Businesses must work harder to win the trust of the public

A new survey has shown the UK public’s attitude towards business has improved, but work still needs to be done.

According to the Institute for Business Ethics (IBE) annual survey tax avoidance and bribery and corruption remain among the most important ethical issues.

The survey, supported by the Fair Tax Foundation, found corporate tax avoidance is the most important issue.

For the last 20 years, the IBE has commissioned an annual survey of the British public’s attitudes toward business.

Minority believe businesses behave ethically

Overall, the survey shows that just 44 per cent of the public believes that businesses behave ethically, and although a minority, is still up four per cent from the same period last year.

Corporate tax avoidance, at 47 per cent, was followed by bribery and corruption at 27 per cent.

But environmental responsibility has improved with 24 per cent dissatisfied, compared with 29 per cent in 2021. 

The survey concludes that businesses and UK politicians must do better at demonstrating their ethical credentials if they are to win back the confidence of the British public.

What can businesses do to improve?

Work with their accountants to ensure they are paying the correct amount of tax.
Update anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies.
Ensure gifts and hospitality are properly declared.
Be transparent when dealing with third parties and check they have the appropriate credentials.

Other key findings include:

The gender gap on bullying and harassment reflects a post-Covid return to work with the gap up six percentage points, with 12 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women citing this as a concern.
A dramatic narrowing of the gap between the youngest and oldest generations for corporate tax avoidance from 20 per cent to just four per cent this year, implies this issue will be of greatest concern across the ages for some time to come.

Dr Ian Peters MBE, from the Institute of Business Ethics, commented: “The improvement in public perception of business culture is welcome but it is small. Business leaders must be more transparent in demonstrating and reporting how they are addressing the areas still troubling the public.”

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