Consultancies join CBI exodus over sexual assault allegations

25 April 2023 3 min. read
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Several of the largest consulting firms in the UK have either cut ties or suspended their engagement with the country’s foremost business lobby group, after a number of sexualmisconduct allegations were levelled against its staff. The Big Four and McKinsey & Company are among the firms to have taken a step back from the Confederation of British Industry, in view of its handling of the scandal.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is a British business interest group, which previously has stated it represents more than 190,000 businesses. The CBI has commonly been described as Britain's biggest business lobby group by commentators, and in times of economic strain – like the ones the UK is currently experiencing – it would usually be the body which companies would look to, to champion their interests in challenging conditions.

That is not the case now, however, with many of the UK’s largest businesses having led a mass exodus of the CBI. Firms such as retail stalwart John Lewis, bank NatWest, and insurance giant Aviva have all torn up their memberships, after CBI employees were made the subjects of sexual assault allegations. John Lewis, NatWest and Aviva are all run by women, and their exit is said to reflect a broad dissatisfaction with the CBI’s handling of the allegations.

Consultancies join CBI exodus over sexual assault allegations

British newspaper The Guardian initially broke the story, reporting on allegations from more than a dozen women, who said they had been victims of various forms of sexualmisconduct by senior figures at the organisation. One woman alleged that she was raped at a staff party on a boat in 2019. Another alleged that she had been raped by two male colleagues in 2018 – and was later shown a photograph of sexual activity with one of the individuals, in a CBI office.

The CBI has passed details of the allegations to City of London Police, who are investigating reports of rape and other harassment within the organisation. The board of the CBI has meanwhile paused all policy and membership activity, following the withdrawal of dozens of its largest members. An extraordinary general meeting will be held in June to discuss the future of the organisation, with a vote on proposals for the CBI to reform its culture.

A spokesman stated, "The CBI shares the shock and revulsion at the events that have taken place in our organisation, and at past failures that allowed these events to happen. We are deeply sorry and express our profound regret to the women who have endured these horrific experiences. We have listened carefully to what our colleagues, members and stakeholders have said over recent days and weeks. We have heard loud and clear a demand for far reaching change.”

Before the CBI suspended its activities, five of the UK’s largest consultancies were among those to have left its membership. These were Big Four firms Deloitte and EY, alongside engineering advisory Arup, IT giant Accenture, and outsourcer Capita. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the Big Four – PwC and KPMG – suspended their relations with the CBI, alongside MBB strategy firm McKinsey & Company.