Joe Franses from Cable & Wireless sets out why their new partnership with the Employers Forum on Disability makes good business sense.
What is Disability Online?
Disability Online is a new project run by the Employers Forum on Disability, with support from Cable & Wireless. The project aims to encourage the business community to include disability issues as part of the wider CSR agenda.
With advice from Accountability, the Forum identified eight key organisations – including BiTC, BSR and CSR Europe – that the business community turns to for guidance regarding CSR and emerging business issues.
What has the project involved?
The Forum has offered each participating organisation free web accessibility testing and has also made available a unique set of online briefing papers on disability.
The briefing papers provide valuable information and case studies identifying the business case for addressing disability issues and highlighting the important role that business has to play in facilitating the social inclusion of disabled people. The briefing papers are available via the websites of each participating organisation.
The Forum hopes that members of all organisations will consider the accessibility of their own websites and integrate disability into their own CSR agenda.
Has the project been successful?
The success of the initiative has been considerable – not only in gaining the consent and support from eight of the worlds leading CSR organisations, but in undertaking important accessibility and content auditing.
What in particular about this Forum project made Cable & Wireless want to get involved?
Cable & Wireless is committed to tackling discrimination and promoting equal opportunities. In collaboration with the Forum, it is working hard to help disabled people enjoy the same opportunities as the wider population – not least in using, and benefiting from the Internet. The Internet is also a primary point of reference on CSR – so the project has an excellent fit with our core business and also the objectives of our community investment programme.
How has Cable & Wireless benefited from the project?
Cable & Wireless benefited significantly from the project. We are currently working with the Forum’s web advisory team to ensure that our own corporate website adheres fully to all accessibility requirements.
From a personal perspective, it has also proved useful in communicating CSR & community investment objectives internally – enabling me to work in partnership with both Group HR and the Cable & Wireless web team.
What else has Cable & Wireless worked on in terms of disability with the Forum?
Cable & Wireless has been a long-standing Gold Card member of the Forum and has recently worked with the Forum to support the Open for Business publication – which is helping both private and public sector organisations to prepare for the Disability Discrimination Act, which will come into force in October.
How does this project fit into Cable & Wireless’ overall CSR/community investment strategy?
The project has an excellent strategic fit with our overall CSR / community investment objectives. As well as working with the Forum we currently work alongside a number of voluntary sector partners – including U Can DO IT, Dyslexia International and Deafchild International – to highlight how information communications technologies (ICT) can play an important role in furthering the social and economic inclusion of disabled people.
Why in your opinion is it important for business to address disability as a CSR issue?
It’s about furthering social inclusion – but it is also makes good business sense. Disabled people have a track record of bringing valuable skills and commitment to the companies they work for – they also have significant spending power – at least £50bn in the UK alone. Missing out on this customer base, because of an inaccessible website or building, would simply not make good business sense.
For more information on the project, see http://www.efd.org.uk/www/press/Disability_Online_CSR.pdf and the EFD website at http://www.employers-forum.co.uk/www/csr/sttn/index.htm
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 74 – March, 2004