Promoting the employment and integration of people with disabilities at LVMH is what the Group’s Disability Inclusion Office is all about. Set up by the Human Resources department at the instigation of Chantal Gaemperle, Group EVP Human Resources & Synergies, in 2008, it now plays an essential part in helping the Group achieve its objective of doubling the number of people with disabilities in its global workforce – from 1% to 2% – by 2025. In 2021, the Group had progressed to 1.2%.
“One of Disability Inclusion’s key roles is to ensure that disability issues are addressed by teams at all levels and in all countries,” says Olivier Théophile, LVMH’s Corporate Social Responsibility Director. While the estimated 15% of the global population living with a disability is evenly distributed throughout the world, the topic is treated very differently depending on the country, in terms of both culture and legislation. In fact, in some countries, talking about disabilities is still taboo. “To improve understanding of the situation in each geography, identify local challenges for people with disabilities and facilitate communication among our HR teams worldwide, the Disability Inclusion Office has produced a document that contains all the important legal information relating to this topic – precise definition, existence of quotas, penalties for non-compliance, government incentives and more,” says Jean-Rémy Touze, who heads up LVMH’s Disability Inclusion Office.
One example that effectively illustrates the role of the Disability Inclusion Office would be helping the Maisons implement global disability policies while also supporting them in the development of local programs. “Some great initiatives have been introduced in several countries on an experimental basis,” says Jean-Rémy. “The aim now is to expand the scope, so we’re trying to provide the Maisons with a methodology for replicating these initiatives elsewhere.”
Emulating effective action
The Disability Inclusion Office is working hard to encourage more widespread implementation of several of these innovative programs. This includes one that began at Sephora in the United States (link to series). Over a period of just a few years, Sephora USA raised the portion of employees with disabilities in its distribution centers to 10%, while also achieving a very high productivity rate. Similar initiatives are now being developed in Europe.
Alongside LVMH’s Métiers d’Excellence department, the Disability Inclusion Office also promotes vocational training via the LVMH Institut des Métiers d’Excellence (IME) – a powerful catalyst for the recruitment of people with disabilities. “In developed countries, individuals with disabilities have 50% less chance, on average, of obtaining a degree,” says Jean-Rémy. “Work‑study programs can help close that gap and create attractive career opportunities.” Launched in France in 2014, the IME is now present across the globe, with programs in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Japan and the United States. Even without a vocational training program, all countries – even the smallest – can set up partnerships with schools or associations to provide work experience opportunities to young people with disabilities. In France, for example, the Group and its Maisons host hundreds of young people with disabilities each year thanks to a non-profit organization known as Arpejeh, which was co-founded by LVMH.
Another noteworthy initiative, relating to high-level disabilities, is the project undertaken with French non-profit Vivre et Travailler Autrement. The aim is to integrate people with severe autism – who have difficulty with things like speaking and reading – into the manufacturing teams at the Guerlain plant in Chartres. Four people have already benefited from the program. The results have been rather extraordinary, with some participants flourishing in the work environment and making significant progress in their capacity to communicate. Parfums Christian Dior has now joined the initiative alongside Guerlain. The long-term goal is to provide inclusive accommodation for around ten people with severe autism employed by the two Maisons.
To change the way people see disability, we need to overcome persistent stereotypes and misconceptions. Some people still believe, for example, that luxury goods and disabilities are incompatible. “On the contrary,” says Jean-Rémy. “More than 2,000 employees with disabilities already contribute to the excellence achieved by our Maisons in a wide variety of functions, including customer service.” Olivier adds: “It’s important to note that a disability doesn’t limit you to a specific area. At LVMH, an employee with a disability could work in a store, a workshop or an office, just as they might hold a management position or be at the very start of their career.”
To illustrate the wide range of opportunities available to people with disabilities across the Group, the Disability Inclusion Office also gathers testimonials from executives – who have a disability themselves or have been involved in recruiting people with disabilities. Thanks to this initiative, one of the Group’s executives shared his own personal experience on International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
It’s everyone’s business!
LVMH is committed to ensuring that disability doesn’t constitute a barrier to recruitment, promotion or talent development. “To achieve this, we need to normalize the presence of disabilities in the workplace,” explains Olivier. “One in two people will experience a disability at some time in their working life, so it’s a topic that really does concern us all.”
“People with disabilities make up 15% of the global population. Disability is therefore an ordinary part of life – of our lives!,” points out Jean-Rémy. “Now and then, a colleague with a disability might need some support. It’s up to us to make it clear that this is completely natural. That’s the key to making people – in this case, people with disabilities – feel genuinely included.”