Public Trust in Business ‘Flat-Lining’

Public trust in business is flat-lining, according to Philippa Foster Back CBE from the Institute of Business Ethics.

The latest survey from the IBE shows that corporate tax avoidance remains the top public concern about business behaviour for 2015. The study found that the public’s general opinion about ethical business behaviour has failed to improve, with nearly 40 per cent still saying they consider British business behaves unethically.

Although most Brits have historically leaned towards businesses behaving ‘ethically’ than ‘not ethically’, over the past three years opinion has reached a sticking point.

Foster Back said: “Public trust in business is flat-lining. Business needs to do more to effect a step change in public opinion. While there are some companies doing great work in this field, there are still those who are not engaging in ethical business practice. A sizeable minority have not done enough. These companies are dragging the business sector down.”

Tax avoidance has been one of the top two issues since it was first introduced as a category in the survey in 2012, with 34 per cent considering this an issue which needs to be addressed. ‘Environmental responsibility’– which continues to fluctuate as an issue of concern, but has seen a significant rise between 2014-15; and ‘exploitative labour’ also feature prominently, with the latter gaining gradual increase in prominence over the last three years.

Foster Back added: “The fact that tax still remains the top public concern is an example where business is not doing enough to address these issues. Tax planning is difficult and complex. Internal engagement is needed around the decisions and circumstances behind tax positions, then communicated externally. Reputations can still be damaged by legal tax avoidance, which is why it is good practice for companies to have a clear and transparent statement showing their position on payment of tax.”

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