Australians expect businesses to focus on more than just profits, a poll from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) has found.
Surveying both the general public and business leaders, the poll found that community views on ethical business behaviour have a significant impact on how people viewed companies.
The poll found that more than 70 per cent of the general community agreed with the statement that large companies should place equal importance on economic, environmental, and social performance.
Respondents also took a positive view of business leaders who took a stand on issues of importance, such as social and environmental issues. Chief executive of CEDA, Melinda Cilento, said the results demonstrated how broadly these sentiments were felt.
“While there has been much debate on the appropriateness of corporate leaders speaking on issues outside their core business, it is clear from these results the community consider this to be acceptable,” said Cilento.
“This acceptance of a business voice on social and environmental issues was consistent across gender, age groups and locations from rural and regional Australia to our cities.”
There were some disconnects between the views of business leaders and the general community, however, with less than half of the general public believing that the ethical behaviour of large companies had improved, while 85 per cent of business leaders thought large companies are more ethical than they used to be.
“Interestingly where the general public and business leaders align is shared scepticism around the consequences of unethical conduct,” said Cilento.
“Only 30 per cent of the general public and 42 per cent of business leaders believe the government takes strong action against unethical behaviour. Similarly, most believe that the consequences of a company acting unethically are modest or short term at best.”
Another area where business leaders and the community were split was the relative value of investment in wages and R&D, with the community prioritising wages and business leaders focussing on R&D.