The survey, carried out annually, found that just 48% of respondents felt that British businesses act ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ ethically, compared to 58% last year.

According to the IBE, the 10% decline is 1% off the all-time low of 47% in 2003, when the survey was first conducted.

Director of the IBE, Philippa Foster Back, said: “This year’s results should act as another wake-up call to business that action needs to be taken in order to restore trust with the British public.

However, when asked what issues businesses most need to address, environmental responsibility was seventh on the list after issues such as executive pay, corporate tax avoidance and discrimination.

Only 14% of respondents believed environmental responsibility needed addressing, a drop of 6% from 2011.

This mirrors the responses of a recent report by edie and Temple group, Why are business leaders prioritising sustainability?, examining the state of play in the sustainability arena.

The report revealed that seven in 10 businesses consider sustainability as a business driver and almost a third are putting it at the core of their business strategy.

Also highlighting the rising awareness of sustainability and environmental issues in business, the analyst firm, Verdantix, released a report this month which looked at how a CEO’s perceptions affect the governance of sustainability.

According to the report, over a third of CEOs take a long-term perspective on sustainability, while 38% of sustainability leaders say their CEO views sustainability as a long-term consideration.

“These CEOs believe that it affects the viability of the organisation’s future in the context of natural resource scarcity,” the report states.

Leigh Stringer

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