Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Public trust in business remains fragile

December 2014

Tax avoidance and executive pay are still firmly on the agenda as issues the British public thinks business needs to address, according to the latest survey of public opinion about business behaviour conducted for the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE).

The survey shows that the public’s general opinion about ethical business behaviour remains the same as 2013. Since the survey began in 2003, the British public’s opinion consistently leans more towards judging business as behaving ‘ethically’ than ‘not ethically’.

Asked whether business generally behaves ethically, 58% of respondents said it did. However, over the past two years, the British public seems to have become less ambivalent about business behaviour. In 2012, 15% expressed no opinion, but in 2014 only 2% do not have an opinion on business behaviour.

The IBE says that views remain mixed as to whether business behaviour has improved over the decade, with 25% believing that business is behaving more ethically now than it did ten years ago, 36% thinking the behaviour was the same, and 36% considering it to be less ethical.

Executive pay is rising again as an issue which the public think needs addressing, having gone down 4 percentage points in 2013 to 30%, it has now returned to 2012 levels (34%). This issue has been one of the top two issues in IBE research since the 2008 banking crisis. Tax avoidance has also been one of the top two issues.

Exploitative labour is an issue to watch, warns the report, as it continues to be high on the public’s agenda, having risen 3 percentage points this year and 4 points last year.  

UK & NI Ireland | Business ethics

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