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CBI to be renamed in wake of scandal

The Confederation of British Industry will be renamed in the wake of the crisis that has engulfed the organisation after multiple sexual misconduct allegations, its new boss has said.

Rain Newton-Smith, who took over as director general on Wednesday, said a rebranding of the CBI would be a necessary part of attempts to rebuild trust after more than 50 large businesses, including John Lewis and NatWest, suspended or cancelled their membership.

“Personally, over time, I’m sure we’re going to see a new name for the CBI, but that’s just the wrapper that goes on the outside. What matters is what we do, what we deliver and our purpose,” Newton-Smith told the Financial Times.

“The CBI that emerges from this is not going to be the CBI of the past, that is clear. It needs to be a new, a different, organisation.”

In a separate interview, she told the BBC she had raised concerns over sexual harassment when she previously worked at the CBI.

“Whenever I have seen sexual harassment, I have acted and I raised those issues,” she said. “I supported staff who needed to raise them, and I think that’s … absolutely critically important,” she said.

“I wouldn’t be coming back into this job if I thought there were things that I had done or hadn’t done or hadn’t acted thoroughly on it. So that’s what’s really important to me.”

Newton-Smith said she did not feel there had been a toxic culture at the group during her previous term.

“That’s not how it felt when I was here, but at the same time I, like everyone else, have read the stories of the survivors of rape in the papers from the outside, and I know that something has gone badly wrong,” she told the BBC.

Newton-Smith replaces Tony Danker, who was sacked as director general earlier this month after separate allegations of misconduct were made against him, unrelated to the allegations of rape.

She was previously the CBI’s longest serving chief economist, having stepped down only in March, when she briefly left to join Barclays as a managing director working on governance strategy, before being called back to lead the scandal-hit group.

Regaining companies’ trust will be crucial for the lobby group, which is reliant on membership fees that made up £22m of its £25m revenues in 2021.

The director general said the group, which suspended its usual operations last week, would update members on its progress in an emergency meeting in early June. “I am not for a moment saying that the rebuild of our culture and our organisation is going to be complete by early June. But what I need to do and show is that we have done enough to earn back trust from businesses,” she said.

“People are hurting in this organisation and they also need time to heal. My plea to businesses is: these things take time.”

Danker said in an interview with the BBC last week that he felt he had been “the fall guy” for allegations unrelated to his own conduct and that his reputation had been “trashed”.

Taken from The Guardian on 27 April 2023.

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