Profit, transparency top consumer study

NEW YORK: A majority of consumers, surveyed around the globe, believe companies can succeed while maintaining transparency, according to the MS&L Global Values study.

NEW YORK: A majority of consumers, surveyed around the globe, believe companies can succeed while maintaining transparency, according to the MS&L Global Values study.

The highest expectation for transparency from consumers occurred in the US, where 72% agreed that “an organization or company can be financially successful doing business by this value in today's marketplace... being completely open and honest with the public about their business practices,” compared to 55% in France and 51% in the UK.

The study hypothesizes that in the US, “the strong demand for transparency may be a reaction against the recent negative experience with American companies, whose lack of openness and honesty ultimately led to their demise (Enron, WorldCom, and now even some legendary financial firms)*.”

However, a majority of consumers in all six countries surveyed, including Sweden and China, said profitability must be put first for a company to succeed, including 83% in the US. When asked to rank company goals, however, Americans placed “only doing things that can be done in a responsible way” slightly ahead of profitability at 85%.

MS&L's CEO Mark Hass noted the importance of the study's finding that consumers do not expect companies to wholly define themselves in terms of ethical practices or making money, but instead act on both goals and stay true to their core values.

Hass added that while many companies divide IR and their communications functions, the study argues that the two should be consolidated under one leadership.

“In today's digital age, what you say to top investors had better be the same thing you say to consumers... and employees,” Hass said.

The survey was done in May 2008 by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media, and developed by MS&L. The firm released it to media December 29, and will apply it to client work.

Correction: The MS&L study initially included Accenture on this list - (Enron, WorldCom, and now even some legendary financial firms); however, it later removed that reference, and alerted PRWeek to the update.

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