Paul Holmes 12 Jun 2006 // 11:00PM GMT
McDonald’s has the worst reputation in the U.K. when it comes to corporate ethics, followed by Nike, Shell, adidas and Barclays Bank. The Body Shop has the best reputation, followed by Boots, Marks & Spencer, BBC and the Co-operative Bank
The Ethical Index, produced by the Fraser Consultancy, ranks U.K. and overseas-based brands according to their ethical profile, based on a representative survey of over 1,300 UK consumers. It also seeks to assess the appetite for ethical products and identifies a large contingent of “conflicted consumers” who will stick to buying from unethical providers because they see no alternatives
The hierarchy of the consumer concerns is topped by “exploitation of the workforce,” cited by 34 percent of respondents, followed by “lack of care for the environment” (19 percent) and “production of harmful products,” (13 percent).
In terms of feedback about specific companies, the principal complaint against McDonalds was that its products have a detrimental effect on children, specifically their diet (41 percent), while the principal complaint against Nike is that people think it exploits the workforce, via low pay, long hours or poor working environment (78 percent).
When respondents were asked what influenced their opinions of a company’s ethics in the last year, most cited television news or documentary (58 percent), followed by a published article (53 percent), a radio item (42 percent), and something a friend or colleague had told them about the company (29 percent.)
Almost half the survey respondents (49 percent) said they were either very or quite likely to discuss companies’ ethical behaviour or reputation, while 44 percent have discussed a company’s ethics in the last month, and 33 percent have a worse opinion as a result of that discussion. McDonalds is the most talked-about company: 35 percent of consumers had talked about McDonalds in the last month and 29 percent had a worse opinion of the company as a result.
A majority (59 percent) is likely to buy more ethical brands in the next 12 months, and 26 percent say they would pay more. Even more (81 percent) wanted to see more ethical and fair trade products in the next year. And 45 percent agreed “sometimes I’d like to buy ethically, but the products aren’t available.”