Attitudes of the British Public to Business Ethics 2021

Publication type: Survey
17 January 2022

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

Britain’s businesses could behave better - the 2021 results of the IBE's annual survey of the attitudes of the British public to business ethics.

For the last 19 years, the IBE has commissioned an annual survey of the British public’s attitude towards business, and for the first time in 2021, we asked over 2,000 members of the British public about their views on how ethically business behaves compared to politicians, media and charities. The infographic below provides a summary of the key findings. 

Our key recommendation; corporate bosses will need to improve the way their businesses are perceived if they are to survive and thrive with public support into another Covid-impacted year.

Headline findings
  • Business is the second-most ethical institution. The first time this question has been asked in the survey’s 19-year run; 40% of the public say they think business acts ethically. Much further ahead in the popularity poll are charities (67%). Less well regarded for their ethical behaviours are the media (23%) and politicians (20%).
  • Tax avoidance and bribery and corruption are increasingly among the most important ethical issues to the British public but the environment and climate change continue to be priorities. Corporate tax avoidance is the most important ethical issue for the 9th consecutive year, up 12 percentage points (pp) in 2021 to 47%. Meanwhile, bribery and corruption enters the top 3 for the first time after jumping up 17pp, the biggest move of the year. Businesses’ responsibility for their impact on the environment, including climate change, is now the second-highest concern across all generations at 29%. 
  • The age gap broadens. The disparity between the issues that younger and older people believe most need addressing has broadened this year, as the younger generation highlights issues that reflect newer ethical values. These include equality, diversity and inclusion, and work-life balance.
  • The gender gap narrows. The difference between the issues that men and women believe most need addressing has narrowed this year, with women becoming less concerned with interpersonal issues like diversity and inclusion, harassment and bullying, and employees’ ability to speak up about wrongdoing.



Join us on Wednesday 19 January as we host the launch webinar Ethics and Business: understanding public attitudes. We will discuss the results with a panel of experts, who will help us unpick the findings and give their perspective on the key steps that organisations can take to improve their ethical footprint. 

IBE Survey: Attitudes of the British Public to Business Ethics 2021