Demand for business leaders to speak out on social and political issues rises, amid growing alarm about climate change and coronavirus

Research from Ipsos and the Good Business Festival highlights that two-thirds of people want business leaders to speak out on social and political issues, as disillusionment in government persists.

The author(s)
  • Ben Page CEO, Ipsos
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  • Findings underscore need for business leaders to act on climate change, and social inequalities exposed by COVID-19
  • Marks the launch today of the Good Business Festival, which convenes business leaders from across the UK to discuss the role of business to deliver positive change

The British public are increasingly calling for business leaders to be vocal about social and political issues as trust in politicians remains low, according to new research from Ipsos published today to mark the launch of The Good Business Festival.

Two-thirds (68%) of people think business leaders have a responsibility to speak out on social and political issues affecting the UK, rising from 62% in 2019, as Britons put their trust in business leaders above trust in government – one in five (19%) regard business leaders as trustworthy, vs only 1 in 10 (13%) considering politicians to be trustworthy. This pattern reflects that observed in longer-term trend series such as the Ipsos Veracity Index, which shows that while trust in business leaders to tell the truth has steadily risen since 2000, from 28% to 35% in 2019, trust in politicians has sunk from 20% to 14%.

The findings come as concerns about climate change and coronavirus in particular are high. Ipsos recorded a further escalation in concern about climate change in September – with 83% of the British public believing that we are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly, rising despite the COVID-19 pandemic from 78% recorded by Ipsos Global Trends in 2019. At the same time, the Ipsos Issues Index shows that public worry about COVID-19 is undimmed from earlier in the year, with 77% mentioning as a big issue for Britain in September.

For many, 2020 has exacerbated concerns around the economy, Brexit and the environment, which along with the arrival of coronavirus, have increased the focus on the role of business and government to do the right thing for society, and align with their personal values: 72% of Britons are looking to buy brands that reflect their personal values, up from 56% in 2019.

Ben Page, Chief Executive, Ipsos MORI commented:

COVID-19 has seen public expectations - and trust - in business rise.  People want to see brands that align themselves with their values and Chief Executives who stand up and be counted.  It is clear that most people in Britain think business can make money and do good at the same time.

Wayne Hemingway MBE, Creative Director, The Good Business Festival, commented:

We strongly believe in the power of business to effect positive change and this research suggests the Great British Public share that view. The current pandemic has increased our expectations of business to act purposefully and younger generations in particular are showing increasing interest in knowing which companies and brands are doing the right thing for society. In today’s inaugural Good Business Festival, we are bringing together the smartest minds from the business world with creative thinkers to drive the campaign for good business forward and drive positive change in society.

A global leader in market research, Ipsos is an official partner of The Good Business Festival, which is bringing together some of the biggest names in business and society to debate the big issues facing a world rocked by both pandemic and lockdown, and drive forward the campaign for good business.

Commissioned by Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, and curated by Culture Liverpool and Hemingway Design, The Good Business Festival aims to unite the growing global community of businesses and conscious consumers who believe business can deliver meaningful, positive change in society.

Technical note

Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of British adults aged 16-75 online between 1-2 October 2020, using its Ipsos.Digital platform. Data is weighted to match the profile of the population.

Additional data is drawn from three sources:

  • The Ipsos Veracity Index: an annual poll of the trustworthiness of professions that has run since 1983. In 2019, a sample of 1,020 British adults aged 16+ were interviewed face-to-face between 16 and 27 October 2019, with data weighted to match the population profile. The results of the survey are available here.
  • The Ipsos Issues Index: a monthly survey of what is seen as the biggest issues facing the country that has run since 1979. A sample of 1,000 British adults aged 18+ is interviewed each month using a telephone survey with data weighted to match the population profile. The latest results are available here.
  • The Ipsos Global Trends survey series: A sample of 1,001 British adults aged 16-75 were interviewed online in June and July 2019, with data weighted to match the population profile. Subsequent polling has been conducted in September 2020 with a sample of 1,080 British adults aged 16-75. More detail on the series is available here.
The author(s)
  • Ben Page CEO, Ipsos