Big business must restore public faith through sustainability

Only 24% of the population think large companies have a positive effect on their local community and environment, with 26% believing they have a negative effect, according to a recent poll.

Results of the YouGov poll, carried out on behalf of retailer Kingfisher, revealed that more than half of respondents are sceptical about why companies spend time and money on environmental and social measures and believe their motivations are purely to increase profits.

Only 5% believe that companies actually want to help the future of their local community and environment.

However, the results did reveal that 41% believe that big business can really make a positive difference.

Those companies who are seen to be doing their bit stand to reap big dividends as the poll shows that 43% of people are more inclined to use their services.

This has been supported by the RSA Community Footprint report, which showed that the average spend of customers who know that a business makes a positive contribution to their community is double that of those who think it makes no such contribution.

Working with schools and youth organisations is the top activity people think is the most beneficial thing large companies can do (28%), followed by allowing employees to share in success through profit sharing or employee shares (22%), making donations to local charities (16%) and helping the environment by offsetting or minimising carbon emissions (16%).

Of those polled, 47% believe it is more important to give something back, despite the current economic climate.

On the back of the results, Kingfisher’s CEO, Ian Cheshire has called for big companies to do more to restore faith in the positive contribution business can make to society.

Cheshire said: “Big companies can be a force for good, creating sustainable jobs and a sustainable future for the communities within which they operate but it’s a long journey and we can all do more.”

“There are great examples of how large companies are recognising their responsibilities but much more can be done by big business to restore the public’s faith in our corporate sector.”

Cheshire stressed that people are sceptical about the corporate sector’s actions but when they believe in a company’s ethics they are more inclined to use their services.

“The initiatives that mean the most to people include supporting the youth agenda, colleagues sharing in business success, giving time and money to charities and making a positive contribution to the environment.”

edie talks to Ian Cheshire about how businesses need to focus on their contribution to a sustainable future. Read here.

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie