Dianne Sharp: People trust local businesses more

There's a job to be done in improving the image of the business community, says the regional head of the CBI

Dianne Sharp
Dianne Sharp

People in the North East have a dramatically higher level of trust in businesses in their area than they do in UK business as a whole - that’s the key finding from a YouGov survey of over 4,000 people across the UK as part of the CBI’s Great Business Debate campaign.

It shows that strong support for the businesses they actually deal with, in the places where they live, often fails to translate into support for business generally.

In the North East 81% of people trust ‘local businesses’ (firms in their vicinity, big or small, that they interact with) compared with 62% who trust business overall. That matches a pattern for the whole UK where the figures were 81% and 57%.

What can we learn from all this?

Business touches everyone’s lives and we know that all over the North East people are talking about what companies do for them – how much their employer pays them, the size of their bills, their experiences as consumers or whether businesses are doing enough to support communities.

Business is the driving force behind our economic recovery. But, if it’s to be listened to on the major decisions shaping our economy and society in the coming years, it has to be trusted.

The CBI’s The Great Business Debate is a campaign focussed on helping the business community build that confidence.

There’s some reassurance in our new survey. By wide margins, people here believe businesses have a positive impact in their area and those businesses are proud to be part of the community.

But it’s equally clear businesses have a job to do using the warmth felt for them at a local level to improve feelings about UK business as a whole.

When people have direct experience of companies, for example as customers or employees, it’s overwhelmingly good and trust is high as a result. But opinions about ‘business’ seem to have less solid roots. These views are more likely to be influenced by things people read or hear second hand and are a lot less positive.

We’re challenging individuals to think about that contradiction in how they perceive businesses locally and business generally.

Companies of all sectors and sizes are supporting jobs, investing in training and infrastructure as well as providing affordable, innovative goods and services and backing schools and charities. Not to mention paying a third of all taxes, which in turn fund the public services we use, wherever we are.

The challenge for firms is to build on the positive engagement they already have in the areas where they operate and to tell more convincingly the story of their contribution which is felt in communities all over the country.

Whoever you are, the CBI’s Great Business Debate wants to know what you think. Why do you feel what you feel about the businesses you know and business more widely?

Anyone can go to the website greatbusinessdebate.co.uk to leave comments or follow on twitter @bizdebate.

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