However, very few have actually taken significant action to recruit people from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, says the Responsible Employer report from Working Links, an organisation which helps those from deprived regions find long-term employment.
A survey by Working Links found that 81 per cent of bosses see it as their duty to help the UK address societal challenges, while 90 per cent believe it is also their responsibility to assist the country in overcoming its economic problems.
But despite this, only 12 per cent say recruiting from disadvantaged groups is a main priority of their corporate social responsibility programmes.
According to the report, there are several perceived barriers that prevent employers recruiting more people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
For example, 70 per cent of employers fear they would have difficulty finding people with the right skills, while over a third (35 per cent) say they find it difficult to make vacancy appeals targeting people from disadvantaged groups.
However, Working Links points to a number of successful programmes run by major employers that demonstrate such barriers can be overcome.
In 2011, for example, Tesco recruited 667 long-term unemployed people as part of its UK Regeneration Partnerships and also supported 2,000 apprentices, while fellow supermarket chain Morrisons has implemented an aim to give up to ten per cent of its new jobs to vulnerable people.
Furthermore, businesses themselves have a great deal to gain by improving the workplace inclusion of people from disadvantaged groups, argues Working Links chair Millie Banerjee.
“Helping people from disadvantaged groups into work is not only the right thing to do, it also enhances customers’ and employees’ perceptions of a business,” she said.
“Businesses must not underestimate the power of initiatives that help people into work. The pleasure people get from helping someone change their life is enormous and this translates into building a motivated, loyal workforce.”