Consumer watchdogs have public's trust
Written by Editor, CIR
Consumers expect businesses to maintain their ethics even when economic times are tough, suggests a new report.
What Assures Consumers in an Economic Downturn: Reviewing the agenda in the global economic crisisis issued by think tank AccountAbility and reports on what enables consumers to trust in a business's integrity and fairness.
The report suggests that consumers see a huge "accountability gap" between those responsible for business ethics and their ability to deliver. While six in 10 people regard industry regulators as responsible for ensuring businesses behave ethically, only two in 10 believe they are up to the job.
Over half the public (56%) say businesses themselves must be accountable for their own behaviour, but only 6% of people trust them to do so.
Consumer watchdogs are the only institutions with a positive "accountability gap" -- the difference between responsibility to act and trust to deliver. Two thirds of the public (65%) think consumer bodies can do the job they are entrusted with.
In measuring which organisations consumers trust, researchers found that PLCs, shareholders and trade bodies registered the lowest levels of trust. After consumer watchdogs, NGOs and co-operatives registered the highest levels.
"Businesses are desperate for new ways to rebuild trust. Government sees the need for game changing policies. But collectively, the proposals on how to do this are well short of what is needed," says Alex MacGillivray of AccountAbility.
The report suggests that 30% of UK consumers aim to buy products and services from businesses that behave responsibly, and spending based on labels including energy efficiency and sustainable fishing is likely to increase.
Other key findings from the report include:
-30% of consumers feel they can influence the way a business behaves through their purchasing decisions, and 45% are still prepared to boycott products made by companies they do not trust.
-73% of consumers believe fair treatment of employees and suppliers are the priorities for what makes a responsible business
-The over-55s are more likely to make an effort to buy responsible products and are more likely to think that consumers have a personal responsibility to ensure business behaves well. Under 25s want watchdogs to take a more aggressive role in driving up standards.
The research is freely available online at www.accountability21.net/whatassures