Corporate social responsibility: diversity is an asset
Corporate social responsibility: diversity is an asset
Accessibility, participation, and inclusion are buzzwords often associated with people with disabilities. The notion that we should focus on people’s abilities, not their disabilities is a lesson that is not yet fully understood by most - especially when it comes to labor force participation. We took a closer look at the role companies and their social responsibility play in spurring major social changes.
Getting there faster and more flexibly. With the start-up initiative, opta data wants to drive forward the digitization of healthcare. In the end, everyone benefits.
Together everyone achieves more but it takes the right platform to let legitimate requests be made known. And it takes the right voice. Every year, leaders from business, government, international organizations, civil society, and academia come together in a canton of Switzerland to address critical global issues. What started as an appeal in Davos has since become a worldwide movement:
It takes 500 to close the disability inclusion gap
The Valuable 500 initiative was launched at the World Economic Forum in 2019 in Davos, Switzerland. Disability activist, social entrepreneur, and founder, Caroline Casey, challenged the world’s leading companies to put disability and inclusion on the business leadership agenda. She was backed by Chair and Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Virgin Media, and the Omnicom Media Group. Right from the start, the initiative also partnered up with One Young World, the global summit for young leaders that gives a new generation of future leaders a platform to network and support one another, with the aim of creating a better world, with more responsible, more effective leadership.
In a way, this is also the goal of The Valuable 500. The idea wasn’t just to get 500 internationally active and key stakeholders together around the same virtual table. The real goal is to help unlock the social and economic value of people living with disabilities across the world and not ignore their enormous potential. Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC, explained his reasons for joining the Initiative in a video: "I believe The Valuable 500 is important as businesses, as societies, we’re not moving fast enough. There’s a lot we can do as leaders within our own organisations, but there’s so much more we can do, together." In other words, the idea is to not only promote the participation of people with disabilities in your own company but to make society as a whole more inclusive.
Of course, there are many ways to approach this subject. In Germany, policymakers got heavily criticized when they instituted an equalization fee in accordance with the German Severely Handicapped Act in efforts to ensure labor force participation. The incentive for employers to hire people with disabilities did not work as planned, nor did it deter companies from not hiring disabled workers. The fee is simply too low to prompt a meaningful change, while there is also a lack of information and education about available assistance for employers to prompt workplace accommodations and adaptations. Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) sponsors and supports multiple projects that encourage labor force participation of people with disabilities. The BIH Federal Working Group of Integration Offices and Main Welfare Offices also assists employers in improving accessibility and creating a more inclusive corporate structure. In a recent REHACARE.com interview, Christoph Beyer explained how the COVID-19 pandemic might affect labor force participation in the future and highlighted the opportunities this unprecedented situation has in store for employees and employers. Activists who have long been calling for more labor force participation, or projects like myAbility.jobs, don't just draw attention to the issue, but also offer practical solutions and connect employers and prospective employees with disabilities. The voluntary commitment of prominent, international companies to close the disability inclusion gap has now attracted enough media attention to put extra pressure on other corporations to shift business models. The Valuable 500 has not only managed to give inclusion and equal opportunities an important platform, but it has also become a voice of the global disability community.
On May 18, 2021, The Valuable 500 announced it has reached its goal of 500 international organizations that are committed to the common goal. The membership includes over 20 million employees across 36 countries with companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, H&M, LIDL, Zalando, American Express, Airbnb and Sky – spanning almost every industry sector. "The Valuable 500 is a strong worldwide initiative that emphasizes disability inclusion and diversity - topics we continuously work on and enrich our corporate culture," Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, is quoted on the company's website. Medical device manufacturer Ottobock also embraced the idea and has joined the 500. And why not? Even companies like Ottobock which have included inclusion and disability in their agenda for years, can still find ways to make improvements.
Dr. Jana Drechsler oversees the opta data Group's start-up initiative. The program is intended to be long-term and permanent. The initiative currently focuses on everything to do with digital health.
