Fewer Britons believe businesses operating ethically: new poll

IBE news
11 July 2023

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

  • New poll finds just 38 percent of Britons believe businesses are behaving ethically – down six points from last year.
  • Trust that charities and the media are operating ethically also falls – with just 17 percent of Britons believing politicians operate ethically.
  • 90 percent of Britons believe business CEOs’ pay should be linked to ethical performance.
  • Just six percent of Britons concerned about businesses’ ethical use of AI.

Only one in three Britons (38 percent) believe companies are operating ethically, according to new Yonder research commissioned by the Institute of Business Ethics.

The Institute’s annual survey of British attitudes to business ethics has found trust in how companies behave has fallen by six percentage points since last year. Trust that charities are operating ethically also fell from 74 percent to 70 percent, with belief that the media behaves ethically falling one point to 24 percent.

Belief that politicians behave ethically remained at just 17 percent.

Corporate tax avoidance (43 percent) was identified as the chief issue Britons want companies to address for the eleventh consecutive year. The pricing of products and services by business listed as one of the public’s main concerns (18 percent) for the first time, with Britons considering whether companies’ pricing was appropriate in a cost of living crisis. Only six percent of respondents expressed concern at whether companies are using AI in an ethical way. 

Ninety percent of Britons believed it was important that chief executives’ pay was linked to the ethical behaviour of their businesses.

The Institute of Business Ethics has warned companies face a customer backlash if they fail to demonstrate ethical behaviour.

Dr Ian Peters MBE, Director of the Institute of Business Ethics, said:

“The British public clearly lacks confidence that businesses are operating in an ethical way. Companies should be concerned by this, as customers will vote with their feet if they don’t believe an organisation is committed to doing the right thing for the right reasons.

“Companies have work to do to tackle this problem. They must show they’re operating in an ethical way, whether that’s how they behave with customers or the culture of the organisation and how staff are treated. That starts from the top with senior leadership, and there is a clear expectation CEOs’ remuneration should be informed by the behaviour of the business.”

Dr Ian Peters MBE is available for an interview.

Media contacts:

Chris Rogers and Maiya Harrison-Genis, iNHouse Communications
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Out of Hours contact: Chris Rogers, 07720 054189

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