Walgreens disabilities initiative serves as bedrock for broader public/private engagement

WINDSOR, Conn. — Top-level executives from more than a dozen major U.S. companies on Monday joined with government officials to launch a nationwide public-private sector initiative to advance employment of people with disabilities. The companies and officials plan to work together to achieve common goals, including to identify and resolve employment barriers facing people with disabilities, share experience and best practices, raise visibility around the effort and awareness of the significant benefits, and expand participation.

The initiative arose from the CEO Summit focused on employment of people with disabilities on June 4 hosted by Walgreens at the company's Windsor, Conn., distribution center. The summit was held at the Walgreens facility to provide participants a first-hand look at the company's robust effort to employ people with disabilities. About 50% of the workforce at the distribution center has a disability, but all employees work as equals with the same responsibilities and performance standards.

Summit participants included government officials led by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Rep. Pet Sessions, R-Texas; and Delaware governor Jack Markell, vice chairman of the National Governors Association. Participating companies included Amerigroup, Ascend Performance Materials, Best Buy, Clarks Companies, Ernst & Young, GE Lighting, IBM, Lowe's Home Improvement, Lundbeck, McLane, Merck, OfficeMax, SAP AG, Procter & Gamble, UPS, Walgreens and Walmart.

Following the summit, the officials and companies made a commitment to schedule additional activities with expanded participation, starting with meetings at the U.S. Business Leadership Network conference in Orlando, Fla., in October of this year; summits in Dallas and Washington, D.C.; a website to share information and best practices; and future activities to expand and promote the employment of people with disabilities and address barriers.

"The Walgreens facility is powerful proof that people with disabilities are valuable assets to our workforce," Blumenthal said. "I appreciate the leadership of these companies on this important issue, and I'm very eager to work with them to employ more people with disabilities in Connecticut and across the nation. All people with disabilities deserve the dignity of work, and we should continue to find ways to help make this possible."

"Hiring workers who happen to have some type of disability but can still do a good job and want to work is a win for business, for employees and for our communities," said Mike Mikan, interim CEO of Best Buy. "Our distribution facility in Shepherdsville, Ky., is proof positive that highly motivated, productive employees with disabilities deliver strong performance on every metric from productivity to safety to quality. We plan to extend this employment model to other facilities, and we encourage other companies to consider this untapped talent pool."