NEWS6 May 2022

British consumers call for more socially responsible business

News Sustainability Trends UK

UK – There is a disparity between public opinion on how businesses should behave when it comes to environmental and social issues and how companies are in fact conducting themselves, according to a survey commissioned by the Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business.

Blocks displaying the words, ethics, honesty, integrity and values

Half of senior business decision makers surveyed said that they have no net zero strategy, while 74% of British adults say that businesses should have one.

Three in ten ( 30%) senior business decision makers who responded said that their purpose was to generate profit over sustainability, growth or purpose, whereas 42% of British adults said businesses should balance profit with social and environmental justice and a further 25% said a business’ purpose should be to make a positive impact on society. 

The survey, carried out by YouGov, also found that some businesses are failing to align with public opinion, both on the wider topic of the environment and their impact as employers on society overall.

For example, only 13% of businesses said it is important to tackle precarious work in their strategy, while 64% of the public expect businesses to do this for low paid, unprotected forms of employment.

Similarly, 52% of the public said that the gap between the highest and lowest paid employee should be published in the same way the gender gap is, while just 14% of businesses surveyed said they currently publish this.

Despite the demand from the public that businesses act more responsibly and have a positive impact, the survey findings show this pressure may have little impact.

When asked what would inspire businesses to act more responsibly, respondents said they believed a business would change out of fear of public boycotts, whereas only 7% of businesses said this would make them more sustainable.

Professor Ian Thomson, director of the centre and author of Urgent Business: Five myths business needs to overcome to save itself and the planet, commented: “At a time where social inequality is growing, and time is running out to meet the target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, our survey shows that the British public expects and believes that businesses should be taking an active role in combatting these issues.”

He continued: “Sustainability and responsible behaviour aren’t just challenges for businesses, but also a chance for them to build a brand based on trust and help futureproof their companies against legislation, thereby avoiding hefty costs further down the road.”