Trust in business to behave ethically reaches highest level since 2003

‘The Blue Planet Effect’ sees environmental responsibility rise to joint second place as an issue which business needs to address

The British public’s opinion of business’s behaviour has improved for the second consecutive year according to the latest survey conducted for the Institute of Business Ethics.

The survey shows that the public’s general opinion about ethical business behaviour has reached the highest level since the survey began in 2003.

Nearly two thirds of the British public now say they consider that business behaves ethically, compared with under half in 2003.

Millennials show the most positive change in opinion of all the age groups. Over a third of Baby Boomers (55+) think British Business is behaving unethically, compared with 32% of Generation X-ers (35-54) and 24% of Millennials (18 – 34). For Millennials this is an improvement on 2017, when 36% thought British business was behaving unethically.

Philippa Foster Back CBE, IBE’s Director, said: “As global political uncertainty overshadows much of the news, business in contrast seems to offer stability and appears more responsible in the eyes of the public. Social media means that consumers can see that they are able to have an impact on business decision-making, where they may feel powerless to influence governments.”

The top two issues that the public think business needs to address – tax avoidance and executive pay – remain unchanged, but this year environmental responsibility is joint second.

Environmental responsibility has significantly regained focus as an issue for the British public after falling sharply since 2008. The increased media attention given to extreme weather and other consequences of pollution may help partly explain this trend (‘The Blue Planet Effect’).

Philippa Foster Back said: “Business also appears to be becoming more proactive in recognising issues of concern for the public, and going further than the law, for example, in addressing environmental concerns. However, the fact that corporate tax avoidance and executive pay remain the top public concerns – albeit at a reduced percentage – is an example where business is still not doing enough to address ethical issues.”