CBI calls for economic reset that ‘delivers social progress’ in the UK

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has unveiled plans to kick off “a decade of better economic growth and social solidarity”, describing 2021 as a “defining opportunity to reset the UK economy”.

Seize the moment: how can business transform the UK economy? was published yesterday by the influential employers’ organisation, which represents 190,000 UK businesses employing nearly 7m people. 

Announcing the plan, CBI director-general Tony Danker said: “It’s time to bottle the spirit of cooperation that we learned during the pandemic and use it to transform the economy and transform our society.”

It’s time to bottle the spirit of cooperation that we learned during the pandemic 

Based on consultations with businesses of all sizes in the four UK nations, the CBI plan aims to complement the UK government’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan for growth. It identifies six areas to transform the economy following Brexit and Covid-19 and ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow this year: decarbonisation, innovation, global trade, ‘thriving regions’, inclusion and skills, and health. 

It describes a future economy that, among others, “empower[s] communities, reducing long-standing inequalities and boosting regional prosperity”, and where “everyone can bring their authentic self to work, irrespective of background, age, gender, sexuality, race or disability”. Companies will also “have stronger bonds with employees, providing meaningful work and a focus on wellbeing”. The focus on employee health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic “was admirable”, CBI writes, and now “needs locking in”.



‘Morally and socially important’

The targets are framed in both economic and social terms. Better wellbeing would “boost job satisfaction and business performance”, but also reduce health inequalities. Increasing access to better training and job opportunities matters for individuals but could also add £139bn to gross value added in 2030, according to the report. And getting to net-zero carbon emissions is both “morally and socially important”, but also a major business opportunity in terms of customer demand, lowering costs, new export markets and job creation.

Danker said the rewards for “seizing the moment” were not just economic ones. He said: “We have deliberately set out a strategy that delivers social progress.”

We have deliberately set out a strategy that delivers social progress

He added: “Our workforce demands better of us. Our customers judge us by the values we keep. And our investors rightly assess us through environmental, social and governance frameworks. 

“The pandemic has demonstrated two new facets of business that I am extremely proud of: our humanity and our role as problem solvers. Some critics have felt business was a social problem to be solved. But we are learning that business is uniquely well placed to solve social problems.”

Recommendations to the government include expanding government job centres into skills and jobs hubs, facilitating voluntary ethnicity pay reporting, incentivising businesses to focus on employee wellbeing and boosting issues of green bonds. The report also makes specific recommendations for boosting the government’s plan for growth, including regulatory reforms, a long-term tax roadmap and unlocking finance for growth. 

Photo by freepik

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