Nick Clegg hails big step towards ending ‘who you know, not what you know’ culture

Published on Thursday, 12 January 2012 10:13
Posted by Scott Buckler

More than 100 of the biggest hitters in British business have signed the Government’s Business Compact and are opening their doors to people from all walks of life, ending the ‘who you know, not what you know’ culture, the Deputy Prime Minister will announce today

The businesses – employing over two million people in Britain with a turnover of more than £500 billion – have signed up to the Deputy Prime Minister’s Business Compact on social mobility. This is an unprecedented partnership between business and government to spread opportunities across our society and, crucially, to create culture change in other companies.

Signatories to the Compact include:


  • nearly 20 major finance firms including Barclays, HSBC and Santander
  • more than 10 high street retailers including Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, and Morrisons
  • 11 well-known consumer brand manufacturers including Coca Cola, P&G;  and Nestle
  • 10 major law firms including Allen and Overy and CMS Cameron McKenna
  • eight high profile energy firms including BP, Shell and E.ON.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said:

This is an important step towards a society where it’s what you know, not who you know, that counts.  Working with the Coalition, the biggest hitters in British business are helping lead the way to a fairer, more open society.

“By opening their doors to young people from all walks of life, this marks the start of a culture shift among major employers, driven by the belief that ability and drive should trump connections and privilege.

“I’d like to thank the companies and organisations who have already signed up to the Business Compact. Today’s success makes me even more ambitious. This great news is just the beginning – I will be doing everything I can to bring even more businesses on board.”

Today the Deputy Prime Minister will also write to a further 50 of the biggest companies in the UK asking them to sign up.

The Business Compact forms a key part of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Social Mobility Strategy, launched in April 2011, which sets out the Government’s determination to ensure every individual is free to achieve, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. Businesses and organisations which sign up to the Compact must agree to:

  • support communities and schools to raise aspirations through, for example, reading and mentoring schemes or encouraging their staff to go out to schools and inspire pupils about their careers.
  • open opportunities to all young people by advertising their work experience places through schools, online and in other public forums, rather than just giving places to informal contacts.
  • make access to internships open and transparent, with financial support such as providing expenses or accommodation, or by treating the internship as a job that can be paid under National Minimum Wage law.
  • recruit fairly and without discrimination, using application forms that don’t allow candidates to be screened out because they went to the wrong school or come from a different ethnic group (including through using name-blank and school-blank applications where appropriate).
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