Holmes Report 04 Dec 2016 // 5:11PM GMT
The British public’s opinion of business behavior has fallen dramatically, according to the latest survey conducted for the Institute of Business Ethics. The public’s general opinion about ethical business behavior has fallen for the first time in four years, with only 48% saying they think British business behaves ethically.
Since the survey began in 2003, the British public’s opinion has consistently leant more towards judging business as behaving “ethically” than “not ethically.” However, in 2016 public opinion has fallen significantly, down 11 percentage points compared to 2015. It is now back to 2012 levels, just a percentage point higher than when the survey began, with less than half (48%) believing that business behaves ethically.
The top three issues that the public think business needs to address remain unchanged for a third consecutive year: corporate tax avoidance is still the top public concern about business behavior, with 43% considering this an issue that needs to be addressed, a rise of nine percent from last year. Executive pay continues to be an issue, with 28% of the public thinking this still needs to be addressed (up from 25% last year). And exploitative labor practices continue to rise as a concern.
According to Philippa Foster Back, IBE’s director, “This result should serve as a wake-up call to British business that it must do more to restore public trust. The fact that the number of those who are concerned about corporate tax avoidance has increased and remains the top public concern is an example where business is not doing enough to address ethical issues.
“Tax is a difficult and complex issue, but it isn’t going away. Companies need to do more to address public concern or risk losing even more public trust. Internal engagement is needed around the decisions and circumstances behind the tax positions companies decide to take, and then communicated externally.”