Ethical Performance
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February 2000

Car manufacturers, oil companies and the financial services industry are judged to be the worst corporate offenders when it comes to behaviour towards the communities in which they operate, according to a new poll of the UK public.

The survey, carried out by Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS), also found the same three sectors were considered the worst at explaining themselves to customers and investors.

The poll of 815 adults showed that gas and electricity suppliers, retailers and cosmetics manufacturers fared best of the ten sectors mentioned.

The main areas on which consumers felt businesses should make a positive statement of policy were: improvements to their impact on the environment and pollution (60 per cent), commitments to reply to customer complaints (53), equal opportunities (49) and trade union recognition (30).

Smaller numbers felt that statements about the salaries of senior executives (26) or company involvement in community projects were important.

In the financial services market, only 12 per cent of respondents said financial return on their investments was their sole concern. Just over half said they valued a commitment to investing responsibly – providing they could still get a good rate of return.

Despite the fact that nine out of ten respondents felt companies had a duty to behave responsibly and three-quarters thought social reporting was worthwhile, only a third (29 per cent) were aware of social accountability programmes being undertaken by companies such as Shell and BT.

CIS general manager Martin Clarke said the survey showed that ‘those firms which are conducting social reports are not always effective in making the public aware of them’, and that they ‘need to work harder at getting their message across’.

CIS, which manages assets of more than £20 billion, commissioned the research as part of its new social accountability programme. This pledges the company to social auditing and stakeholder dialogue (EP 3, 1999). The poll will take place annually.

Just under half of all people have taken ethical considerations into account during recent buying decisions, according to research by the UK’s Co-operative Wholesale Society.

The study also found that 39 per cent of respondents had recently changed their buying habits because of concerns about genetically modified organisms or pesticides.

Three-quarters of women between 15 and 19 said theyhad asked their parents to think ethically when shopping. The Co-op Wholesale Society has no connection with CIS.




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