Ethical Performance
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British public want government action over business ethics, survey says

The majority of the British public believes that policy to promote ethical practices among big businesses should be prioritised by the next government, a new poll shows.

The ComRes poll, commissioned by the Forum of Private Business, the small business membership organisation, showed that over three quarters (78%) of adults in Britain agree that big businesses are more likely to prioritise profits over high ethical standards, while 74% of adults agree that the majority of big businesses have no concern for small business owners in the UK.

The poll of over 2,000 British adults revealed that the majority (76%) agree that the next government should penalise big businesses that act unfairly towards small businesses.

The poll coincides with the Forum's launch of its Business Ethics Pledge, which calls on big business to commit to a five-point plan to protect and promote small British businesses ahead of the election.

Phil Orford, chief executive of the Forum of Private Business said: “The view of the British public is clear: we are facing a crisis of trust in big business and the UK wants the next government to respond accordingly, safeguarding the UK’s small business community.

“From tax avoidance and high street domination to late payment and supply chain abuse – every week our members tell us that some of the biggest names in British business are threatening their livelihoods.

“There must be a balance between the need to attract the world’s biggest companies to Britain, ensuring we have the best environment for business, and protecting the interests of the UK’s hardworking independent small business people."

However, Philippa Foster Back CBE, director of the Institute of Business Ethics, countered the call for direct government action saying: “Business should set its own agenda, not wait for government to set one for it. Unfortunately there are still too many cases of late payment and poor treatment of suppliers and customers. Each time one company commits such an offence, it lays the entire business community open to a backlash from the public and invites government intervention. Ultimately that is expensive and damaging to everybody. The IBE offers practical advice to businesses which want to avoid that.”

The IBE’s own survey results conducted annually over the past 11 years into the attitude of the British public to business behaviour indicates that consistently between 47%-59% consider business to behave ethically (58% in 2014).

UK & NI Ireland | Business ethics

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