93% majority | CBI wins confidence vote, but experts warn of challenges ahead

CBI wins confidence vote, but experts warn of challenges ahead

The fate of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has been decided following a vote of confidence from its members.

The decision follows sexual misconduct allegations and suspension of workers, including the sacking of its former Director General, Tony Danker. Allegations include sexual assaults, one at a the CBI work party, and a female worker allegedly being stalked by a male colleague. These claims were amongst over a dozen allegations from women at the lobbying group, where a deeply toxic culture reportedly fuelled this behaviour.

As a result, the CBI members were asked if they support its reform plans, which includes appointing a new president and giving members a vote on people on its board, in a vote. Members were asked to vote on the following resolution:

“Do the changes we have made − and the commitments we have set out − to reform our governance, culture, and purpose give you the confidence you need to support the CBI?”

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There were 371 votes in total and 23 withheld votes. Amongst this, 93% votes backed the reform plans in support of the CBI, while seven per cent of votes rejected the motion.

The CBI’s new Director General, Rain Newton Smith, says this vote ushers in a new era for the organisation: “After an incredibly tough period, I’m deeply grateful for the faith shown in us by our members. We’ve made real progress in implementing the top-to-bottom programme of change promised by the board and, while there remains work to do, today’s result represents an important milestone on that journey.

“Even an organisation as established as the CBI is only as strong as its members. That support is something we have never taken for granted. We will work tirelessly to repay the faith shown in us and are committed to living the values and changes we have proposed.

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“Let me be clear, we have listened, we have acted, and we will leave no stone unturned to be the best voice for business inside and out.

“We also heard another important message from members. That they want us to bring our breadth and depth of expertise, as well as our unique convening power, to bear on the economic challenges of the day.”

A new era for the CBI?

Despite a significant majority vote, some of the CBI’s largest members, including Aviva, Natwest, BP and John Lewis, all cut ties with the CBI amid allegations made against the group.

Despite this, the survival of the lobbying group was endorsed by the likes of Siemens when it rallied supporting members in a letter, reportedly signed by Microsoft, to publicly show support for the organisation prior to the vote.

The letter went on to explain that the UK economy is facing intense economic pressure and little growth, and with a general election expected before the end of next year, UK business needs a credible voice representing its sectors.

Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), says that despite the vote’s outcome, CBI has a demanding journey ahead: "While the CBI has won some much-needed breathing space, the difficult challenge of cultural transformation still lies ahead.

"Committees and consultants don't transform organisations; leaders and managers do, through what they say and what they do each and every day.

"Both businesses and government will now want to see clear evidence that the CBI is delivering on its promise to change. A mandate from the members is not enough, on its own, for the CBI to believe it can draw a line under the management failures that led to the events of the last six months and move on.

"Leaders at all organisations should view this sorry episode at one of the country’s most high-profile bodies as a chance to learn from the mistakes of others and ask themselves if they need to revisit their own workplace to make sure they are getting their culture right.”

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