13 Feb 2019
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Sodexo brings disability into the spotlight

Sodexo has today hosted its first UK conference on disability in the workplace. The event, called Open Your Mind: Driving Disability Inclusion, welcomed an audience of 75 people from businesses right across the public and private sectors.

Organised in partnership with ILO (International Labour Organization) and the Business Disability Forum, the event focused on how organisations can create more inclusive environments across a diverse global landscape.

Guests had the opportunity to discuss a range of issues with a panel of disability experts from leading global organisations, including GSK, Microsoft, Shell, Unilever and Sodexo. The keynote speaker was Kate Nash OBE, Creator and CEO at PurpleSpace, a networking and professional development hub for disabled employees.

Addressing the audience, Kate said it was “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.” She added that “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.”

Kate went on to say that Sodexo is uniquely placed to understand how important it is to get it right for disabled customers and employers. “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,” she said.

Meg Horsburgh, Sodexo’s Head of Disability and Inclusion was the conference’s lead organiser. She said it was a lively event that captured a range of perspectives on disability. “Because of Sodexo’s size and scope, we were able to reach out to a diverse audience for this conference. To have representatives from large multi-national organisations, public bodies and NGOs in one room talking about disability was quite unusual. There was a real mix of stories and insight. I hope that delegates went away inspired, with a renewed confidence around disability.”

Explaining why it’s important for Sodexo to host conferences like this, Meg added: “Globally people with disabilities continue to be an untapped source of talent. In the UK, in 2018, for example, figures showed that only 49.2% of adults with a disability were employed, compared to 80.6% of those without a disability. The biggest barrier to employment continues to be other people’s attitudes.

“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.”

Sodexo’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy includes a global commitment that by 2025, 100% of our workforce will have access to programmes for people with disabilities.

In June 2018, Sodexo UK achieved Leader status in the UK Government’s Disability Confident scheme, recognising the work undertaken in the region.

The conference panel included:

Dr Rohini Anand, Global Chief Diversity Officer at Sodexo (facilitator)

Liz Burton, Head of Global Inclusion and Diversity at GSK

Hector Minto, Accessibility Evangelist at Microsoft

Tim Harte, EVP Talent and Development at Shell

Madhuri Pai, Global Diversity and Inclusion Director at Unilever

Meg Horsburgh, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Sodexo

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