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20 December 2018

Audit&Risk: Public trust in business ethics rises, but more still to be done

Tax avoidance and executive pay continue to rank highest in the list of public concerns about business ethics, but environmental responsibility has risen sharply to joint second place, according to the latest survey for the Institute of Business Ethics.

The British public’s opinion of business’s behaviour has improved for the second consecutive year, according to the latest survey conducted for the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE).
The survey, carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the IBE, shows that the public’s opinion about ethical business behaviour has reached its highest level since the survey began in 2003.

Nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of the British public said they believed that business behaves ethically, compared with less than half in 2003 (47 per cent).

The top two issues that interviewees thought business still needs to address are tax avoidance (33 per cent) and executive pay (24 per cent). These two remain unchanged in first place, However, this year environmental responsibility moved to joint second place (24 per cent).

Environmental responsibility rose significantly in importance as an issue. It had fallen some way down the list since 2008, and increased media coverage of extreme weather events and the consequences of pollution may partly explain this trend.

“As global political uncertainty overshadows much of the news, business in contrast seems to offer stability and appears more responsible in the eyes of the public," said Philippa Foster Back, IBE’s director. "Social media means that consumers can see that they are able to have an impact on business decision-making, where they may feel powerless to influence governments.”

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