Dinner with international diversity experts as part of the Zero Project Conference 2017

On the evening of February 22, the Zero Project Conference Dinner was held in the spectacular surroundings of the Sky Conference venue. The event was attended by almost 70 national and international guests, and there was lively discussion on a range of topics related to the employment of people with disabilities in the workplace. Guests at the dinner were introduced to numerous examples of best practice, and enjoyed the opportunity to make valuable contacts.

The Zero Project was set up in 2011 by the Essl Foundation. The aim of the project is to support the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), and it assists in creating a world without barriers. This is partly achieved through research into innovative examples of practice and policies that relate to disability. The project also monitors relevant social indicators and encourages global communication.

To promote such communication, the Zero Project Conference is organized annually, and is now in its fourth consecutive year. This year’s conference took place from February 22 to 24 at UNO City. Around 500 people, with and without disabilities, attended, representing 70 countries. This year the topic of the conference was the employment of people with disabilities. The Business Employers’ Day took place during the first day of the program, and was attended by representatives from RZB and RBI.

It is a shocking fact that 80 percent of people with disabilities worldwide are unemployed. According to WHO, 15 percent of the total population have a disability – and of course, they are also potential customers whom many businesses are failing to address strategically.

The Zero Project Conference Dinner, organized by the Sustainability Management Department, concluded the Employers’ Day. The guest list included representatives from Barclay’s Bank, Microsoft, Shire, and Standard Chartered Bank or Equitas (Small Finance Banking), as well as UN Director Daniela Bas (who is herself a wheelchair user), Frank Hoffmann from Discovering Hands, Martin Essl, initiator of the Zero Project, Chilean Minister for Work and Social Services Alejandra Krauss Valle, the blind judge Justine Richard Bernstein, Stefan Tromel from the ILO, and Thorkil Sonne, founder of “Specialisterne” (Special stars). Raiffeisen was also represented by some distinguished guests, including RBI Supervisory Board member Andreas Gschwenter, Head of HR Rudolf Vogl, Head of Sustainability Management Andrea Sihn-Weber, diversity ambassadors from RBI, and distinguished representatives from Centrobank, the Raiffeisen Service Centre, RLB NÖ-Wien, RLB OÖ, Uniqa, and ZHS.

Andreas Gschwenter, who opened the dinner, highlighted both the importance and the opportunities of diversity as a topic. Recognizing and respecting cultural diversity and the value of cooperation is inherent in RBI’s strong presence in Central and Eastern Europe. UN Director Daniela Bas sees diversity, and disability in particular, as a business opportunity, and advises people to see the “ability” rather than the “disability”. She points out that, for banks in particular, “inclusive” banking can attract extra business.