BITC surveyed more than 2,170 people about their views on big business behaviour. It found the public see treating employees with respect as the most important sign of a responsible business, with 46% citing this. Other indicators are treating customers with respect (33%), making safe and reliable products and services (32%) and being transparent about tax policies (21%).
The poll found mainly positive views of business, with 61% saying they felt big businesses make a positive contribution to society (besides just paying taxes and creating jobs). However, nearly one in 10 (9%) respondents also said they had felt under pressure to do something unethical at work.
When job hunting, respondents cited the promotion of health and wellbeing (86%), flexible working (79%) and diversity (71%) as important in deciding which company to work for. A further 72% said it was important that a potential employer helped young and disadvantaged people into work.
BITC chief executive Stephen Howard said the concept of responsible business as being merely about cash, “ad hoc CSR activity” and philanthropy was “outdated”.
“While these things do have positive impacts, there is far more to being a good business than simple philanthropy and the public and employees know this,” he added.
“To be perceived as responsible a business must be authentic and have values that influence everything it does – from how it treats employees and uses natural resources to how it operates within the community and down their supply chains.”
He urged employers to prioritise staff engagement and communication. “Doing so will drive trust and pride in the business and create a culture within businesses that encourages staff to do the right thing,” he said. “It’s only by getting it right on the inside that we will see more businesses make a meaningful contribution to society."