Looking Across: Susanne Baker, EEF

Susanne Baker, senior climate & environment policy adviser at EEF, the Manufacturer’s Organisation

Angie Ridgwell and Jaee Samant Photo: Photoshot

By Winnie Agbonlahor

02 Oct 2014

In your experience, what are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of our civil service?

The strengths of the civil service are its talent base, professionalism and standards. Its weaknesses are its vulnerability to political change, the difficulty in cross-departmental working, and the constant shifting of officials which means that expert knowledge can be rapidly lost. It can be deeply frustrating dealing with inexperienced officials — especially in technical areas. There is also a perception that civil servants can be slow to respond to risks.

What is the biggest misconception about the civil service amongst trade body workers?

The biggest misconception is that they are unwilling to help address problems, particularly if doing so exposes an individual to a degree of risk. If you’re armed with the right evidence to support your case, civil servants can be incredibly helpful.

In your opinion, how could partnership working between government and trade bodies be improved?

There is already a lot of partnership working that is handled exceptionally well, but in some cases it does seem as though government is just paying lip service. The best partnership working is when NGOs, businesses and government work together with a clear objective, with everyone mucking in. To get the most out of partnerships, all participants must be honest and frank with each other.

What was the most inspiring government project that you’ve been involved in, and why?

At the moment, it’s working with the UK Chemical Stakeholder Forum. I chair a sub-group — comprised of business groups, NGOs, regulators and government — that is working to develop tools and increase awareness of an EU Regulation on chemicals, called REACH. We know it’s important that businesses are aware and monitoring it, but we also know that smaller companies struggle with it. We’ve identified the problem and we are tackling it together.

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