Fair enough?

13 July 2023

Tags: Anti-Bribery & Corruption (ABC), Pay, Tax

Deputy Director, Rachael Saunders outlines some of the key findings from the 2023 Attitudes of the British Public to Business Ethics survey.

We now have twenty years’ worth of data from our survey on the attitudes of the British public to business ethics.

This year, business, charities, and the media have all gone down in the public’s estimation. While public opinion for politicians has remained the same, in their bottom ranking for the 3rd consecutive year.

Pricing has taken a real leap as a concern for the public this year – the data seems to show that the cost of living crisis has driven the reduction in the public’s estimation of businesses as ethical. Tax avoidance and bribery remain the top two most important issues for the British public, but fair and open pricing has joined the top five for the first time. And we’ve seen this reflected in the media and political agenda regarding fuel prices and whether higher interest rates are being passed on to savers.

We asked about AI this year given much recent publicity and while it did gain some support as an ethical issue it was the lowest-ranking issue we asked about – people replying to the poll were more concerned about the economic issues of today than the technology of tomorrow.

We have identified some widening gender gaps in the report this year, but overall, it is remarkable how similar women’s and men’s priorities are, this year and over time. Fair use of resources matters to everyone, and issues like the environment and work-life balance are important across the board.

Over the twenty years that the IBE has been running this poll, economic and financial issues such as corporate tax avoidance and executive pay have consistently come top, followed by the environment and treatment of workers, with “employees being able to speak out about company wrongdoing” consistently scoring highly. For business to be viewed as ethical by the British public, it needs to be seen to make its day-to-day decisions fairly. Pay your taxes, keep executive pay under control and, particularly this year, consider values and ethics when you set your prices.


Rachael Saunders
Rachael Saunders

Deputy Director

Rachael is Deputy Director of the Institute and is responsible for our research programme, and our advisory and training services. She is most interested in how research can generate insights that inspire action. 

Rachael has collaborated with senior leaders across business, charities, communities, local and central government. After gaining her first degree in Politics and History from the University of Durham, and a Masters in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics, Rachael worked in Westminster, then for Carers UK, for UNISON, the public sector trade union, and for the TUC, on skills policy. She was at Business in the Community for over ten years, as an expert in workplace diversity and then in education business partnerships. As a Director at BITC, she worked closely with the Department for Work and Pensions, the then Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and business leaders from Aviva, Barclays, Nationwide, UBS, McKinsey and many more.  Her most recent role was on the SLT of Speakers for Schools as it scaled its delivery of opportunities for young people. 

She has held a number of trustee roles including on the board of the Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, the Bromley by Bow Centre and East End Homes. She is currently chair of a charity called Sister System.  She was an elected local councillor for ten years and served as leader of the Labour Group on Tower Hamlets Council. In 2019 Rachael gained an MSc from Birkbeck, University of London, in Business Ethics and Corporate Governance, with a dissertation focussed on how boards communicate their community engagement. 

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