Consumers vote with their feet on corporate tax avoidance

Ipsos MORI's latest Sustainable Business Monitor finds that the public are prepared to take action against companies who don't behave responsibly, especially in the case of tax avoidance.

Ipsos MORI’s latest Sustainable Business Monitor survey shows the dangers of companies not behaving responsibly, nearly half of the British public (45%) tell us that they have reconsidered using a products or services from a company that has avoided paying tax in this country.  There is further evidence of consumers having had enough and taking action that could affect the bottom line. The boycotting of companies or products on the grounds of poor corporate social responsibility (CSR) has increased since 2013, with a 7 point increase year on year in the proportion who claim to have boycotted a product in the last 12 months for this reason (up to nearly a quarter 23%). 

Action by the public is set within the context of a high degree of cynicism and distrust in British business.  Seven in ten believe that industry and commerce has lost the trust of the general public.  A similar percentage (68%) question the motivations of companies’ corporate responsibility initiatives, agreeing that ‘large companies only invest in the environment and community initiatives to make themselves look better’. 

Our data suggests that distrust in business is (at least in part) underpinned by the financial sector crisis, casting a negative halo onto other sectors.  Just over half (56%) agree that ‘after the financial sector crisis, I generally trust large businesses less’, but stories around perceived tax avoidance (even if it is within the law) may have exacerbated this.

Corporate tax avoidance and executive pay are top of mind for the public, clearly emerging as the top two themes that they would like to see companies address.   

Authenticity is paramount, three quarters (76%) say it is not enough for a company to simply say that it is responsible, they need to prove it. 

Helen Lamb, Associate Director of Ipsos MORI Reputation Centre, says:

“The country may now be recovering from the economic crisis, but the public hasn’t recovered emotionally.  The financial sector has cast a long shadow over British business as a whole and perceived corporate misbehaviour around tax even by a small minority further entrenches cynicism around corporate responsibility. Companies are going to have to work hard to maintain their reputations and re-build public confidence in their motivations.”
Technical notes:

Fieldwork was conducted in two parts:

Online:

  • 1,008 interviews among GB adults 16-75 were conducted online using the Ipsos MORI online Omnibus. (Fieldwork dates were 13 to 18 August 2014)
  • Data has been weighted to reflect the profile of the adult population (16-75) in terms of age, sex, social grade, region and work status.

Face to face:

  • An additional set of questions asked were conducted face to face for trend purposes. This was split into two surveys: 1,011 interviews were conducted face to face via Ipsos MORI CAPIbus among GB adults 16+. (Fieldwork dates were 1-7 August 2014)
  • 997 interviews were conducted face to face via Ipsos MORI CAPIbus among GB adults 16+. (Fieldwork dates were 1-10 August 2014)
  • Data has been weighted to reflect the adult population (16+) in terms of age, gender, region, social grade, ethnicity, housing tenure and working status.