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The new head of the crisis-hit CBI, Rain Newton Smith, has said she does not take the future of the group “for granted” and warned the task of winning back trust from businesses is “as big as it is urgent”.
Newton Smith, who was parachuted in to head Britain’s biggest business group last month, made her comments after an exodus of members following serious allegations of sexual misconduct and rape, which are being investigated by the police.
Writing in the Times this morning, she warned society is “mired in epidemic of discrimination and harassment against women” and the organisation she leads “has a place within that roll call of shame”.
She replaced Tony Danker as director general on 24 April with the CBI suspending “all policy and membership activity” until it meets in June.
It was hit by a string of high profile departures including Aviva, Phoenix and the City of London Corporation, seeking to distance themselves from the serious allegations.
As the crisis has unfolded, Newton Smith apologised and said she would “rebuild and reimagine” the organisation, before it was announced the CBI would likely be renamed.
She explained in her Times piece, that the “transformation of corporate culture promised by the board is already under way” and would not stop under her tenure.
Calling complacency the “enemy” at the CBI, she said experts have been brought in to help change the organisation, and that winning back trust begins “within the organisation and works its way outwards”.
This comes after City grandees have suggested that it was a “moment for consolidation” and that “something will” end up replacing the embattled Confederation for British Industry (CBI), if it cannot recover.
There has already been speculation about which organisation may replace the CBI.
Newton said she doesn’t take the CBI’s future “for granted” added that if the organisation was not there, she would recreate it, because it “performs a vital function in speaking up for business”.
Looking ahead, she scanned to the General Election which is expected next year, saying the CBI’s role in being able to “lift up the voice” of the city has “never been more essential.”
In a “new look CBI” which will not necessarily “get everything right”, she said the challenge of rebuilding trust is “as big as it is urgent”.