People still think business is a force for good

A survey suggests the majority of people think businesses are ultimately good for society. Which is a relief, given this week's drama...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 03 Feb 2012
The pitchforks may have been out in force this week in honour of the Stephen Hester/Fred Goodwin affairs, but a new survey has suggested that the public (or 82% of it, at least) reckons businesses are a ‘force for good’ - as long as they stay within the law, pay their taxes and make a profit (the latter of which admittedly discounts quite a few). And even Fred the Shred’s cockles should be warmed by this bit: 66% added that it doesn’t even matter what sector they’re in. Even big banks...

The survey, of more than 2,000 members of the British public, is part of the British Chambers of Commerce’s attempt to improve business’ rep by launching a ‘Business is Good for Britain’ campaign. And for the large part, consumers seem to agree: just under three quarters are of the belief that businesses play an ‘important role’ in local communities, while 54% think they make a ‘fair contribution’ to to supporting public services. Which is sort of obvious, given that most businesses pay tax...

What’s slightly strange is that while 46% think ‘new or international’ companies will generate economic growth in the UK, a fifth think the most economic growth will be generated by the Government - while a third say the public sector is better than the private sector at generating growth and jobs. Clearly, they were the ones at the back of the room during economics 101...

That aside, though, what’s interesting about the survey is how the general public thinks business should behave. While just under a third agree that a company’s first priority should be its owners and shareholders, a whopping 72% say they should be focusing on looking after their employees. Similarly, 43% say that making a profit should be at the top of business’ to-do lists - while 79% say they should be concentrating more on creating jobs. Although to be fair, one usually follows the other.

So there you have it. We may have had banker bashing a-plenty over the past few months, but it’s encouraging to see that the nation still has faith in captains of industry. And it gives a good indication of where business’ priorities should lie if they want to continue to stay on the right side of the mob. Although sadly, that’s come a couple of years late for Goodwin et al.

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