Global Business and Disability Network

Disability inclusion benefits business

Discussions about diversity, business and human rights need to include persons with disabilities, says ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, at the opening of the annual meeting of the ILO’s Global Business and Disability Network, in Geneva, Switzerland.

Statement | Geneva | 22 October 2018
Thank you very much, Chair. Let me in my turn welcome everybody to this 5th annual meeting of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network, which as you say gets each year a bit bigger. This is very encouraging, and it has become something of a fixed rendez-vous in our calendar. It gives us great encouragement in developing the work of the Network.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues,

Recent years have witnessed a significantly growing interest among private companies to harness the benefits of inclusion of persons with disabilities in their workforces. More and more companies in more and more countries are striving to become more inclusive and accessible. These efforts result in enabling environments in which workers and employees with disabilities can realise their full potential.

Disability inclusion yields concrete business benefits and at the same time it is a matter of human rights, equality and social justice. We have this very good alignment of the business case and the need to do the right thing, so everybody involved gains. The combination of these arguments is powerful, and is already transforming the ways people and societies are thinking about and the way they approach disability inclusion.

In this context, throughout this last year, we have seen major developments and events which have recognised the importance of promoting the rights of persons with disabilities in society, and of course particularly in the labour market.

Let me recall that just three months ago, I represented the ILO at the Global Disability Summit in London. It was a remarkable event, and led me to the conclusion that we are seeing a step change in everything that we are discussing today in Geneva. Providing opportunities for companies to discuss and exchange good practices on disability inclusion is a necessary and essential function of our Network and I hope we progress in that at today’s meeting.

More recently, just last month I attended the G20 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting in Mendoza, Argentina. There, a communiqué was adopted which provides clear guidance to G20 countries on how to improve legislation and policies to include persons with disabilities in the labour market. Equally, the communiqué made clear that the future of work can create significant opportunities to improve employment outcomes for persons with disabilities.

So the public policy debate and private initiatives are advancing in step, and that is a good thing. Providing equal work opportunities for persons with disabilities has also gained importance in the broader discussion about diversity and inclusion as well as in the debate about business and human rights. These are positive developments and we should welcome them. Yet at the same time getting disability inclusion as a topic into these discussions is not enough. The challenge and our ambition should be to make disability inclusion an integral part of these broader agendas. Discussions about diversity need to include disabilities. Discussions about business and human rights need to include persons with disabilities.

You, the people actually getting the job done at the company level, the members of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network are the actors, with the roles in positively influencing these important discussions – I would say in driving those discussions - both at global and national level. Naturally, I am always pleased to see new companies and national business and disability networks joining the Global Network which has grown continuously over the years. Today, we are welcoming the five companies Atos, EDF, DXC Technology, MSD and Total to the Global Network. I understand this takes us from the original 11 to 27 companies in the Network.

I am pleased to see that national business and disability networks from Austria, from Chile, from China and from Germany have joined our Global Network this year. A very warm welcome to all of them. Let me in particular welcome the creation of the Chinese network, as this has been the result of very recent ILO work and the great support from many of the global companies that are members of the Global Network. Special thanks to Accor Hotels for chairing not only the Global Network this year but also the Chinese network.

The examples and practices the members of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network offer are very valuable and can serve as inspiration and encouragement to others. The disability-inclusive practices of the members of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network cut across very many business areas. Today’s programme seems to me to reflect that and is particularly relevant on this occasion, with its focus on global supply chains.

Let me close by recalling that the ILO is approaching its centenary, which is next year. It is a good opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved in the last 100 years to include persons with disabilities in decent work. At the same time, we have decided, properly I think to focus on the future of work. We are asking ourselves some very basic questions. Are we sufficiently addressing the opportunities and challenges that the future of work will bring? I think we can do more and we can do better, and the members of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network are key allies in shaping the future of work so that it is fully inclusive of persons with disabilities.

I would like to close by thanking you again. I look forward to your contributions, and I look forward to seeing you again next year, our centenary year, when I hope we’ll need a bigger room!