KPMG calls for all FTSE 350 boards to appoint disability champions by 2020

FTSE 350 boards to appoint disability champions

New research by KPMG and Purple shows that almost 60% of businesses do not currently have a named disability champion at the board or senior management level, boards are thus being urged to assign directors specific responsibility for disability issues.


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Boards are being urged to assign directors specific responsibility for disability issues after new research by KPMG and Purple shows that almost 60% of businesses do not currently have a named disability champion at the board or senior management level.

In addition, almost half of the 500 UK business leaders surveyed for the report said they had never heard of the Purple Pound – the estimated £249bn annual spending power of disabled people and their families.

The findings accompany today’s launch of the first in-depth review of its kind focusing on the relationship between UK boards and disability. Leading from the front: Disability and the role of the Board is co-written by KPMG in the UK and disability consultancy Purple. Other contributors include Sainsbury’s Chairman David Tyler, Arsenal, Channel 4 and Sarah Newton MP, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work.

As well as calling for more board-level disability champions, the review recommends that boards table disability as a formal agenda item at least once a year. They are also being encouraged to sign up to the Government’s Disability Confident scheme to demonstrate their commitment to disabled talent, and to serving the needs of a diverse customer base.

Tony Cates, KPMG Vice Chair and the firm’s Board-level Disability Champion said:

“We have set this target because we believe what gets measured gets managed. We’ve seen how the introduction of the mandatory gender pay gap reporting requirements has pushed that issue up the boardroom agenda. We have a real opportunity now to use that focus and energy to engage the board in a broader debate around diversity and inclusion – and the opportunities opening up workplaces up and down the country to more talented people can bring for UK plc.

“Over the next 18 months we would like to see the boards of the FTSE350 appoint a disability champion and commit to adding this issue to their agenda at least once in 2019. With so much opportunity, both in terms of unlocking the true potential of your workforce and tapping into the spending power of the purple pound, the question is, can your business really afford not to?”

The survey results suggest that greater accountability is needed to turn business rhetoric into meaningful action. More than three quarters of business leaders said they feel confident in their organisation’s ability to meet the needs of disabled employees and customers. Despite this, however, the disability employment gap remains above 30 percentage points and three quarters of disabled people have walked away from a purchase because of poor customer service.

Businesses turning over less than £1m are the least likely to be aware of the Purple Pound, with two thirds of respondents saying they were not familiar with the term. Only one in ten firms has a dedicated strategy in place for targeting a global addressable market of 1.3bn people - equivalent to the population of China.

“Put simply, disability is board business,” adds Mike Adams OBE, Chief Executive of Purple and co-author of the review. “It affects everyone associated with your company – your customers, your staff, and your stakeholders. Having spoken to some of the most forward-thinking businesses of all sizes when it comes to disability, a common thread quickly emerged – the tone is set by those at the top. We need more leaders to follow suit and create a new culture in which disabled people aren’t just accommodated but embraced because everyone understands their true potential.

Case study – Auticon

Auticon is an award-winning IT consultancy with a difference – it only employs consultants that are on the autistic spectrum. After initial success in Germany, where it has over 100 consultants, Auticon expanded to the UK and hasn’t looked back, winning blue chip clients including Experian, Allianz and GlaxoSmithKline.

The proposition to customers is purely commercial - based on the fact that their consultants have exceptional cognitive skills and therefore add value to complex IT projects. As well as their greater capacity for lateral thinking and pattern spotting, autistic professionals’ tendency to be forthright is a particular advantage in delivering compliance projects.

Clearly, building and managing such a unique team requires a different approach. UK CEO Ray Coyle elaborates: “We can’t rely on normal recruitment channels. We can’t judge people by their CVs and we don’t do interviews. When you remove these elements from the process you have to focus on skills. We ask our candidates to choose which skills they want to be assessed for so they can showcase their ability. This works out better for them and for us. They are better suited for the roles we assign to them, so our retention rate is extremely high.”

Auticon employs job coaches who liaise with customers to make the reasonable adjustments required for the consultants they will be working with. For instance, staff have the option to contribute to meetings via instant messenger (Slack) or email if they would prefer not to attend in person.

Coyle says he expects Auticon UK to double in size and is looking to expand outside of London. “We’ve built a profitable business with autistic talent at its heart. I think one of the most key things other employers can learn from us is the importance of understanding the individual and making the specific adjustments they need to be successful. We have consultants who don’t like to shake hands, but our customers only care about the results they deliver. To access the things people are great at, we need to stop focusing on what they aren’t good at.”

- Ends - 

For media enquiries, please contact: 

Louis Clark - Communications senior manager

T: +44 (0) 20 7694 8957

M: +44 (0)7770 644 382


KPMG Press Office: 

T: +44 (0)207 694 8773

Notes to editors:

About Leading from the front: Disability and the role of the Board
Leading from the front is a review of current research and best practice in the field of disability written with a board level audience in mind to reflect the importance of senior leadership in setting both strategic direction and the public agenda. The review is co-written by David Gracie, Director, Legal Services, KPMG and Mike Adams OBE, Chief Executive of Purple. Additional contributors include:

  • Agnes Fletcher, Equality Consultant, Arsenal
  • Ray Coyle (UK CEO) and Viola Sommer (COO), Auticon
  • Dowshan Humzah, Director & Chair of UK Advisory Board, Board Apprentice
  • Michael Harfleet, Chair, Cerealto UK Ltd
  • Graeme Whippy, Disability Specialist, Channel 4
  • Sarah Newton, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, DWP
  • Janine King, Managing Director, iansyst
  • David Tyler, Chairman, Sainsbury’s
  • Katie Buchanan, Head of Sustainability, Virgin Media
  • The review can be downloaded from

About KPMG

KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 14,500 partners and staff. The UK firm recorded a revenue of £2.2 billion in the year ended 30 September 2017. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. It operates in 152 countries and has 189,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity.  Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

About Purple

Purple is a not-for-profit organisation that sees the world of disability as an opportunity. Purple have developed an array of products and services to support individual disabled people, and solutions for businesses to accelerate their organisational disability capacity and capability.

We work with businesses from across the private, public and voluntary sectors (and of all sizes) to unlock the power of disability.

© 2021 KPMG LLP a UK limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organisation of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved.

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