Academics call for businesses to take a cold hard look at themselves to win back public confidence

 
Oliver Gill
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Businesses were urged to think hard about their relationship with wider society (Source: Getty)

Britain's companies have been urged to perform "trust audits" in order to address rock-bottom public perceptions of business.

The bespoke audits would review how companies are perceived by the general public. Once completed, a specific plan of action can be put in place to address concerns.

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The idea is a response to a five-year study by leading academics from Oxford University and Said Business School, conducted in conjunction with law firm DLA Piper.

“What is clear is that the breakdown in trust between these groups since the financial crisis remains one of the major challenges of our time," said Simon Levine, the global chief executive of DLA Piper.

"We think the trust audit process could help equip the business community with the tools it needs to halt the decline in trust, regain control of the agenda and restore confidence in business’s positive contributions to society.”

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The research identified three areas for companies to review: tax obligations, executive pay and diversity on boards.

It also provided a clear insight into where companies could be going wrong in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The report concluded that CSR "has been discredited by a proliferation of short-lived initiatives that seemed to have little merit beyond public relations exercises."

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