Co-op, John Lewis, Sainsbury's, Ryanair, RBS: who is the most trusted of them all?

The Co-operative Group is the brand the British public views as being the most ethical and responsible, according to a survey commissioned by PRWeek for our special edition on corporate reputation.

The Co-op: Six in 10 people view it as very or fairly ethical, YouGov survey reveals
The Co-op: Six in 10 people view it as very or fairly ethical, YouGov survey reveals

Ryanair came bottom in the YouGov survey of 2,083 UK adults, undertaken for this month's edition of the magazine, out this week.

The public were asked to rate 23 firms or well-known brands – made up of a list including the likes of Apple, Google, Tesco, Coca-Cola and Starbucks – according to how ethical and responsible they consider them to be.

The top three were all supermarket operators. In total, 59 per cent of the public rated the Co-op as very or fairly ethical and responsible, just ahead of John Lewis (58 per cent) and Sainsbury’s on 52 per cent.

The high ranking of the Co-op, which operates more than just a supermarket business, arguably runs counter to its recent turbulent history. Its banking arm came close to collapse in 2014, a year after former banking chairman Paul Flowers was filmed trying to buy drugs, and it is still far from recovery.

Russ Brady, head of group PR at The Co-operative Group, points to its long-held reputation for ethical practices. "The fact that we, over the past 160-odd years, have looked to do the right thing more often than not, does give you some currency in the bank," he told PRWeek.

At the other end of the spectrum, just 13 per cent viewed Ryanair as very or fairly ethical and responsible in the YouGov survey. This is despite a recent turnaround in performance at the airline after it took steps to be more customer friendly.

Elsewhere, banks and energy companies were among the companies that performed poorly in the survey, with RBS and Npower joint second from bottom on 18 per cent each. 

The research also suggests which factors are the important to the public for deciding whether a company is ethical.

In total, 89 per cent said treatment of staff and customers is very or fairly important when deciding if a firm has ethical standards – marginally ahead of treatment of customers (88 per cent) and paying a fair share of tax (86 per cent).

Click for full results and analysis of the survey, including the complete ranking of the 23 different companies and brands, along with analysis of the findings.

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