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The 2030 Agenda, the growing social dimension of sustainability, just transition and inclusive economy: the key pillars of the strategy for Disability Hub Europe in 2023
24 Nov 2022

Disability Hub Europe for Sustainable Growth and Social Innovation (Disability Hub Europe, D-Hub) is a multi-stakeholder engagement initiative aimed at building a reference space for best practice exchange, dissemination, mutual learning and raising awareness on the binomial Disability and Sustainability.

Led by Fundación ONCE, the project is carried out within the framework of the “Spanish Operational Programme on Social Inclusion and Social Economy 2014-2020”, as a Transnational Cooperation action, co-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

D-Hub is built collectively based on key alliances and partnerships. Current partners include: L’Oréal, Dow, ILO Global Business and Disability Network, CSR Europe, GRI, and the European Disability Forum (EDF).

With the goal of taking full advantage of this collaborative energy, D-Hub recently celebrated its annual steering committee meeting, marking an opportunity for the partner organizations to come together to celebrate accomplishments to date as well as discuss and plan the ambitious implementation roadmap for the project scheduled for 2023.

Meeting participants included:

Fernando Riaño, Director for Institutional Relations and Sustainability – ONCE Social Group.

• Maria Tussy, Director for European Programs – ONCE Foundation.

• Carla Bonino – Sustainability Head of Unit and Disability Hub Europe Coordinator – ONCE Foundation.

Stefan Tromel, Senior Disability Specialist at the ILO GBDN.

• Harold Pauwels, Director Standards – Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).

Haydn Hammersley, Social Policy Officer – European Disability Forum (EDF).

• María Trigo, Implementation Leader for DEN (Disability Employee Network), and Mariano de Jove, representative for DEN (Disability Employee Network) – DOW.

• Margaret Johnson, Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer (L’Óreal Group) and Karen Etienne, Senior legal counsel human resources (L'Oréal)

Charles Castro and Teresa Royo, Technical Secretariat – Disability Hub Europe.

ONCE Foundation, as the Disability Hub Europe leader was represented by Fernando Riaño, María Tussy and Carla Bonino, who were responsible for opening the online meeting, highlighting the importance of the initiative for the ONCE Social Group, and for the ONCE Foundation in particular, as well as the innovative nature of this multi-stakeholder partnership aligned with the 2030 Agenda and the SDG.

In his opening remarks, Fernando Riaño, Director for Institutional Relations of the ONCE Social Group remarked upon the growing importance of the social dimension in sustainability reporting and the increasing integration of disability issues in the overall sustainability agenda. As an example, he acknowledged the incorporation of employment and inclusion for persons with disability as a key social aspect to be considered in the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

Maria Tussy, Director for European Programs of the ONCE Foundation thanked all the partners as well as the European Social Fund for its continued support of the network and highlighted the value of D-Hub as a particularly rich project due to the different perspectives and natures of the organizations involved. She emphasized as well, the contribution of D-Hub to the achievement of the SDGs, noting particularly the project’s linkages with SDG 17 of strengthening global partnerships for sustainable development.

Stefan Tromel, Senior Disability Specialist at the ILO GBDN, coming from the recently concluded COP27 meeting in Egypt, emphasized the interest of ILO GBDN in promoting an economy based on sustainability and the just transition, positively highlighting the large number of mentions of people with disabilities during the celebration of the Climate Summit. As he pointed out, climate change and environmental degradation are already disrupting millions of jobs and livelihoods. For this reason, many opportunities lie ahead to boost the economy and improve the quality of working life, hence ILO's special commitment to Green Jobs and ensuring that persons with disabilities are able to fully share in the opportunities that will emerge in the green transition ad ensure that no one is left behind. In this regard, Stefan noted the importance of the planned report on the green transition and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities to be published in the coming year by D-Hub and ILO GBDN.

In his intervention, Harold Pauwels, Director of Standards at GRI, stressed the importance of making the sustainability reporting standards fully accessible and transparent to all users, so that the work developed so far can be continued in the future. In addition, he considered it is essential that new and updated sustainability standards permit evaluations that are increasingly transparent and explicit, so that a greater comparison of the social impacts generated by companies can be made, noting the current challenge in making these types of assessments. He stressed as well the inclusion of the human rights due diligence approach in the GRI Standards and that implications that this has on the inclusion in sustainability reporting of metrics on persons with disabilities as well as other vulnerable populations.

Haydn Hammersley, Social Policy Officer at the European Disability Forum (EDF), celebrated the recent publication of the report 'The 2030 Agenda, SDGs and disability' as a clear result of what projects such as D-Hub are able to accomplish. In addition, he indicated that at the recently concluded COP27, EDF has put a lot of emphasis on the impact of climate emergencies on people with disabilities, but also, from a more positive point of view, on the potential of the roles of people with disabilities in a greening economy and the increased opportunities that will become available in the economy. In order to achieve this, he highlighted the central role of upskilling for ensuring employment opportunities for excluded groups, including persons with disabilities.

María Trigo, Implementation Leader for DEN (Disability Employee Network) at DOW, stressed the importance of sustainability for the company due to its sector and detailed the important changes to the company’s strategy with the aim of finding best practices related to the accessibility and suitability of work spaces. She noted that the focus for 2022 and 2023 for DOW is identifying best practices to increase improvements in accessibility for its employees, making a thorough assessment of the different gaps that exist. In this sense, she indicated that Dow continues to implement accessibility improvements not only in the offices but also in the production sites, as well as incorporating the latest global standards. In addition, she noted the company’s focus on increasing the relevance and visibility of social issues in regards to sustainability and the establishment of metrics that allow for a common measurement of these social aspects across company sites.

Finally, Margaret Johnson Clarke, Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer (L’Óreal Group), has pointed out that the strategy of this leading cosmetics company has always been closely aligned with D-Hub, and noted the importance of the initiative from the point of view of sharing knowledge and research. In this sense, she noted the importance of establishing common metrics across companies that allow for benchmark analyses that lead to continuous improvement in the social dimension. In addition, she indicated that for L’Oréal, a key internal issue in the current environment is mental health and stressed the importance of increasing the contribution to attentive listening to find out what roles the different institutional perspectives and private companies have in Europe. As such, she considers that a key within the D-Hub initiative is the ability to share experiences and establish more relationships between the different partners.

The meeting was conducted by Carla Bonino, Sustainability Head of Unit and D-Hub coordinator at Fundación ONCE, as well as by Charles Castro, Director of Evaluation and Impact Measurement at ECODES and Teresa Royo Director at KPMG, acting as leading members of the D-Hub Technical Secretariat.

The final part of the meeting included a discussion by the partners of the strengths of the project, as well as an assessment of possible points for improvement. All attendees expressed their appreciation of the work carried out by the initiative, concluding that, as a unique multi-stakeholder initiative D-Hub represents an unparalleled platform for promoting the multiple opportunities created for persons with disabilities in the transition towards a more sustainable an inclusive economy that leaves no one behind.