The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the prominent business lobby group in the UK, is taking steps to revamp its culture and appoint a new president.
This is as it faces a confidence vote by its members next week that will determine the organization’s future.
Over 50 high-profile members of the CBI distanced themselves or suspended their affiliation after The Guardian revealed a series of sexual misconduct allegations, prompting both the government and the Labour party to suspend their engagement with the organization.
Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI’s new director general, expressed her determination to learn from the situation and emphasized the need for a strong code of conduct and a supportive environment for speaking up.
She told The Guardian: “I have my eyes wide open about what we need to learn.
“People need to know the code of conduct and we need to lay the foundations for a strong speak-up environment.”
As part of their efforts for change, the CBI has expedited the search for a new president.
Brian McBride, the incumbent president, will relinquish his responsibilities in January after overseeing various changes within the organization.
In a prospectus published by the CBI, McBride acknowledged the events of the past 12 weeks, expressing chastisement and a shared sense of responsibility to rectify the failures which led to the allegations of rape, sexual misconduct, and drug use.
To address the situation, Ffion Hague, an expert in board evaluation, has been appointed to conduct an external examination of the CBI’s governance and processes.
The CBI intends to establish a “culture advisory committee” and enhance internal listening channels with staff.
Members will have the opportunity to provide their verdict in a confidence vote, with the results scheduled to be announced after a crucial meeting on June 6th.
The resolution asks members whether the changes made to reform governance, culture, and purpose instill confidence in supporting the CBI.
Businesses that have suspended their membership, rather than terminated it, will still be able to participate in the vote.
The CBI’s plan follows a previous acknowledgment by McBride in April the organization had failed to identify toxic individuals during the hiring process.
Several employees who were suspended following an investigation by law firm Fox Williams, commissioned to examine the allegations, have now left the CBI.
The dismissal of former director general Tony Danker in April was unrelated to the sexual assault and rape claims but stemmed from separate complaints of workplace misconduct.
Principia Advisory, an ethics consultancy, conducted a review of the CBI’s culture, finding inconsistent attitudes and a lack of self-reflection. It also highlighted a lack of confidence among staff in reporting misconduct.
Sources close to the CBI emphasized the need for reform regardless of gender and race, acknowledging it will take time to rebuild trust and confidence in internal reporting processes for complaints.
The CBI plans to continue seeking external support to handle staff concerns for the time being.
Need Career Advice? Get employment skills advice at all levels of your career
Rain Newton-Smith said this period has been painful for the CBI, but they are committed to learning the necessary lessons, emerging as a stronger organization and sharing their learnings with wider society.
They are seeking guidance from global experts on ethics, corporate governance, and combating sexual harassment.
The CBI mentioned consulting with over 1,000 business leaders on their plan and highlighted its ability to bring together sectors and various levels of government, including economic regulators.
Brian McBride emphasized the need to strengthen the CBI’s governance structures and expressed their determination to improve the organization for the better, regain the confidence of their members and stakeholders, and become a trusted voice once again.