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Unilever suspends CBI activity amid exodus

Tom Shearsmith
24 April 2023

The Confederation of British Industry has said it will “suspend all policy and membership activity” until it can hold a meeting of its membership in June after dozens of its biggest supporters withdrew from the organisation.

The CBI board said it would put forward proposals for a “refocused” industry body at the meeting in two months’ time. It came as major companies and trade bodies from across the UK said they were terminating, suspending or reviewing their membership of the group.

Among the companies that said they were terminating their membership of the business group were John Lewis, Natwest, Vodafone, BMW, Aviva, and Virgin Media O2.

Other major employers – including Tesco, Meta, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lloyds Banking Group, Unilever, and Shell – announced that they were suspending all activity with the lobbying group.

In a statement, the CBI board said: “We want to properly understand from our colleagues, members, experts and stakeholders how they envisage our future role and purpose. As a result, we have taken the difficult but necessary decision to suspend all policy and membership activity until an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) in June.

“At the EGM we will put forward proposals for a refocused CBI to our membership for them to decide on the future role and purpose of the organisation. This work and the cultural reform will be the entire and urgent focus of the organisation over the coming weeks.”

Earlier this month, the Government said it would pause all engagement with the CBI after initial reports of misconduct at the group. City of London Police are currently investigating a number of serious allegations and claims of misconduct from staff.

Separately, former CBI director-general Tony Danker was sacked last week after being accused of making unwanted contact with a woman who works for the organisation. On Wednesday, he said his reputation has been “totally destroyed” by the allegation and claimed he has been made a “fall guy” for a wider crisis.

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