CBI urges new attitude to profit to build consumer trustMarch 2015
What can business do to restore public trust? That was the question poised at a recent CBI debate, one in a series of events designed to help rebuild confidence in business.
Katja Hall, deputy director-general of the UK business organisation, said that business needs to start talking more about profit and “why it’s not a dirty word.”
The public needs reminding that profits are a reward for a good product or service. “Look at Apple – their profits mean more jobs, more products, more innovation,” she said.
Newly released figures from a YouGov poll show that just over 70% of people say that companies put profits ahead of customers.
David Bird, customer operations director of energy company E.ON, compared the business trust dilemma to a Christmas cake. “Start with the fruit base. Customers want organizations to keep their promises and simple things can really frustrate. So get the base right as getting it wrong is where trust fails.
“The marzipan layer is then understanding what customers need and want. At E.ON managers and board members have weekly customer meetings which helps us make better decisions.”
Making that connection with consumers is critical he maintained.
Bird said the icing on the cake would be for regulators and politicians to create certainty and consistency.
Andrew Miller, chief executive, Guardian Media Group, argued that companies “have to go beyond profit and work to values” but warned that “values only work if transparency is there”.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which?, said that business and business leaders need to be clearer about their role in society.
When asked what role CSR had to play in building consumer trust, Hall said that the CSR function needed to change.
“It cannot be a separate part of the business but core to it,” she said. Miller agreed saying that CSR had become too much of tick-box exercise.
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