Tony Danker, CBI Director-General


Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, today (Monday) outlines findings from a new, landmark economic plan seeking to establish a competitive, dynamic and future-focussed UK following the shocks of Brexit and COVID-19 and in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow.

Seize the moment: how can business transform the UK economy? Is the result of months of research and business consultation. It identifies six ways to transform the economy after the crisis to realise a decade of better economic growth and social solidarity.

The strategy is designed to complement the UK Government’s Plan for Growth. And it sets out how Government’s ambitions can be delivered by businesses across the UK, with concrete recommendations for different sectors and for individual firms. It outlines tangible commercial prizes borne from policy ambitions including decarbonisation and skills investment. And it directly responds to the UK Government’s plan with suggested improvements and additional reforms – specifically around regulation, levelling up, and skills policy.

In a speech accompanying the launch of the CBI’s report, Danker will argue that 2021 must be a turning point for UK economic policy. He will add that failure to make bold changes now will result in a return to business as usual – the persistently low productivity and heightened social division that followed the 2008 financial crisis.

On why now is the time to Seize the Moment, Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, will say:  

“This country will never have a greater opportunity to transform our economy and society for the better than we have right now.

“This is the moment where we have a genuine chance to make big bets on how the UK economy will grow and compete. To use that appetite to invest, to collaborate globally after a decade of protectionism.

“To lift thousands of young people out of limbo, so they can reach their potential. And to build on that bond between employers and employees closer than ever before.

“We have a grand plan for the whole nation. On the face of it, you might think that only some firms can benefit; we see prizes for everyone.

“I know we have much to worry about in the short run. The COVID-19 crisis is far from over. It’s not easy for many trading in a new regime with the EU. Many firms have a lot of debt and uncertainty about the future. But we know from crises that new realities are shaped.”

On business delivering social progress, Tony will say:

“These prizes also aren’t just economic or for business. We have deliberately set out a strategy that delivers social progress.

“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.”

On the future relationship between employers and employees, Tony will say:

“Transforming our economy also means now transforming the relationship between employer and employee. Work is a place where people get in and on in life.

“Get jobs, better ones after, skills to succeed, resilience and job satisfaction.

“I say to employers everywhere – we did the right things in the crisis. Bottle that. Let it be one of the positive legacies of the past year.”

On what success looks like, Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, will say: 

“Our plan is to make the UK the most competitive, dynamic and future-focused economy in the world. Become a beacon to the world in achieving green growth. Decarbonising our economy is a planetary imperative, we can use our transition to net zero to create green jobs, to find sustainable solutions and sell them to the rest of the world.

“We can turn up the dial on UK innovation investment to make the UK the best place in the world to start and scale up a business. If we want to be a trading powerhouse, we need more UK firms to export – diversifying the products and services, and markets that they sell to.

“And we simply must deliver better growth and greater shared prosperity in the regions and nations of the UK. Our long-standing history of productivity and income disparities have held us back. If we want to level up our country, we need companies to strengthen their regional footprint and investment, to work with government to truly play to local strengths. We need to work together at every level – with First Ministers, Mayors, local partnerships and beyond.”

On the fundamental need for collaboration and the role of business, Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, will say: 

“All of this, government cannot do alone. Only business can create jobs and opportunities for people.

“You will hear a lot from us on this campaign to come. Not just this week, but this year and for the five years to come. We want every business in the UK to get involved.

“There is a unity of purpose in my view across politics, business, trade unions and civil society. We may disagree on detail but not on the need to align around this vision and these principles.” 

The six prizes for UK business and society identified in the report come from:

  • decarbonised economy, winning the global race to net-zero. For example, the UK could capture £8bn in additional revenues from hydrogen electrolyser production.
  • An innovation economy, breakthrough ideas and technologies, adopted by all. For example, greater AI diffusion could add £38bn to UK GVA in 2030.
  • globalised economy, making the UK a trading powerhouse. As an example, around £20bn in additional UK GVA in 2030 from share in seven high-priority, country-sector combinations such as financial services in ASEAN countries.
  • regionally thriving economy, with every region and nation playing to their own comparative global strengths. This would be realised by a new commitment to scaling up local economic clusters such as renewables in the North East or advanced manufacturing in the West Midlands.
  • An inclusive economy, where employers recruit more diverse talent from all corners of society and support employees with credible reskilling programmes. Closing future UK skills gaps could provide a £150bn uplift to GVA by 2030.
  • healthier nation, with better employee health and wellness seen as the foundation of firm level productivity and national economic growth. For example, additional £180bn GVA uplift in 2030, driven by health interventions inside and outside the workplace.

Section 5 of the report identifies actions needed by both business and government to realise these prizes.

Beyond the activity required to achieve the prizes presented above, the CBI’s report also includes specific recommendations for boosting the UK Government’s Plan for Growth:

1. Regulatory reform for investment and innovation

Requiring all economic regulators to prioritise investment, innovation and agility as part of their core remits.

2. Globally leading clusters in our regions and nations

Working with the CBI to develop coalitions that can scale up economic clusters around the country and write the playbook for how to build distinctive regional and national comparative advantage.

3. Transformed skills provision for the economy of tomorrow

Making skills far more demand-led and accessible to all and freeing up money trapped in the Apprenticeship Levy so that business can invest in everyone’s lifelong learning.

4. Unlocking finance for growth

Creating a new Strategic Dialogue on Funding our Future, co-chaired by HM Treasury, the Bank of England and the CBI, to bring together the whole value chain – from hungry investees to private investors – on finance for growth and investment. This will help shape proposals to unlock more pension funds, patient capital and private sector finance.

5. A long-term tax roadmap for the UK

Setting out how the tax system will restore the public finances in a way that is consistent with supporting business investment, net-zero ambitions and the UK's international competitiveness.

To take these next steps, the CBI will:

  • Engage around 1,000 business leaders and 700 businesses across our Regional Councils, policy Standing Committees and sector boards in Q2 2021. We will test our analysis, call on them to help identify the most pressing issues the government needs to address. And we’ll consult on what guidance, support and resources they need to act and make progress towards these future prizes.
  • Establish a new Advisory Group to help shape Seize the Moment, to ensure momentum in the strategy and support business mobilisation. Members include Clare Barclay, Microsoft UK CEO; Anthony Gutman, Co-Head Investment Banking Division EMEA, Goldman Sachs; Philip Jansen; BT CEO; Alan Jope, Unilever CEO; Joanne Smith, Founder and Group CEO of Recordsure and TCC & CBI SME Council Chair; Joanna Swash, Moneypenny Group CEO; Dame Emma Walmsley DBE, GSK CEO; Nigel Wilson, Legal & General Group CEO.
  • Convene newly formed business action groups to prioritise actions to achieve the economic prizes. These groups will use their expert knowledge on current trajectory and identify where gaps exist. They will report in October 2021.
  • Align the CBI’s teams and future work for the next five years to this agenda to provide the engine powering the vision. We will optimise our efforts behind the six themes, dialling up the insight, practical support and guidance for members to help support a leap forward on business activation.
  • Engage constructively and in collaboration with governments across the UK on our ideas, insights for accelerating the UK Government’s Plan for Growth, and actions to realise the prizes.
  • Commit to a yearly progress review at the CBI’s annual conference starting in 2021 to assess the action plans developed by our regional and policy networks and business action groups. We will develop KPIs and measures of success.
  • Be open and collaborative as we seek to work with anyone with a shared interest in realising this economic vision.

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