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Can the CBI Ever Regain Trust?

Can the CBI Ever Regain Trust?

by Starling Insights

Starling Insights Editorial Board

May 03, 2023


The UK's Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has long been a principal body representing the British business community in its engagement with the UK Government. However, The Guardian recently published allegations of sexual harassment made by CBI staff, involving the organization's senior leadership, to include alleged rape. The organization has since been in free fall as members have fled and the government has canceled involvement in scheduled events.

The organization hired law firm Fox Williams to conduct an internal investigation. Upon its conclusion, CBI president Brian McBride wrote member companies and took full responsibility for the circumstances leading to the allegations. "In retrospect, we now know that we were complacent," he said. "And we made mistakes in how we organized the business that led to terrible consequences.”

McBride's apology came after more than 50 of the biggest names in business announced they were either cutting or suspending ties with the CBI after a second allegation of rape was published by The Guardian. The City of London Police are now investigating the claims. In his letter, McBride said that, in the future, CBI would operate under a "zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and bullying behavior" and that "a number of people have been dismissed for failure to meet those standards.”

McBride admitted that he was unsure whether it would be "possible" for the CBI to regain trust even after taking these newly announced steps. And little wonder. Such statements, intended to restore trust in the organization, may only serve to erode it further. While surely unintentional, by declaring a new “zero tolerance” policy, McBride invites us to ask what the previous ‘non-zero’ policy had been?  And the fact that people who had been involved in sexual harassment and bullying had not been fired before the “new” policy announcement may be taken by some as evidence of some earlier ’non-zero’ policy stance. 

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