Commitment to Ethics Is Good Business Practice

Article excerpt

'With the ever rising tide of business scandals, companies' committment to corporate and social responsibility has never been more in focus. ADRIENNE McGILL reports on the findings of a new survey which shows consumers are buying into the issue

CORPORATE responsibility has become big business with an increasing number of companies reporting on what they're doing for human rights and the environment.

Against the backdrop of a raft of scandals, such as that of energy giant Enron in the US, which have lowered the public's estimation of the ethics of how companies conduct their business, some companies are trying to show they care.

New research shows that an overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland rate being open and honest as a top consideration when making a judgement about a company with 77 per cent taking this view.

The survey carried out by Business in the Community and Ipsos MORI which questioned over 1,000 adults in Northern Ireland also reveals that 83 per cent of people in the Province want to know that the company they are purchasing from is committed to being socially responsible.

The 2006 Corporate Image and Corporate Responsibility Survey found that 24 per cent of respondents have chosen not to purchase a product from a particular company for a range of reasons, such as "unhealthy', "using exploitative labour' and "unethical trading practices'.

Business in the Community says that the message being sent loud and clear by the Northern Ireland public is that they want the companies they buy from to act responsibly, whether it be with their workforce, towards the environment, towards local communities or indeed in the goods they produce.

Currently, companies are not legally obliged to divulge their environmental and social activities in a published report, but 56 per cent of survey respondents said they felt that government should make it part of legislation for public companies to issue an annual social and environmental report similar to the annual financial report currently produced.

Consumers are demanding openness and accountability from companies and those which are seen to be operating responsibly and in a transparent manner, will win public support and therefore increased market share.

The findings send out a strong message to businesses focused purely on the bottom line, without considering or addressing their wider responsibilities within society. …