The boss of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) made a bold pitch for new members today after a raft of major FTSE 100 businesses left the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which has been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment and rape.
BCC chief executive Shevaun Haviland stressed “our voice is needed more than ever” as she announced the formation of a new national campaign to boost the Chamber’s ranks.
It came just weeks after the CBI – long the UK’s top lobbying group for business – was engulfed by a sexual misconduct scandal. The City of London Police is currently investigating the allegations of rape.
Boss Tony Danker was also forced to quit amid separate claims of workplace misconduct.
‘Needed more now than ever’
Speaking to attendees at the group’s annual conference, Haviland said the BCC had “grown into a powerful and diverse voice for business, and the UK”.
She added: “Our voice is needed now more than ever. With a general election less than 18 months away, we are at a pivotal moment for the voice of British business.
“Let me be upfront and frank, business needs a fresh relationship with the government.
“This is why, today, we are launching a national campaign – Where Business Belongs – to invite businesses that need a voice to join their Chamber.
“A campaign that will see business and government working together in real partnership to fix our economic challenges and build an economy that works for all: one that is fit for the future.”
‘Earn back trust’
However, Rain Newton-Smith, CBI director-general, insisted earlier today there was still a key place for her organisation.
She told the BBC’s Today Programme: “I hope the BCC conference goes well but the CBI when we are at our best we are a brilliant voice across regions and nations in the UK.
“I’ve seen the power of what the CBI can do when we work in partnership with others and we are that voice to the government on the big issues that are affecting our society. I know we can do this but we need to earn back trust to enable us to do that job effectively.”
Asked why another group couldn’t take the CBI’s place, Newton-Smith said: “No one has the scale of what we have already. The talent within our organisation is here and ready to really deliver for business and government at a time that is really critical for our economy.”
Newton-Smith pledged she was “absolutely determined” to transform the CBI, including hiring a head of people and “working with global experts on ethics and sexual harassment”.