Why is corporate Britain's reputation in tatters?

MT'S REPUTATION WEEK IN ASSOCIATION WITH BSI: The bosses of firms including John Lewis, Diageo, Zopa, BSI and E.On explain why trust in business is at such a low ebb.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2016


The reputation of business has been at a low ebb since the start of the financial crisis in 2007. Britain’s banks have borne the brunt of the criticism – but no industry has been left unscathed.

From retailers and manufacturers to airlines and utility companies, all industries have been hit by scandals – whether it’s horse meat, rising energy prices, and unfair costs at a time when consumers are feeling the pinch.

In association with BSI, MT brought together the heads of some of Britain’s biggest companies for a discussion on how corporate Britain can bring its reputation back from the brink.

ANDY STREET, MD of high street stalwart John Lewis

"The big issue for us is the conditions in our supply chain. We invest millions of pounds in checking that out – it sounds boring, but governance and audit processes are important."

IAN WRIGHT, corporate relations director at British drinks firm Diageo

"There’s a really healthy distrust of business right now, and business has a real task on its hands to bring back the situation….But you've got to bear in mind that the British public has a massive capacity for hypocrisy. The same people who complain that multinational companies don't pay their taxes will pay their window cleaner in cash."

ROBERT PHILLIPS, visiting professor at Cass Business School and ex-president and CEO of Edelman EMEA

"Too many business leaders think they can simply speak the ‘T’ word and somehow trust magically happens. It just isn’t like that. Trust can’t be restored by simple taking one step or one action. Trust has to be hard fought, hard won, hard earned, continually, every day."

DR SCOTT STEEDMAN, head of standards at BSI

" It’s fundamental that companies understand their core values and principles. If they don’t, they can’t portray a persistent message to their staff, their employees or to the marketplace.

GILES ANDREWS, founder and CEO of P2P lending firm Zopa

"The most important thing is to focus on actions, not words. We’re hearing far too many words from business leaders. What they really need to do is take action. And one of those things is to be more transparent in what they do and how they do it."

VERONICA HOPE-HAILEY, chair in management studies at the University of Bath

"We did research on 14 organisations looking at levels of trust since the financial crisis. Of the five organisations that came through the crisis well, all of them invested in trust and relationships as a valuable business commodity on an ongoing basis."

BARONESS DENISE KINGSMILL, non-executive director at E.On

"You’ve got to be an agile and responsive organisation, and one that is in touch with its customers."

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