Sodexo, a leading global services company, has partnered with Business Disability Forum and the Global Business and Disability Network to host its first disability themed conference, Open Your Mind: Driving Disability Inclusion.

On 13 February, the conference brought together experts from industry and the NGO community and was organised against a backdrop of Sodexo’s attainment of Leader status in the UK Government's Disability Confident scheme and its participation in the Global Business and Disability Network and associated charter, part of the International Labour Organisation.

The conference was led by Meg Horsburgh, Sodexo UK & Ireland head of Diversity & Inclusion and global disability leader. The events keynote speaker was Kate Nash, OBE, creator and CEO of PurpleSpace, a networking and professional development hub for disabled employees.

Kate Nash OBE, creator and CEO Of PurpleSpace said, “It is important for large organisations to create change by developing a systematic approach, rather than seeing disability inclusion as a ‘project’ or ‘initiative’. Those that get it right have a clear route-map and an end in sight.”

“Learning directly from your own disabled people is the most authentic way of finding out where the challenges are, so you can develop the right priorities for your business. Sodexo focuses on improving quality of life and touches so many people’s lives. It should be applauded for organising such an important conference in this space.”

The business community is uniquely placed to drive change and get it right for disabled customers and employees.

Meg Horsburgh, Sodexo UK & Ireland head of Diversity & Inclusion added, “At Sodexo, we want to learn from others, share our experiences and have honest conversations about how to provide more inclusive environments for people with disabilities. Events like this are so valuable - we’re planning to do more this year in other global locations.”

The panel discussion was facilitated by Dr Rohini Anand, Corporate Responsibility senior vice president and global chief diversity officer at Sodexo. Other event speakers were:

  • Liz Burton - global head, Inclusion and Diversity, GSK
  • Hector Minto - accessibility evangelist, Microsoft
  • Tim Harte - EVP HR Talent and Development, Shell
  • Madhuri Pai - global Diversity and Inclusion director, Unilever
  • Diane Lightfoot - CEO, Business Disability Forum
  • Stefan Tromel - senior disability specialist, International Labour Organization

Hector Minto highlighted the gap in the use of assistive technology. Liz Burton and Tim Harte outlined their organisation’s approaches to diversity and inclusion and examples of the impact that these had had on business success and improvements in the workplace. Madhuri Pai gave insight into the way that Unilever was setting measurable targets and monitoring progress.

Facts & Figures

  • 16% of working age adults report having a disability in the UK
  • 80.6% of people without disabilities are employed, but this figure falls to only 49.2% for those with disabilities
  • The Government has a target of one million more disabled people to be in work by 2027.
  • In 2015 Sodexo committed to providing 100% of its workforce access to programmes for people with disabilities by 2025

Further information available on Twitter and LinkedIn using #OpenYourMind19

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