The public’s perception of business ethics has improved year-on-year in the UK, according to a survey.
Research from the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) shows that 52% of those polled believe that business behaves ethically, up from last year’s dip of 48%. However, the figure remains some way off the 59% of 2015.
Tax avoidance was named as a leading concern that needed to be addressed by 38% of those surveyed. The other two main business issues of concern for members of the public are executive pay and exploitative behaviour.
Philippa Foster Back CBE, the IBE’s director, said: “Although these results are encouraging, this may be related to the scandals which have affected other institutions in society over the course of 2017.
“By contrast, business appears more responsible in the eyes of the public. The fact that corporate tax avoidance and executive pay remain the top public concerns is an example where business is still not doing enough to address ethical issues.”
Fewer people now say business behaves “not at all ethically”—down from 9% in 2012 to 5% this year.
Intriguingly, tax did not appear as a topic in the recent draft revision of the UK Corporate Governance Code, while specific measures on executives were introduced.
Foster Back said: “Tax is a difficult and complex issue, but it isn’t going away. This year the Paradise and Panama Papers have thrown this issue even more into the spotlight. Companies need to do more to address public concern and communicate the circumstances behind the tax positions they decide to take”
She added: “Although we are seeing a rise in the number of companies providing channels for employees to raise concerns, companies still need to listen to what they are saying. If employees repeatedly speak up and don’t feel heard, they might stop talking. And that silence can be dangerous.”