The start of a new year is a good time for company leaders and managers to reevaluate their business goals. Did you meet the objectives you set for yourself in 2018? Have you improved throughout the year? Has the company grown in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

CSR challenges companies to be socially accountable and to impact positively all aspects of society. Adopting CSR tactics has become all but necessary for every company, from small businesses to the Fortune 500. In fact, according to Double the Donation, 93 percent of the 250 biggest companies in the world publish annual CSR reports. Furthermore, 55 percent of consumers will pay more for products made by socially responsible companies.

CSR is also very important to millennials, and it heavily influences their job choices. By the year 2025, 75 percent of the workforce will be made up of millennials, who are increasingly interested in philanthropic causes year over year. Millennials are also more likely to research a company’s CSR efforts, according to a survey by Cone Communications. If your company has a robust CSR program, it is more likely to attract and retain millennial talent.

Through my work with Tangram Business Resourcing, I’ve helped companies create and sustain successful CSR practices. One of the most impactful practices companies can immediately start to implement is diversifying their workforces and expanding their talent pools to include an often-underutilized segment of the population: people with disabilities.

According to a recent study by Accenture, companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting people with disabilities outperform their peers across the board. The 45 companies Accenture analyzed earned 28 percent higher revenue and double the net income — not to mention they saw 30 percent higher economic profit margins.

The Accenture report also states that increasing inclusion efforts offers substantial benefits like more innovation, improved productivity, and a better work environment. The report concludes that the US gross domestic product could increase by $25 billion if as little as an additional 1 percent of people with disabilities were employed! With 15.1 million people of working age living with disabilities in the US, there is certainly no shortage of people to recruit.

How to Embrace Disability Inclusion as Corporate Social Responsibility

One of the best tips I can give companies when it comes to embracing disability inclusion strategies and practicing CSR is to be intentional in every single aspect of your company. Don’t just claim to be inclusive on your website or in your marketing materials. Instead,  your company must be intentional about inclusion. It must actively and purposefully work to cultivate an environment in which employees with disabilities can feel comfortable, be engaged, and succeed in their roles.

It is imperative to realize that people with disabilities have needs, just like everyone else. Take time to ensure your office — including both the physical space and the company culture — is disability-friendly. A key component of an inclusive work environment is communication. An employee with disabilities should feel comfortable expressing their needs or issues to you. If they don’t, your office is not yet truly inclusive.

As we all look to start clean slates in 2019, we should consider our companies’ intentions. Do you simply promote yourself as a socially responsible company, or do you put these words into action by being intentional with your mission? If companies can focus on their intentions for 2019, they will become more socially responsible — and more productive — this year.

Kathy Bernhardt is managing director for Tangram Business Resourcing.

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