As World Marks Autism Awareness Day, major businesses join Global Disability Inclusion Campaign the Valuable 500

The global disability inclusion movement The Valuable 500 today marks World Autism Awareness Day with a call to the world’s business leaders to ensure autism – and neurodiversity more widely – is incorporated as a priority in their disability inclusion strategies.

The call to global businesses comes as BNY Mellon, Invesco, IWG, Magic Leap, Shionogi & Co., Ltd.  and Slaughter and May are announced as the latest companies to join The Valuable 500 – the global movement which calls on 500 of the world’s largest businesses to commit to placing disability inclusion on their business leadership agendas.

Launched at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in January 2019, 260 companies have since pledged to join The Valuable 500 and put disability on the business leadership agenda – many of whom actively prioritise the inclusion of autistic and neurodiverse people in their businesses.

These include:

  • Auto Trader UK – which has an established Disability & Neurodiversity Employee Network, made up of individuals from across the business and sponsored by a member of its Executive Team. Auto Trader UK has trained its managers with the National Autistic Society on how to manage autistic people to educate them on how to support autistic colleagues to flourish at work. It is the first company in the world to become Autism Friendly through the National Autistic Society.
  • Gatwick Airport – the first airport to introduce a hidden disability lanyard scheme. The airport places a particular emphasis on training with all passenger-facing staff taught to recognise a range of hidden disabilities. Gatwick also offers this training free to airlines, ground handlers and other organisations across the airport campus.  
  • Lloyds Banking Group – which received the National Autistic Society’s Autism Friendly Award, marking their commitment to become the UK’s first autism friendly bank.

In the UK alone, there are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum – more than 1 in 100. Including their families, autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people. More than 15% of the UK population are classified as neurodiverse – living with a neurologically based physical disorder – and the benefits of ensuring a neurodiverse workforce are being recognised across a broad range of industries.

However, only one in ten HR professionals are focusing on neurodiversity within their organisations according to the CIPD, and according to BIMA’s 2019 The Voices of Our Industry, 24% of neurodiverse people surveyed felt their condition negatively affected their career.

Just 16% of autistic people are in full-time paid employment according to the National Autism Society – illustrating the importance of greater awareness and action from business leaders to include autistic people.

Caroline Casey, Founder of The Valuable 500, commented:

“World Autism Awareness Day is a particularly timely moment to celebrate the talents of people with autism, many of whom are exceptionally creative and productive with talents that are hugely beneficial to businesses in a wide range of industries. We must break out of the common stereotype that it is only in technical and mathematical roles that people with autism will excel. Every business, regardless of sector, has a responsibility and reason to ensure it supports a neurodiverse community, from its employees to its clients.”

The latest Valuable 500 companies announced today join other major corporations spanning a vast range of sectors, from technology to the creative industries: Accenture, BBC, Buzzfeed, Coca-Cola European Partners, Microsoft and Virgin Media are among its members. 260 companies across 26 countries globally are now part of the campaign, and The Valuable 500 is in active discussion with a further 200 companies. The combined revenue of members is now over €4 trillion, with over 10 million employees.

Caroline Casey added:

“We warmly welcome the new sign-ups joining The Valuable 500 family today and congratulate them on recognising the importance of disability inclusion during this unprecedented time. We must not forget that diversity and inclusion in business remains everyone’s business and must still be a key priority for CEOs – perhaps now more than ever, as COVID-19 forces increasing numbers of people to experience the type of daily exclusion that many people with a disability face daily”

The campaign is supported by several global business leaders and partners, including Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever and Chairman of The Valuable 500, Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Media Chief Operating Officer Jeff Dodds, Bloomberg Chairman Peter Grauer, EY Global Chairman & CEO Carmine di Sibio, and strategic partners Omnicom and Virgin Media.

The campaign is striving to have 500 global business leaders and CEOs signed up to the initiative by September in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to reduce inequality and create inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities.

Isao Teshirogi, Ph.D., President and CEO of Shionogi & Co., Ltd., said:

“In the face of drastic and diverse changes in the pharmaceutical sector environment, we must reconsider what we should provide to society. Given that the purpose of Shionogi Group is, as expressed in its Company Policy, to “supply the best possible medicine to protect the health and wellbeing of the patients we serve” and working in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, we should capitalise on our strengths and create new business platforms in the healthcare field with partners and stakeholders for continuous innovation toward Diversity and Inclusion.”

Slaughter and May Partner Nilufer von Bismarck said:

“Signing up to The Valuable 500 is highly meaningful to Slaughter and May as a firm. Diversity and inclusion is vitally important to us across all aspects of our recruitment and retention, with disability inclusion playing a key part in this. This pledge is a commitment to build on our existing initiatives and do more to ensure that our talent pool is reflective of our values.”

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