Nine out of 10 people want business to speak up on societal issues – CBI business reputation



The public wants businesses to be more outspoken on the big social issues of the day – from data protection to gender pay gaps - according to the most recent wave of research tracking public attitudes towards business.

  • 76% of people report positive relationship with employer (no change since Oct 17)
  • 93% want businesses to speak up on the big issues impacting society
  • 63% say my employer treats me and my fellow employees well (UK average 59%)

Business reputation declined in 10 out of the 12 regions in the UK.  The latest survey, carried out by Opinium in partnership with the CBI and Porter Novelli, notes a 9% fall in those thinking the reputation of UK business is good in the East of England (51%) with high-profile business failures, such as the collapse of Carillion, potentially playing a role in the dip in the reputation of business since the previous survey in October 2017.

But 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). In the East of England fewer people said they felt business leaders are out of touch, down 7% from October 2017, to 66%.

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 are issues which are firmly on the public’s radar.

Among the most striking statistics for the East of England is the finding that more than 9 out of 10 people say businesses should take a stance on social issues, such as immigration, climate change and gender equality. In fact, nationally 72% of the public are prepared to champion companies which stand up for what they believe and challenge politicians.

And, against the backdrop of issues such as the President’s Club debacle, 78% say firms should do more to value women’s equality. This is a clear challenge to the business community that shows how isolated business scandals can have far wider impacts.

Above all, 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. To assist with this, the CBI has published an employers’ guide to help firms of all sizes think about their role and behaviour to support the communities they operate in and to protect business’ reputation.

The research also points to a strengthening relationship between East of England employers and their teams: almost three-quarters of respondents report positive relationship with their employer. But there is still significant room for improvement. CEOs can help by dedicating more time to engage and listen to their workforce. Across the region only 1 in 3 of employees report that their CEO spends time engaging with them directly. Critically 52% of employees say they feel valued by their employer but most employees would like their companies to invest more in their personal development (40%), with improved support for their mental health and wellbeing (36%).

With the recent implementation of GDPR, data security continues to dominate consumer thinking too – 84% say it is critical to their decisions as customers. Companies can act by improving the information they provide about how they manage data, and by promoting digital literacy in the boardroom and front line.  

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Confederation of British Industry (CBi)

As the UK's most effective and influential business organisation, the CBI works to create the best environment for business and economic growth. We do this by providing a collective, progressive voice to government and policymakers on the key issues impacting businesses like yours. Together we can drive the conditions in which businesses, and everyone, can thrive

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