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 Business's Next Frontier: People With Disabilities

July 30, 2015
Written by Robert Reiss
For years organizations seeking a competitive advantage have embraced diversity; but today the leading enterprises have found a new source of growth–people with disabilities. The global market represents 1.3 billion people and their 2.3 billion family members, friends, caregivers and colleagues; aggregately people with disabilities account for an astounding $8 trillion dollars in disposable income.
Business leaders have also found that people with disabilities build a more authentic, loyal and creative culture. People with disabilities also represent an almost untapped talent pool who bring a wide range of education, experience, expertise and perspective to the workforce. Updated federal regulations are pushing employers to actively include this talented section of the workforce in their ranks, but savvy employers are getting ahead of the curve.
As I became more aware of the economic, employment and societal impact of people with disabilities – roughly 20% of our country’s population – I asked business leaders and disability experts about this emerging and growing market and the positive impact for business.
·         Marty Bean, Sr. Vice President, Field Sales, PepsiCo North America Beverages and an executive champion of Pepsi ACT – Achieving Change Together – a national disability hiring and inclusion initiative in partnership with corporate disability consulting team Disability Solutions @Ability Beyond.
·         Kevin Cox, Chief Human Resource Officer, American Express, an organization that has been a long time leader in diversity and a company that recognizes people with disabilities as a large constituency of their customer-base, and a valuable part of their workforce.
·         Kris Foss, Managing Director, Disability Solutions @Ability Beyond, a consulting practice that leverages their organization’s 60 years of working with people with a wide variety of disabilities, and now work with corporations to attract, retain and engage talent who happen to have a disability.
·         Rich Donovan, CEO, The Return on Disability Group, globally recognized subject matter experts on the convergence of disability and corporate profitability, focused on defining and unlocking the economic value of the disability market. Rich launched the world’s first stock index focused on the disability market with Barclays in September 2014. The Return on Disability US LargeCap ETN is listed under the ticker RODI on the NYSE.
Robert Reiss: Why does your organization focus on people with disabilities?
Marty Bean: We recognized early the talent that is represented among people with disabilities and have focused our efforts on tapping into that talent for our workforce needs across the country. We created Pepsi ACT in 2013. It is a national multi-year project that has significantly increased the number of people with disabilities that are employed across a variety of career and experience levels. It has launched in five U.S. cities to date and each location has successfully employed people with disabilities, including veterans. We will continue to expand across PepsiCo North America Beverages in 2015 and see this not as a way to hire people with disabilities, but hiring the right people for the job. In fact, at our Las Vegas Certified Center half of our employees have disabilities. It is a high-performing environment and a model for efficiency and productivity. We hired the right people to get the job done well.
Kevin Cox: This is the next frontier from both a brand and workforce perspective. Ensuring that people with disabilities see themselves and their needs reflected in our products and the services we offer is important. It’s important to our customers, as well as to our workforce. We employ many people with disabilities currently and have employees with family members or friends with disabilities. This is important to them, so it’s important to us as an employer. For example, this past year we have placed focus on expanding the dialogue and education around mental health. We have recently engaged Kris Foss and her team at Disability Solutions to work with our HR organization, to make sure we are modeling the way for the entire American Express organization in the recruitment, retention and promotion of people with disabilities.
Kris Foss: There are several opportunities here for corporations and the time is now to lead in this space. PepsiCo and American Express are leading the way and as early market champions will realize maximum returns in both talent and market reach.
POSTED: 8/17/2015