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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Study finds business must address urgent ‘trust deficit’

Polling for Siemens and IPPR reveals public view of business

  • Public trust in business is low, as public call for greater focus on social investments.
  • 79% of people see profitable businesses as important to the community.
  • Yet only a fifth (22%) think businesses are likely to do the right thing in their community.
  • 38% people think businesses don’t pay their fair share of taxes
  • 60% of people think that businesses focus too much on making money and not enough investing in their communities.
  • The best way to invest in the community is to take on and train young people according to the poll.

Nearly two thirds of people (60%) think that businesses focus too much on making money and not enough on giving back to their communities according to polling for Siemens and IPPR

Only a fifth (22%) think businesses are likely to do the right thing in their community, but despite this nearly four fifths of people (79%) still believe that profitable businesses are important for local communities.

38% of people think businesses, large or small, don’t pay their fair share of taxes in the UK and 41% of people don’t trust businesses to look after employee pensions.

Over half of people (54%) are more likely to buy from businesses that behave responsibly and 28% consider business ethics when looking for a job, suggesting giving back to society creates growth and attracts talent.

Juergen Maier, CEO Siemens UK, said:

“Unless a business fundamentally believes in creating social value and being an integral part of the community, it simply won’t succeed. Not only is this absolutely the right thing to do; it is also essential in listening to employees and customers who want to be socially responsible through their own work and wider activities and attracting others who share those values in taking responsibility in communities seriously. Right now we are at an all-time low when it comes to public confidence in all UK businesses and their ability act responsibly. We need to understand what can be done to address this, to move business closer to society.”

“Big and small businesses must be a force for good to really improve society but big

businesses need to work harder at this given too many high-profile examples of

not getting it right in the past. This is particularly significant given global events

and where we’re finding ourselves politically, showing a clear disconnect

between business and society.”

The polling has been commissioned jointly between Siemens and Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) as part of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice. Launched by the IPPR last month (November), the Commission comprises some of the highest profile names from across British public life. It will set out new proposals to achieve sustainable growth and broadly-shared prosperity over the next two years.

Michael Jacobs Director of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice, said:

“The loss of trust in British businesses is alarming. Our economy cannot have economic growth, create jobs and raise incomes without successful businesses. But this means that businesses need to raise their game. They not only need to behave responsibly – paying their taxes, paying decent wages, providing skills training, building local supply chains, contributing to their local communities. They need to be seen to be doing so. As companies like Siemens have shown, the result can only benefit them, enabling them to attract talented employees and winning public support.

“The country is experiencing tremendous economic uncertainty today. This poll is a wake-up call to businesses that they cannot take public support for granted. The best businesses are already showing how to be socially responsible. Others need to follow suit. Over the next two years the Commission on Economic Justice will show how a stronger partnership between the private and public sectors can better generate prosperity.”

When it comes to what business can do to give back to their communities more than one third (36%) of people think investing in the UK’s future workforce is one of the most important ways business can give back to the community and prosper. However, one third (33%) of those asked do not feel companies are currently doing enough to invest in young people in their local communities.

Offering young people work placements and apprenticeships as well as providing education, training and skills partnerships were deemed essential for the nation’s companies to positively impact local communities. More than three quarters (77%) ranked the provision of work placements or apprenticeships for young people in their top five most important things businesses should do to give back to their community.

The public poll also revealed that nearly three quarters of people (74%) want more UK manufacturing to be undertaken locally.

18% of people would prioritise buying goods and supplies locally as a way for a business to give back to the community.

Top thing 5 things business can do to give back to society:

1

Offer young people jobs or training

77%

2

Buy goods and supply locally

64%

3

Offer education, training & skills with schools

60%

4

Invest in research and development

47%

5

Offer business advice/mentoring/skills to small businesses and start ups

43%

Ends

Contact

Kieren Walters 07921 403651 k.walters@ippr.org

Editor’s Notes:

  1. ICM Unlimited interviewed 2,050 adults aged 18+ online between 21st-23rd October 2016, using ICMLitmus, the nationally representative Omnibus service.