The Confederation of British Industry is in trouble after more sexual misconduct allegations surfaced, and the trickle of companies leaving the lobbying giant has turned into a flow. In addition to Aviva, Mastercard, and Natwest, now BMW and John Lewis have joined the ranks of those departing.

The Confederation of British Industry

According to the Guardian, a woman working for one of the overseas offices of the organization came forth claiming that two male colleagues sexually assaulted her.

The rape claim is the second of its kind on CBI’s tab, as things seem to spin out of control for the organization.

CBI representatives were surprised by the latest allegations and declared that they hadn’t been aware of the situation.

What is the CBI?

The Confederation of British Industry is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to support the growth of British businesses in the UK and internationally. It is a lobbying organization with 13 offices in the UK and four international locations.

The organization secures its funding through the direct sale of its services and membership fees. Its services include research and surveys as well as direct support through leadership programs.

How do its member organizations benefit from the CBI’s services?

Founded in 1965 under a Royal Charter, the CBI came into existence during a time of frequent and significant state intervention. Looking to counteract the effects of rampant inflation and address a pressing crisis of balance of payments, the state intervened heavy-handedly in business affairs.

To protect the interests of British businesses, the CBI didn’t challenge authority, seeking instead to influence it. To this day, the organization has maintained its neutral stance, acting from this position as the voice of UK businesses.

In addition to influencing government policies, the CBI supports businesses in other ways, such as through a leadership program that helps business leaders understand and deal with the effects of political and economic policy on business.

CBI members benefit from their membership by:

  • Reducing the risks political and economic policies may create for their organizations.
  • Acquiring business intelligence that allows organizations to plan for the future and future-proof their current structures and cultures.
  • Gaining access to valuable networking opportunities and international markets.

These are the benefits that some member organizations saw fit to abandon in light of the recent sexual misconduct allegations rippling across CBI. And the problems of the organizations haven’t fully unfurled yet.

CBI’s Long-standing Sexual Misconduct Problems

The current rape and stalking allegations aren’t the first instances of sexual misconduct at CBI.

In 2018, a woman working for the London office of the organization accused a male colleague of stalking. Having investigated the incident, the CBI upheld the allegations and sanctioned the perpetrator. It allowed the person to continue working for the organization, however. The man left the CBI later for reasons unrelated to the aforementioned stalking issue.

The CBI’s director-general Tony Danker took the blame for making some of the employees of the organization feel uncomfortable during his tenure. After Mr. Danker assumed responsibility, the CBI fired him in an apparent attempt to mend the widening cracks that threatened the very existence of the organization.

Danker alleges, however, that during the scandal, the organization associated his name with severe sexual assault cases that had occurred before his tenure. As a response and to clear his name, he intends to sue the organization.

What the CBI can Do to Address the Crisis and Emerge from it Stronger

Having fired its director-general, the CBI must now make itself more useful for UK businesses than ever. Only by making itself more attractive can it hope to regain trust and perhaps prompt some of its deserting members to return to its fold.

In addition to the organizations that have left CBI, several have suspended their membership. Among these, Shell and BP stand out. The Government has stopped its engagement with the group as well.

With the doom and gloom they bring, crises often carry opportunities for reflection and clarity.

Redefining Focus

Voices critical of CBI and its practices have long predicted its demise due to the heterogeneity of its member base. How can a business group speak for 190,000 businesses, many of whom have disparate interests and perhaps see others as competitors rather than partners?

As part of redefining its focus, the organization should strive to find some common ground for its members. Opportunities in this sense abound. From the impact of emerging artificial intelligence on businesses to healthy organizational cultures and dealing with climate change, potential common ground is everywhere.

Eliminating its Apparently Ingrained Sexual Misconduct Culture

There’s no tiptoeing around the fact that CBI had an ingrained culture of sexism. Misbehavior happened on many levels and took many forms. And the larger problem is that sexual misconduct is widespread. CBI is far from being the only organization with such a culture.

This scandal is a golden opportunity for CBI to address issues like equal opportunity, inclusion, and the gender pay gap. The organization can become a sort of high-profile trailblazer and standard-bearer on these issues.

No one can go back and change what happened at CBI. But through its response, the organization can raise awareness about these problems and find solutions that others can adopt.

Adopting a New Stance Toward Government

The CBI’s stance of working with the Government instead of standing up to it may no longer satisfy its members.

What the organization needs is a new relationship with the Government based on constructive criticism.

As long as it can make Government do what is best for UK businesses, no one cares if it ruffles a few feathers here and there. The organization should grant priority to policymaking over politics and stop caring about event invitations.

It is up to CBI’s new leadership to take advantage of the silver lining this scandal bears. If they rise to the occasion, they will have the perfect opportunity to prove the CBI’s long-time critics wrong and breathe new life into the organization.

James West has more than 15 years of experience writing about finance and particularly cryptocurrencies, covering emerging tech, trading and industry trends.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *