with disabilities bring rather than their limitations.
Persons with disabilities should look for opportunities seeking jobs where, after the necessary adaptations have been made, they will be able to fully use their skills and abilities.
⇒ Vocational development and improvement.
Employees with disabilities need training and the ability to use training material adapted with their needs in mind, so that they are able to improve their qualifications, develop and work towards advancement opportunities as much and at the same pace as other colleagues.
⇒ Envisaging advancement opportunities for persons with disabilities.
The equal standing of persons with disabilities also means advancement opportunities. For the company, it means readiness to entrust them with more responsibility and people to manage as well as to offer them better development prospects. Moving employees with disabilities across company structure may be a challenge not just because of the risk of hitting a glass ceiling but much more practical difficulties – a new job means having to make new adaptations necessary for the employee.
⇒ Flexibility of people, procedures, tools and space.
If persons with disabilities are to perform their duties at work, the working (including IT) tools and space must be reasonably adapted. This is also true for procedures and standard operational methods.
⇒ Training and inclusion.
All employees should enjoy opportunities to acquire knowledge and abilities as regards the broadly understood disability awareness, so as to make space for equal treatment for persons with disabilities (including performing their duties as well as their non-disabled colleagues), and they should also be able to understand what reasonable adjustments at workplace are about. Disability awareness training is also crucial for managers who lead teams and the whole enterprise. Without them, or at least without their expression of openness towards change in that regard, improved disability awareness will not become a sustained aspect of the company’s culture and code of values. As persons with different disabilities, including hidden ones, make around 12% of society, disability awareness becomes something extraordinarily important and makes a basis for building modern strategies of corporate community engagement not reflected upon before. One must be aware, however, that such strategies will bring tangible benefits only after some time as due to years of exclusion and marginalisation of those groups of citizens they still lack opportunities available to non-disabled persons. Persons with disabilities should be included as much as possible in activities related to the implementation of such strategies. A conversation, a meeting and joint action will foster mutual familiarisation and togetherness in working out reasonable accommodations which are of key importance in the process of creating a truly open company.
Concluding, it is worth mentioning that it is just disability awareness that is a step towards that openness, and not, as is often assumed, a building without architectonic barriers. The fact that a company has such a building is obviously important, yet it does not release the managers from obtaining solid knowledge about disability and specific needs related to workplace adjustments as well as opening up to the potential of each individual, including persons with disabilities. It is only such knowledge and the engagement of the employees coupled with an interest in the subject that will result in enthusiasm, still indispensable for the implementation of the notion of CSR+D, for overcoming mental and legal barriers as well as stimulate further development in that direction.
At the same time, let us remember that CSR promises long-term gains. Consequently, no haste is necessary and it is certainly worthwhile to perform activities changing our business in a positive direction, thus enriching the workplace marked by diversity, strengthening tolerance and employees’ cooperation, that is investing for the future in the companies’ most valuable asset – their people.