US institutional investors push companies to hire people with disabilities

$1trn investor coalition calls for inclusive workplaces

US investors representing more than $1trn in assets, led by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, have called on companies to create “inclusive workplaces” that benefit from the skills people with disabilities, who remain underrepresented in the workforce.

Signatories to the statement included New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, Rhode Island State Treasurer Seth Magaziner and Chris Ailman, CIO of the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS).

“Disability inclusion provides businesses with a great opportunity to improve their bottom lines, while boosting diversity and innovation,” said DiNapoli, Trustee of the giant New York State Common Retirement Fund. “We want to know that our investment dollars are being used to maximize a company’s potential and its long-term profitability. Disability inclusion expands the pool of talent companies can hire from and creates welcoming workplaces that foster different perspectives, giving an enterprise a competitive edge.”

Disability has been a focus for DiNapoli this year; in January, he called on 49 of the largest US companies, including Apple, McDonald’s, Nike and Twentieth Century Fox, to report on their inclusion of people with disabilities.

And there is evidence that companies themselves benefit from greater disability inclusion: A 2018 report by non-profits Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) found that companies with the best practices outperform peers on numerous financial metrics.In the joint statement, investors called on companies to adopt policies for:

  • Setting goals for hiring people with disabilities and tracking progress in meeting those goals;
  • Public support from a senior executive for creating a disability-focused employee resource group that fosters a supportive network; and
  • Including people with disabilities in their corporate diversity and inclusion statements.

The statement also encouraged companies to participate in the Disability Equality Index (DEI), an initiative by Disability:IN and AAPD, which allows companies to self-report and benchmark their disability policies and practices and identify ways to build reputations as inclusive organizations.

It comes as Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers has written to his peers urging them to take advantage of the “enormous value proposition” of ESG integration.

Magaziner and Read will participate in a webinar hosted by Responsible Investor exploring how US treasurers are responding to key ESG themes on May 28.