Gucci is shaking up disability inclusion | Business in vogue

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The luxury industry has often excluded people with disabilities as consumers and employees, but Gucci’s Robert Triefus says the brand’s “mind has opened up” to including people with disabilities, and that it’s time to change.

“The big global brands are expected to do business the right way,” said Triefus, executive vice president for brand and customer engagement. Business in vogue in an interview. “Gucci has the ability to come together around important topics, and disability inclusion is an important topic for society as a whole.”

While a handful of brands started out with more visible approaches such as capsule collections and more inclusive HR policies, Gucci is building its disability inclusion strategy from the inside out, hoping to trade symbolism in the short term. term versus long-term improvements. It’s a notable shift for the megabrand sitting in a luxury industry that still relies on diversity and inclusion missteps.

Already, Gucci has highlighted a growing commitment to creating greater opportunities for people with disabilities in its workplace and to partnering with organizations that specialize in cultivating underrepresented talent, according to its second annual impact report. Gucci Equilibrium, released earlier this month. And today, the Kering-owned mega-brand becomes the first and only high fashion retailer to be a certified participant in the annual Disability Equality Index, a joint venture of the disability rights organization , the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), and Disability:IN, a global workplace disability inclusion network that supports more than 400 companies. Gucci scored 80 points out of a possible 100 in the index, a benchmark where those earning more than 80 points are considered the “best workplaces for disability inclusion”. Those with less than 70 points remain confidential and are not considered certified. The benchmark takes 30-40 hours to complete and has also been used by Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Estée Lauder Companies, H&M and Nike.

The Disability Equality Index survey offers insight into what best practices in disability inclusion might look like: do you have a written statement of commitment to diversity and inclusion across of the company? Does it specifically mention disability? Is there a formally recognized executive sponsor and disability-focused employee resource group? And does the training of new hires include disability inclusion? The focus is on tangible and achievable changes such as accessibility of buildings, websites and events, accommodation for candidates with disabilities during job interviews, paid time off for caregivers and insurance sickness.

The application process helped Gucci define its roadmap for disability inclusion, says Sinéad Burke, disability rights advocate and accessibility consultant, member of Gucci’s Global Equity Council, whose new consulting firm – Tilting the Lens – is also a strategic partner of the brand. Burke is a petite person with achondroplasia and one of the few disabled people to have worn custom Gucci looks. “As with a lot of diversity and inclusion work, we don’t know what we don’t know,” Burke says. “The index audit was therefore a great way to see where Gucci is currently and build a roadmap for continued change.”

It’s not a perfect solution, she says, but a good start. “All benchmarks and audits can be subjective depending on the perspective of the organization, and the idea that you can score 100 indicates that the job can be done, when it never really is. This certification was never the end goal, but a way to track our improvements.

Internal processes come first

The global equity board, Burke, reports directly to CEO Marco Bizzarri and the broader management team. “Reporting to the CEO and having executive sponsorship of this work, while engaging with those in the middle, means we’ve been able to take a grassroots, grassroots approach to strategic change,” Burke says. “Within any organization – but especially within global luxury organizations – systemic change must be sustainable, which often means it is slow moving rather than seismic.”

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