RegulationAccounting StandardsOn the money

On the money

The chief executive of Cadbury Schweppes, Todd Spitzer, made an important speech at this year's Institute of Directors Conference when he took the need for business leaders to 'make the case for business' as his theme

His speech was a call to those in business to hit back at the critics and
stand up for business. In his view, business leaders only had themselves to
blame for business not being trusted, ‘not because we have actually committed
evil, but because we’ve allowed others to characterise our actions and motives.’

The unwillingness of business leaders to communicate what they stand for
leaves a vacuum, which ‘allows passionate and driven people in government, NGOs
and the media to assume that while they have a conscience and are prepared to
act on it, business does not.’

What he said needed to be said. Business suffers hugely because so many
business leaders are unwilling to, or do not know how to, communicate outside
their peer group.

But having shown such awareness of the problem, Spitzer then fell at the
first fence. When the Food Standards Agency demanded that Cadbury withdraw one
million chocolate bars from the nation’s shelves because of a health scare, he
failed to appear on television to fight back. Instead the task fell to a more
junior executive.

What was needed was for the top man in the company to take the attack to the
FSA, to accuse it of a grotesque overreaction, to demand that it publishes the
science and statistics behind its claim, and to threaten it with judicial review
if it fails to produce evidence strong enough to justify its actions.

But it had to be the top man who did so.
Having talked the talk, Todd Spitzer also has to walk the walk.

Anthony Hilton is finance editor of the Evening Standard

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