Corporate coronavirus sinners could face consumer backlash

Chester-based data science consultancy, Barcanet, tasked YouGov with asking more than 2,000 consumers for their views on the behaviour of businesses. Tony McDonough reports

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Consumers may be more conscious of company behaviour when the lockdown is lifted


Companies who are not perceived by the public to have behaved responsibly during the coronavirus epidemic may pay the price when the crisis is over.

Chester-based data science consultancy, Barcanet, tasked YouGov with asking more than 2,000 consumers to share what business behaviours they cared about most – focusing on six specific areas.

And it reveals the the strength of feeling that consumers have towards certain business behaviours and corporate practices. The survey was carried out just prior to the coronavirus epidemic and lockdown. But the crisis is already bringing the conducts of businesses into sharp focus.

Respondents were asked to what extent, if at all, they care if companies and/ or manufacturers demonstrate that they are reducing their carbon dioxide emissions, pay employees of each gender equally in the same role, pay their suppliers quickly/ on time, pay their employees the real living wage, pay the correct amount of UK tax and pay their chief executive in-proportion with the rest of their employees.

The key findings of the survey are:

  • Paying the correct amount of tax is paramount to public perception – this measure came out top in terms of what  consumers cared about ‘a lot’. In total, 88% of people care about this issue.
  • How businesses pay employees is also under major scrutiny from consumers. Ranking second highest in the list of behaviours that people care about a lot is gender pay equality. In all, 81% of people care about this issue.
  • 52% of people care a lot about businesses paying the real living wage, with 83% caring about this issue overall.
  • The way companies treat their suppliers is important to the public, with 39% caring a lot about businesses paying their suppliers quickly/on time.
  • Almost three quarters of respondents felt that chief executive pay should be fair and equitable.
  • 74%  expect businesses to be able to demonstrate a commitment to CO2 reduction. 

Ian Yates, Barcanet managing director and founder, said, “At the start of the year, business behaviour and its impact on society was featuring high on the chief executive priority list for 2020.

“Despite the inevitable impact coronavirus is having on corporate strategy right now, companies that want to be in the best shape post-lockdown should still place importance on socially responsible practices. We commissioned the YouGov survey to help clients get under the skin of what their customers really want from businesses and to show how vital demonstrable CSR is.

“Any CEO keeping tabs of the news will be aware that consumers are vowing to boycott companies that are perceived to have behaved badly towards employees, suppliers and society at large recently.

“Some major names including Sports Direct, Wetherspoons and Travelodge have suffered reputational damage as a result and could be hit in the pocket too. It’s more pressing than ever for businesses to behave in a way that resonates with their customers’ ethical values.

“Customers, employees, suppliers, regulators and investors have one thing in common right now – they’re all judging businesses by their behaviour, on a local and global scale.

“And, if you don’t meet their social responsibility requirements but your competitors do, it could have serious repercussions for your company going forward, especially set against an already challenging economic backdrop.”

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