Almost 60 per cent of UK firms have no named disability champions at board or senior management level, according to new research by KPMG and disability consultancy Purple.
A survey of 500 British business leaders also found that almost half had never heard of the ‘Purple Pound’ – the spending power of disabled consumers and their families, estimated to be worth £249billion a year.
The findings feature in new report Leading from the front: Disability and the role of the board, which includes contributions by Sainsbury’s chairman David Tyler, Arsenal FC and minister for disabled people, health and work Sarah Newton.
Tony Cates, vice chair of KMPG used the report’s publication to throw down the gauntlet to FTSE 350 bosses – challenging all of them to appoint disability champions by 2020.
“Over the next 18 months we would like to see the boards of the FTSE350 appoint a disability champion and commit to adding this issue to their agenda at least once in 2019,” he said.
“With so much opportunity, both in terms of unlocking the true potential of your workforce and tapping into the spending power of the purple pound, the question is, can your business really afford not to?”
But while larger firms are being urged to take the lead, the impact of a lack of disability awareness in business could be more keenly felt by SMEs – two thirds of leaders from firms with a turnover under £1million were unaware of the Purple Pound according to the research.
With three quarters of disabled people reporting that they have walked away from a potential purchase due to poor customer service, Mike Adams, chief executive of Purple, said there is a clear case for the matter to be addressed at the highest level within companies:
“Put simply, disability is board business. It affects everyone associated with your company – your customers, your staff, and your stakeholders.
“Having spoken to some of the most forward-thinking businesses of all sizes when it comes to disability, a common thread quickly emerged – the tone is set by those at the top.
“We need more leaders to follow suit and create a new culture in which disabled people aren’t just accommodated but embraced because everyone understands their true potential.”