Thought leadership

The UK economy has rediscovered its vitality and is set to overtake many of our competitors. But while growth firms up, only around half of people (53%) think business makes a positive contribution to society, according to a YouGov poll for the CBI (1).

With the support of its member companies, the CBI is launching a new campaign – The Great Business Debate – to explain more clearly what business does for society. It will be an honest attempt on the part of the CBI and its members across the country to both listen to and answer public concerns, and win back the admiration of the communities in which they operate.

The campaign, which will be focused online at, on Twitter at @bizdebate (#bizdebate), and through a series of public-facing events, will aim to clearly explain businesses’ contribution to society. Businesses employ 25 million people, 1.3 million more people are now employed in the private sector compared with the start of the recession; businesses pay £172 billion in taxes, 30% of the Government’s total tax revenues; spend an estimated £42.9 billion on training each year; and pay £75.9 billion on pensions contributions (2).

But business is being repeatedly challenged to up its game: with 55% of people surveyed by YouGov agreeing that expectations on business to do the right thing have increased over the last ten years. So the campaign will debate some of the major issues of the moment including: wages, career progression, diversity, tax contribution, transparency, and company profits.

Launching the campaign, CBI Deputy Director-General Katja Hall, said:

“One of the biggest concerns that businesses talk to me about is the lack of public confidence in what they do. Even with the economy fizzing with vitality, many people do not believe that business is a force for good.

“Businesses simply can’t operate without their employees and consumers, and part of securing long-term sustainable growth will be about rebuilding public trust in business.

“Let’s be clear, businesses have a lot to be proud of: they support millions of jobs, account for almost a third of total Government tax revenues, spend billions on pension contributions and on training their employees.

“But things don’t always go right – the economic crisis, alongside high-profile industry scandals, have severely dented trust. Unless business can respond to these challenges, it will lose the right to be listened to on the big issues facing our economy and society.

“I believe there is a good story to tell, but this will not simply be business blowing its own trumpet. This will be a campaign that acknowledges up front that business doesn’t have all the answers and sometimes gets things wrong.

“Bridging the trust gap will take leadership from the top of businesses, to listen to, acknowledge and learn from the public’s concerns, and react quickly when things go wrong.

“Clearly, this will not happen overnight but together with our members, through the Great Business Debate, the CBI will be working to build a stronger relationship between businesses and the public.”  features a number of articles from high-profile contributors on some of the major business trust issues. They include:

–       Ruby McGregor-Smith (Chief Executive, Mitie Group)

–       Cardinal Vincent Nichols (Archbishop of Westminster)

–       Peter Vicary-Smith (Chief Executive, Which?)

–       Tony Cocker (Chief Executive, E.ON)

–       Justine Roberts (Founder, Mumsnet)

–       Matthew Riley (Chief Executive, Daisy Group)

–       Andy Wood (Chief Executive, Adnams)

–       Paul Drechsler (Chairman, Teach First).

Join the conversation at and @bizdebate

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