Reputation of businesses improves but firms must communicate 'purpose', survey suggests

The reputation of businesses among the UK public has improved in the past year, with more people seeing firms as a force for good in society, new research suggests.

Business leaders need to truly live their purpose (©GettyImages)
Business leaders need to truly live their purpose (©GettyImages)

A survey of 2,000 UK adults found 60 per cent see the reputation of business as good - a four percentage point rise on a similar survey released one year ago.

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In addition, 59 per cent view it as a force for good in society, up from 56 per cent in September 2018. And 42 per cent believe businesses are working to improve people’s lives in their local areas (2018: 40 per cent).

The latter statistic suggests companies need to better communicate how they are working for the benefit of their local communities, according to the new report called Everyone’s Business by the CBI, produced in collaboration with Porter Novelli and Opinium.

The findings point to the extent to which climate change has become a more pressing issue for the general population in the past year.

Asked to identify key issues for which businesses can be 'problem solvers', the most popular choices were climate change (32 per cent), public health (22 per cent) and upskilling employees (28 per cent).

Asked the same question one year ago, the top answers were plastic waste reduction (46 per cent), gender equality (31 per cent) and labour rights (29 per cent).

The research suggests the clear communication of a social purpose is more than a ‘nice to have’ now.

It found 79 per cent of UK consumers are less likely to buy products from a company with poor reputation; a similar proportion (76 per cent) are less likely to work for them; and 81 per cent are less likely to recommend a company’s products or services.

In addition, the public are more likely to buy from (55 per cent) and apply for a job with (53 per cent) a company that has a clear social purpose.

Eleanor Turner, director of corporate reputation and purpose at Porter Novelli London, said: "At this time of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever for business to recognise the link between purpose and reputation, trust and customer loyalty. This year’s tracker provides examples of companies that have ‘baked’ purpose into their business, putting it at the top of the boardroom agenda and consequently reaped the rewards.

"Importantly, it also highlights the value consumers place on employee wellbeing, plus the role of the employee in being advocates of purpose and influencing whether their employer is perceived as ‘walking the talk’. Business leaders therefore need to ensure they not only find their purpose, but also truly live it."

Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said: "There is no question that more can be done, as 70 per cent of the public say they would want to work for a business with a good reputation, the benefits of demonstrating firms' positive impact can affect everything from a company’s bottom line to the talent it attracts."

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