High-profile business failures take toll on public confidence
Written by Deborah Ritchie
High-profile failures, such as the recent collapse of Carillion, have contributed to a decline in public confidence in businesses. This is according to a CBI / Porter Novelli survey, which notes a 9% fall in confidence since the previous survey in October 2017. Business reputation declined in 10 out of the 12 regions in the UK, it said.
At the same time, and somewhat ironically given this lack of confidence, the public wants businesses to be more outspoken on today’s social issues, including immigration, climate change, data protection and gender pay gaps – more than 92% of the public are in favour of this, according to the research. In fact, 72% of the public are prepared to champion companies which stand up for what they believe and challenge politicians. The report’s authors point to another striking statistic in the findings – that 77% say firms should do more to value women’s equality.
Commenting on the findings, CBI deputy director-general, Josh Hardie, said: “While complicated arguments about customs and regulations won’t set many pulses racing, the public do want to hear more from businesses about the issues that impact their lives. Speaking out can be tough and firms will need to decide when and how they do this, but it’s clear there is public appetite to hear from them. Moreover, our poll shows that the gap between business leaders and people narrows when firms speak up on issues they know about.
“Yet there’s no hiding from the hit caused by the likes of the collapse of Carillion, which has seen the reputation of business fall by nearly 10% within a year.
Director of corporate reputation and purpose, at Porter Novelli, Eleanor Turner, added that the opportunity to manage reputation is available for all businesses, but it requires “long-term commitment and investment beyond just trying to avoid the next crisis”.
Reputational risk: No short-term fix (Source: CBI)
Despite the recent dip in confidence, the foundations for improved business reputation are slowly being put in place with the public’s knowledge about the contribution of business up (54%) and an improved public perception of business leaders (up 10% since May last year), according to the data.
Delivering sustained improvements in business reputation will require firms to address weaknesses where they exist and adopt a clearer focus on issues the public care about most. This means treating employees well, paying a fair share of tax, tackling unfair pay. These issues are firmly on the public’s radar.
Getting business practices right, making a difference and showing how businesses contribute to a more prosperous society are all steps business can take to improve their reputation.
56% think the reputation of UK business is good
78% report positive relationship with their employer
54% understand how a company works
67% agree the heads of business are far removed from the lives of ordinary people
92% say businesses should take a public stance on key social issues
75% say it is important that companies are environmentally friendly and oppose climate change
77% say firms should do more to value women’s equality
75% say businesses should work with ethical suppliers and partners
71% say their employer’s contribution to society is positive