Fast track digitization – for the common good
Celebrating the differences in all people and learning from each other – concepts that prompt companies to collaborate. Enter the opta data Group, which launched a startup program in February. The leading provider of IT, billing and services in the healthcare sector wants to drive the expansion and development of "digital health" strategies, meaning software-based tools and apps besides technologies that facilitate big data processing and analysis in healthcare. The solutions - whether pertaining to big data, artificial intelligence (AI) or apps – are designed to simplify healthcare processes and make life easier for patients.
Why do we need startups for this? "Collaboration with startups means faster solution implementation, which makes the workday easier for stakeholders in the healthcare system. It also means patients benefit much sooner," says Dr. Jana Drechsler, project manager Corporate Development / M & A. She manages the program and has extensive startup experience. Ultimately, the healthcare system, patients, companies, and startups all stand to benefit. "We find new exciting inspiration and ideas for future solutions we would otherwise never have discovered on our own or only at a much later point in time, while we help startups fast track market access and enable them to use our resources as a trusted sparring partner." Whether it’s about resources or digitization, the magic word for success today is networking.
Germany still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of digitization, which isn’t just the takeaway of the COVID-19 pandemic. But luckily, this is the area of expertise of the Essen-based company, which celebrates its 50th anniversary. As part of the e-health initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Health, opta data has made an outstanding contribution and already connected 90,000 care providers to the telematics infrastructure (TI). The TI is "a digital information highway that builds the foundation for a secure electronic health information exchange among all healthcare participants," explains Drechsler. The startup program is meant to create additional solutions or services that benefit both care providers and patients. "Future solutions must be designed to simplify healthcare processes and speed them up to benefit both sides - patients and health care providers. It is important that applications are straightforward, simple, and easy to use."
AMF-Bruns has already made a name for itself as a car conversion specialist. But the mobility expert is also active in terms of social commitment with the AMF-Bruns Foundation.
Social responsibility promotes mobility
Easy to use is a great segue. It takes assistive devices and technology for people with mobility impairments to stay mobile and active. AMF Bruns is the place to turn to for wheelchair accessible vehicle conversions for people with mobility restrictions. The company has combined technical know-how with new innovations for over 60 years. But the member of the European Mobility Group (EMG) does more than develop and produce mobility solutions for people with disabilities.
The slogan of the family business, which is now into its third generation, is “Menschen fördern – die Region stärken" (Supporting Individuals. Strengthening the Community) and reflects the company’s desire to give back to its community. That’s why Gerit and Jürgen Bruns founded the AMF-Bruns Foundation, which not only provides vehicles for projects or initiatives but also offers financial assistance for vehicle conversions or accommodations if needed. According to the foundation’s website, "The AMF-Bruns Foundation aims to systematically expand our commitment in both areas [Editor’s note: promoting mobility and training] - by offering individual support to children and adolescents with special needs, providing financial aid for people with disabilities or delivering funding for future-oriented projects in the field of mobility."
Opta data is likewise committed to supporting children and adolescents and helping them to reach their full potential. "As a family-run company, it comes naturally to us to take corporate social responsibility. We have been supporting clubs and organizations with donations or sponsorship for many years. We are especially committed to helping children and young people at our facilities," says Jana Drechsler.
Even though companies are internationally active or have extensive global networks, they are still very much connected to their local communities and take corporate social responsibility. They increasingly use their position to give something back. And what works in the Lower Saxony district of Ammerland or the polycentric Ruhr area is likely also a good thing for the world as a whole. In The Valuable 500’s image video on its website, viewers learn that "Shaping a society that includes everybody" is a key goal. In today's difficult and unprecedented times, it is maybe a ray of hope that people with disabilities find their voice and diversity starts to permeate all areas of society.
Anne Hofmann (Translated by Elena O'Meara) REHACARE.com