On June 17th, 2020, Disability Hub Europe (DHUB) held in virtual format its 2nd partners’ Steering Committee.
Led by Fundación ONCE as leading partner, this meeting represented an opportunity for DHub partners, including L’Oréal, DOW, the ILO Global Business and Disability Network (ILO GBDN), CSR Europe, Global Reporting Initiative and the European Disability Forum (EDF), to discuss COVID-19s’ impact in their daily activities and more specifically the effect on people with disabilities. Partners exchanged their views on how they believe this unprecedented crisis will impact both Disability and Sustainability and their forthcoming activities within the DHUB framework.
The representatives of each organization that participated in the session were:
- Maria Tussy, Director of European Programmes Unit at Fundación ONCE.
- Carla Bonino, CSR and Sustainability Head of Unit at Fundación ONCE and Disability Hub Europe Coordinator.
- Christine Koblun, Head of Content Development and Program Delivery at Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
- Stefan Crets, Executive Director at CSR Europe.
- Andrea Bittnerova, Project Manager at CSR Europe.
- Stefan Tromel, Senior Disability Specialist at the ILO GBDN.
- Leticia Novak, International Diversity and Inclusion Project Manager at L´Oréal.
- Haydn Hammersley, Social Policy Officer at the European Disability Forum.
- María Trigo, Implementation Leader for DEN (Disability Employee Network), at DOW.
CSR Europe, highlighted the effort done by some of CSR Europe corporate members, to ensure a disability inclusive response to the crisis. The two main topics heading the sustainability agendas for institutions and companies were: the future of work and the just transition to a low carbon economy. Both these topics are essential to ensure an inclusive entourage at a transition and future of work level.
GRI, stated that after COVID-19 the social dimension of reporting might be strengthened, in areas such as employee well-being, occupational health and safety and diversity and inclusion. The representative of GRI claimed that for non-financial reporting, the sustainability context, which has never been so influential as it is today, is very relevant.
The representative of ILO GBDN, explained how COVID-19 has shifted the focus of the organization. This shift leans towards understanding the consequences of the lock down, the need for reinforcing social protection and other initiatives to ensure a disability inclusive response and recovery from the socio economic crisis, and therefore leading also to “building back better”.
EDF declared that their organization activity has significantly increased due to COVID-19. Primary focus during the confinement period was mitigating the impact on people with disabilities and ensure a post COVID-19 inclusive recovery. As raised in the meeting, institutions and companies face two main challenges at present: ensuring accessibility when working from home and guaranteeing safety measures for employees with disabilities when returning to the office.
Additionally, measuring the real consequences of this pandemic at a European level was said to be an approaching challenge.
L’Oréal has provided their employees with disabilities inclusive work equipment, social and medical services during the confinement period. The company’s key lines of action on its disability strategy are: recruitment, inclusive workplace, digital accessibility and mental health issues.
The representative of the Disability Employee Network (DEN) at DOW claimed that the company has worked in order to adapt confinement measures to the special needs of specific groups, such as employees with disabilities. DOW has held several sessions to raise awareness on challenges faced by people with disabilities and mental health issues during the crisis. Information accessibility was seen as a relevant matter to be taken into consideration.
Fundación ONCE, revealed some of the activities carried out by their organization to ensure an inclusive response to the socio-economic current crisis. These activities varied from personal protective equipment (PPEs) donations to delivery of food, medicines and electronic devices. These actions to place under the programe “You are not alone”, implemented by the whole ONCE Social Group, aimed at supporting people with disabilities during the crisis, with a special focus on the the elderly and those that live alone. The programe included volunteering activities covering psychological support. A special shout out was made to Inserta Empleo that showed a highly adaptive capacity and managed to get 100% of its activity to work as online services whilst maintaining all programs for employment with positive results.
As a conclusion, partners assert that this pandemic has had a greater impact on people with disabilities but state that consequences can be mitigated by taking the appropriate actions by all relevant stakeholders.
DHub partners agreed on the importance of ensuring COVID-19’ recovery to be inclusive of people with disabilities. DHub’s partners’ upcoming activities will consider a broader approach with different scenarios to promote greater disclosure, best practices, leadership, communication and awareness in the field of sustainability and disability. These actions will make an inclusive recovery become a reality.