Firms review CBI membership after sexual misconduct claims


Some of the UK’s biggest and best-known businesses say they are closely watching the unfolding crisis at the CBI.

Sky News contacted more than 30 FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies on Thursday and found that many of those who are CBI members are keeping their membership – for now.

It comes after a number of allegations of sexual misconduct were revealed by a national newspaper at the beginning of this week, prompting senior politicians such as Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch to pull out of events involving the organisation.

A Rolls-Royce spokesperson described the allegations as “deeply concerning” and told Sky News: “We expect the CBI to thoroughly investigate and take real action on any findings from that investigation.

“We will await the outcome of the investigation before considering our membership.”

The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) has commissioned an independent investigation by law firm Fox Williams to look at all of the allegations, and it expects initial findings to be presented soon after the Easter break.

Among the allegations is one of rape at the CBI’s summer boat party in 2019, as well as claims of attempted sexual assault at the same party.

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Commenting on whether it would end its association with the CBI, a spokesperson for professional services company Deloitte said: “We are aware of the allegations and are awaiting the conclusions of the independent investigation led by an external law firm.”

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Its rival PwC made a similar comment, as did at least two other major companies, who did not want to comment on the record.

Supermarket and department store chain M&S went further, saying it had “immediately” written to the CBI’s director general after the allegations were published in The Guardian on Monday.

An spokesperson told Sky News it had sought “reassurances that these are being taken seriously and fully investigated as part of the independent investigation already established”.

“We have also requested information on how CBI colleagues involved are being supported while the investigation takes place and what is being done to give them confidence in the process.

“These are very serious allegations, and we will continue to talk to the CBI as the investigation progresses.”

Earlier, Andy Wood, chief executive of brewing company Adnams, told the BBC he had held discussions with his leadership team over potentially leaving the group.

On Monday shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy pulled out of a CBI event she was due to attend on 25 April and on Tuesday the CBI itself paused all external events.

On Wednesday, business secretary Kemi Badenoch postponed a meeting with the UK’s five leading business groups – which included the CBI – due to the unfolding crisis.

The news would have been a blow to an organisation that lobbies politicians on behalf of its members with the aim of making business-friendly policies.

On Thursday, EY, the big four accountancy firm, ended the secondment of one of its employees to the CBI.

Earlier in the week, the CBI supplied a statement to Sky News, saying: “The CBI has treated and continues to treat all matters of workplace conduct with the utmost seriousness, which is why last month, we commissioned a thorough investigation by an independent law firm into all recent allegations that have been put to us.

“It would undermine this important process and be damaging and prejudicial to all the individuals involved to comment on these allegations at this point.

“We will not hesitate to take any necessary action when the investigation concludes.”

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