CBI Campaign Aims To Restore Trust In UK Plc
Britain's biggest employers' lobbying group is mounting an attempt to rebuild public confidence in business just months before a General Election campaign that is likely to include pledges to tackle private sector misconduct.
Sky News has learnt that the CBI will this week unveil details of an initiative called The Great Business Debate.
The first project of its kind to be launched by the organisation, it will include a series of public events to be held across the UK during the coming months.
It is aimed at promoting the reputation of business as a force for good following a protracted period in which Britain's banking crisis and broader economic travails have dented perceptions of the private sector's contribution to society.
The campaign will be focused on online and social media, and will highlight the role that companies of all sizes play in creating jobs, paying taxes and pensions, and providing training and skills to the nation's workforce.
Among the CBI members who are understood to have been lined up to contribute to the Great Business Debate are Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays; Tony Cocker, chief executive of E.ON, the power utility; Ruby McGregor-Smith, the boss of outsourcing group Mitie; and Andy Wood, who runs Adnams, the brewer.
Polling undertaken for the CBI is understood to have disclosed that only a small majority of people in the UK believe that business is a force for good, and some of the group's members believe that the General Election campaign will see the main parties intensifying attacks on the private sector.
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has faced criticism from business groups for failing to engage sufficiently with them but has won public backing for pledges such as a 20-month price freeze to be imposed on the major energy companies.
Speaking exclusively to Sky News, Katja Hall, the CBI's recently appointed deputy director-general, said: "The economic recovery is firming up but many businesses I speak to are really concerned about the public's lack of confidence in what they do.
"Business has a good story to tell but it hasn't always done the best job of communicating its contribution to society, which is why we're launching the Great Business Debate.
"The campaign will also be about listening to and addressing people's concerns."
Further details of the Great Business Debate are expected to be announced by the CBI on Wednesday.
Similar attempts to communicate the role that business plays in broader society have been made by organisations such as Business in the Community, where Mr Jenkins is due to take the helm next year.
The Hundred Group of finance directors of major UK companies also publishes an annual survey disclosing their combined tax contribution, although that has been frequently clouded by criticism of efforts to minimise tax bills by individual companies.