A group of U.S. institutional investors, including public pension funds, representing more than US$1 trillion is calling on investee companies to do more to include people with disabilities in the workforce.

“Disability inclusion provides businesses with a great opportunity to improve their bottom lines, while boosting diversity and innovation,” said one of the statement’s signatories, Thomas DiNapoli, trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the state’s comptroller, in a press release. “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.”

Signatories include Christopher Ailman, chief investment officer of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, Illinois state treasurer Michael Frerichs and Sheila Morgan-Johnson, executive director of the District of Columbia Retirement Board, among others.

“We want our portfolio companies to create sustainable, long-term value. This requires a workforce with a wide range of viewpoints, skills, abilities and experiences,” said the joint statement. “We believe, and research has demonstrated, that embracing equality, diversity and inclusiveness is increasingly critical to the long-term success of corporations in the global marketplace.”

The group recommended a number of best practices for companies, including:

  • Ensuring corporate diversity and inclusion statements mention people with disabilities and have the statement posted online;
  • Establishing a public, company-wide hiring goal for people with disabilities and measure progress on achieving that goal; and
  • Requiring a senior executive release a statement supporting a disability-focused employee resource group.

“We recognize that corporate disability inclusion will not be achieved overnight,” the statement concluded. “However, we believe the competitive advantages companies realize from such inclusion contribute to long-term sustainability. As such, we strongly encourage our portfolio companies to strive to adopt the best practices identified above.”